Thursday, May 5, 2011

Scanner support

At work, we're planning to re-organize our storage area, and "clean house" on some dead/old items. So today, I was looking through what's in storage, and happened across a neat find: a scanner.

It's a UMAX Astra 2100U, so a USB scanner. From what I could find, this dates back to 2001. While this is a 10-year old device, if a 600x1200 dpi scan is what you need, it would be nice to have a working driver.

But according to UMAX, the 2100U scanner is supported only under Windows 98/98SE/ME/2000/XP and Mac OS 8.0 to 9.1. Confirming this, the UMAX support download page doesn't have drivers available for Windows Vista or Windows 7. Mac users are also out of luck, as MacOSX drivers aren't available, either.

But Windows and Mac support may not be all that great, anyway, even on the versions officially supported by UMAX. This review from 2001 warns about driver compatibility:
This tempting scanner can give great scans, unfortunately the software required to run it crashes both Macs on which I tried it, and it rewrote system files on the Win2000 PC I on which I tried (unsuccessfully) installing it.

It is incompatible with a Mac running iTunes 1.1 software. UMAX says they are working on this as of March 2001. Good luck!

It also made a 350MHz iMac completely unstable and unbootable. It took over an hour for of one of the most kind-hearted Mac specialists in San Diego to get it running again.

Another reader in Chicago wrote ME trying to get my help in getting her system to run. UMAX couldn't get it to go. That's too bad, because I gave up myself. Hopefully UMAX will take back her scanner.
Maybe that's why this scanner was in our storage area, with a note taped to it reading "No longer works - cannot find working driver."

Out of pure curiosity, I plugged the scanner into my Linux laptop. A few clicks in "System - Administration - Add/Remove Software" and I had installed Sane and the plugins for Gimp. So about 2 or 3 minutes.

Sure enough, the scanner works! I scanned a few test images, whatever I had around the office, and loaded them directly into Gimp. Works great! Another example where Linux support is ahead of the competition.


  1. Heh. Now where's that "Like" Button...

  2. The nice thing is that support for old devices is much, much better in Linux than in other OSs. The problem is that this generally (but certainly not as a strict rule) the reverse for newer devices, though that is certainly changing.
    a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

  3. You lie! The Astra 2100U has Windows 7 and Windows Vista in the operating system dropdown list. I didn't download them to install, but the options are there!

  4. The same thing is happening with my HP scanner. Windows 7/vista not supported.
    It just took a linux distro and the repo to install the driver. Pop up xsane and there we have great scans.
    I think they are shooting in there own foot. Fools. Don't think I gonna buy again a scanner for the sake of a driver. It just makes me sit more for a linux distro, which is great.

  5. Hey Ed, if you actually TRY downloading the drivers, you'll get a Not Found error for MacosX and Win Vista/7. The drivers do not exist. Umax does not support the newer versoins of Mac & Win. Only Linux supports that scanner now, it seems.

  6. @Ed: orange is correct. If you select the UMAX Astra 2100U scanner from the drop-down list, then try to download the Windows 7 driver, you'll get a message that says:

    Sorry, No software was found.
    The selected product is incompatible with the selected operating system. Please select a different operating system.

    The same with Windows Vista, and any version of MacOSX.

    The drop-down options are there for Windows 7 and Windows Vista, and MacOSX, but they don't actually have any software downloads available for them. I guess they need to update their web site.

  7. This is a good example of why I hate closed drivers. With 20+ years of experience supporting hardware from companies that have vanished or companies who no longer support an old but perfectly usable product, I have learned to loathe closed source.

  8. Update:

    I've actually scanned 3 things since writing the post a week and a half ago. So resurrecting this scanner was definitely useful.

    The most recent example was this afternoon: I needed to sign and send back a form to someone, and the other guy didn't have a fax. Print, sign, scan, email - done!

  9. That's Linux to the rescue!


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