I recently decided to convert all my old electrical engineering data books and application notes to electronic format. This involved cutting the spines off books and pamphlets, and then scanning them. I had several hundred books and other documents of varying paper size, paper quality, and condition. I scanned probably 300,000 sheets (or more, counting the mistakes).
I used an HP Scanjet 5590. The scanner is largely a robust and reliable machine, but, more than not, a few gremlins inhabit it. It appeared that any tests that were done on the 5590 during development were done with “perfect” paper -- letter or A4 size.
Firmware and/or hardware problems
When using small sheets, double-sided, the second side frequently has a stretch at the top of the page. The 5590 documentation limits the double-sided scanning to 5-inch by 5-inch, but this happens on pages 7-inch by 9-inch and larger. I have a 5590 at home, and we have a much older one at work. Both do exactly the same thing. From my observations, I think this happens only on Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scanning.
At times, on single-sided scanning, the top of every six or seven pages is cut off. It seems to me this is a function of the paper thickness. With thicker paper, the scanner pauses at every page. With thinner paper, there are occasions where this pause is missed. Not every “miss” coincides with a shortened page, but it does seem that every shortened page occurs at a “miss.” I have only noticed this on OCR scanning, but that is the only scanning I have done.
For a short while, I tried re-scanning, and the problem appeared to happen at the same spot every time. I also tried cleaning the Automatic Document Feeder (ADF), without any improvement in the results. I have also seen where a page has been reduced to an inch in length as perhaps an extreme example of the point above. It may be a completely different error, of course.
Software and/or firmware problems
On the startup menu, it is not obvious how to add or remove the scanner in the HP Solution Center. I somehow arrived at three instances of the same scanner, and I can only get one to work. I would like to remove two of them, but I cannot find any method of doing it in the HP Solution Center.
When there is some other task going on in the operating system (Windows Vista Ultimate) -- such as opening up a browser or a virus scan running in the background -- the scanner can lock up. It freezes in the middle of a page being scanned. There are two applications being run -- the “HP Solution Center” application and the “scanning” application, as reported by the Windows Task Manager. It is the “scanning” application that becomes non-responsive, and the only way out is to get to the Windows Task Manager and stop the application, or to remove the power from the scanner. See later for problems of paper extraction.
Periodically, I received a software update prompt from HP. Clicking on “yes” results in a small window. There are no controls on the window -- it impossible to size. It can be moved around. The only way to get rid of it is to restart the computer.
Toward the end of my scan project, I acquired a HPC309 series printer/scanner/fax and bottle washer (itself subject to monkey issues). Without any prompting, the installation overwrote the existing software (HP Solution Center) with a new and completely different interface. It also added a new problem.
In the old system, if a paper jam was detected, everything that had been scanned to that point was saved. After the problem was rectified, the scan would continue from the point of the jam. With the new software, everything scanned is deleted. If you've scanned 29 pages of a 30-page document and then get a paper jam, you have to scan the 30 pages again.