I've said before, but not on this blog, that the worst bits of software I have on my XP-based home PC all came with devices.It's hardly surprising, when we buy software alone we only buy something satisfactory. We make buying decisions on the devices, not their software. I have the following 3 stinkers:

Pentax provided some dreadful software with my  wrote for my camera. Why does anyone think the world needs another photo browser ? Why don't camera vendors provide extensions for their RAW files for Explorer in XP (and Vista). The UI for Pentax's RAW conversion software is simply dreadful (and they've actually improved it since the first release I used). The software Epson provide for their printers leaves a lot to be desired - is it possible to forgive a company for having an installation guide which says "ignore the warning that this driver is unsigned" ? The USB port driver periodically stops working. My HP scanner is worse - scan too many images into the program's buffer and BANG! it crashes without saving any of them.

Are things better on Vista ? Like many home users I wonder if all my devices will work. I thought I'd test it since I have the luxury of time to spare over the holidays and a Vista laptop (worst software on it: Nvidia Screen driver for GE Force Go 6x00 TE and the [XP] Software provided for my USB-TV tuner which really deserves it's own post.)

First up was the HP ScanJet 3970: no driver with Vista, no driver on Windows update, and no Vista driver on HP.COM. Just the 2003 vintage driver for XP which has been so sucky up to now.

Next my printers. Yes I have two Epson Photo Stylus units, an 895 (with built in PCMCIA card reader) and a 1270 A3 printer - which is currently loaded with Lyson inks for printing on art paper. I've been promising my wife I'd put the 895 on E-bay for the last year, but I thought I'd try that first and looks like true plug and play... and then it isn't. There's no driver to for card reader, not that big a deal, but an annoyance. On to the 1270: with no card reader it installs with no problems.

Looking at the drivers (cliick the image above to see a larger view) there are different tabs along the top. The 895 has version information which makes says it's Copyright Epson 2006 - though the Epson driver files have copyright messages going back to 1999 (the newest is 2003-4) ! The file modified dates are the same as the rest of Vista though.
The 1270 doesn't have this tab: it has two others instead "Device Settings" - the form to tray assignment - and "Utilities" - nozzle check and cleaning. You can get to the latter via the Printing preferences dialog where you can find them as your application prepares to print. That's the only way to get to them on 895 which has no "form to tray assignment" that I could find.

On XP the preferences dialogs are very similar as you expect for printers from the same family. On Vista they've got nothing in common, for example the Nozzle check and cleaning are on a tab named "Maintenance" on the 895 and "Utilities" on the 1270. The 895 sets its paper sizes  on the front page, including "User defined" which I need to print Panoramas on roll paper. There's no user defined paper size in the 1270 driver ! This caused a moment of Panic, but I soon realized that I had to set-up forms for my panoramas. However, you can't create forms in an application's print dialog: you have to go to the Printers folder in Control Panel and either from the right-click menu, or the file menu, choose "Run as Administrator" / Server Properties. It's clunky but not a big deal here, because the only person in the house who prints on different sizes of paper is also the only one with admin privilege (me).  But if my kids want to stitch and print their own panoramas they'll have to get me to set the paper up each time. Still, forms allow me to use a whole 10M roll for one print if I'm so minded - which the 895's driver won't.

Now I suppose I should be pleased that the support for both Printers is in the OS, and realistically most people will have only one printer. It still bugs me that some printers don't have custom paper sizes, and bugs me more that only admins can work round the fact.