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The HP Sprocket Mini Printer

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tags icon journaling

My Polaroid Pogo mini printer, the one I’ve been using for years to instant-print-and-stick tiny and ugly but serviceable photos into my journals, broke. The battery died a long time ago but the power adapter still worked. Recently though, nine out of ten attempts to send a photo through Bluetooth wouldn’t get accepted. Instead, I was greeted with flashing red lights—the error code for “jammed paper”—liar! After several salvaging attempts, I had enough, threw it out, and bought a replacement: the hip and flashy HP Sprocket.

I hate the thing.

The HP website cheerfully declares:

Inspirational moments can happen at any time. Be ready to capture them all with HP Sprocket. Instantly shoot, edit, and print incredible pictures right from your smartphone.

That last word. That last, indelible and extremely popular word. Smartphone. You guessed it: it comes with an app. I hate apps. The Polaroid Pogo just has a standardized Bluetooth receiver: anybody technically skilled enough can pair the device and send it raw data. If the red lights won’t obstruct the whole operation, you’d be happily pasting the adhesive picture into your diary and calling it a day. Instead, with the Sprocket, you need an app. The app does the sending, and it ain’t a simple Bluetooth signal. No, sir. It also ain’t open source. It also (yeah, we can keep on doing this) ain’t compatible with non-Google-friendly smartphones:

What do you mean, Sprocket won't run without Google Play services??

In case you didn’t know, I installed LineageOS to get rid of Google’s prying eyes. So it’s all on me, I guess, and I did not bother to replace the Google Play Store with one of those proxies—things should just work, even without it! Luckily, if I press “OK” and carry on, it works. But it tries to download templates and other bullshit that I don’t want. I want to, you know. Print. A. Photo. Just one. Just, you know, this one, send it to the device, and print it. Go.

I hate apps.

Frustrated with this, I tried to reverse-engineer the communication protocol, but it’s a mess and there is no public documentation available: of course not. This is a prime example of how not to do things. HP, if you’re reading this: I will still happily buy the products (and the very expensive Zink photo paper) if other open source apps would be compatible with the device. Being open does not hurt your wallet, on the contrary. Now I know that in the future, I won’t buy disposable stuff from you anymore.

I don’t get that reviews from PC Mag and others focus on the printing quality (the paper is bad, but I don’t care, and I knew that), and not on the quality and accessibility of the obligatory software that comes with it. Not a single negative word is mentioned about it: are we somehow getting used to shitty apps? Other bloggers that use it for scrapbooking seem to be generally content with the printer.

What really kills it though, is that one word. Smartphone. I cannot use my MacBook to send a picture to the mini printer. I have to use the app. This is simply ridiculous.

The Sprocket in use.

Since learning about Android development myself, I know how easy it can be to rely on handy libraries such as Google’s Play store. It’s just one Gradle dependency extra and handles “so many things” with a few method calls. The only thing we as developers tend to forget is that naughty end users such as myself might not have the Play store available. I don’t think this is common knowledge: there are more than two operating systems in the smartphone market besides iOS and Android! Instead of simply opting for standardized, openly available Bluetooth protocols, why bother by adding complexity by hiding things? What’s there to hide?

But really, any Bluetooth client should be able to send stuff to the Sprocket printer. Like, my laptop, whether it’s a Mac or formatted with FreeBSD.

I wish my Pogo would still work. What do they call this? Devolution?

Apps. I have the sudden urge to go and rinse my mouth now.

I'm Wouter Groeneveld, a level 36 Brain Baker, and I love the smell of freshly baked thoughts (and bread) in the morning. I sometimes convince others to bake their brain (and bread) too.

If you found this article amusing and/or helpful, you can buy me a coffee - although I'm more of a tea fan myself. I also like to hear your feedback via Mastodon or e-mail. Thanks!