Wednesday, 1 June 2011

QSLs and all that

After a few false starts with a QSL card design I finally decided to got some printed for both my own call and the GR4EST call. I wanted to design something which typified village life in the UK, and a game of cricket at the village club, the church in the background under overcast skies seemed to represent this perfectly. The GR card was easier, being based on the Union Flag.

As for producing the card I trawled the internet and obtained several quotes. I ended up using InstantPrint, based in the North East and ordered 500 'main' cards and 130 for GR4EST. There were some issues with the artwork I supplied, however they helped me sort this out and reference to their website for detailed information proved useful. The cards were duly printed and I am pleased with the results - Thanks guys - I will definitely come back for reprints.

This is where the fun (sic) started.
I use HRD for logging which is based on an Access database. I have some expertise with this DBMS from a professional role (before I retired) as well as Microsoft Word. I therefore decided to overprint my cards via a Mail Merge.

I created the "Word" template, linked to the database as the Data (Recipient) source and did a test merge. All seemed Ok so next stage was printing out a test card. I then found that the minimum size my Kodak ESP-3 AIO could handle was 6x4 inch paper. As it drinks ink, and the cartridges cannot be refilled I decided to bite the bullet and replace it with one which could handle QSL cards @ 3.5x5.5 inches.
Trawling the internet I found the HP Photosmart Plus B210a at £79.99 in my local PC World. Got it home, connected up via the wireless network, printed off A4 test print OK, then loaded up the QSL cards into the Photo tray. Options set to use this tray on Printer Preferences, however A4 from main tray selected. I went to the Printer properties and found the Photo Tray was shown as "Not Available". Set it as holding 9x13 cm paper as it was the closest size to cards, Custom not available on this printer, and 'Saved' - well perhaps not as message came back that it "Can not save Printer settings". Eventually, after about an hour of fiddling, got it to print out one card from the Photo tray, but after this settings were lost again. Investigation on the internet showed that this is not an uncommon problem with this printer.

I decided to upgrade drivers etc. so downloaded the new versions from the HP site. 88% into the extraction it failed saying "unable to create output file" even when run as Administrator.

Contacted HP who suggested resetting etc. but then said it was a hardware issue, and to replace the printer. One guy who had the same problems reported that it worked off one of his PCs, but not the other two, so hardware not the issue in his case.

I have had issues with HP kit before as regards software stability and this purchase was made with some trepidation.

I took the support advice to heart and returned the printer for replacement - I have bought an Epson BX525WD which is working perfectly.

I will not touch HP stuff again. - Lesson learned the hard way.

The format of the date and time field held in HRD required some conversion to get it to look right, and after applying sorts on the data to get it into country order for the bureau I am good to go.


  1. Charlie,

    Couldn't agree more that HP's printers (and PCs!) are problematic at best. Maybe they should jettison the printer biz along with the PCs, eh? Epson has a good reputation, I like Canon printers myself, especially if they have refillable ink cartridges.

    BTW, interesting blog. I will add you to my blog-roll.


  2. Casey
    I have also has Canon printers which have always served me well. The Epson was on offer though and the comparable Canon was not able to handle QSL card standard sizes.

    Thanks for your comments, most appreciated