Saturday, June 23, 2007

Canon's CanoScan drivers: the horror and the Vuescan alternative

On the one hand, Canon has historically had better OS X support than say, Hewlett Packard. True, their drivers are famous for cooking hardware, but at least they existed. On the other hand, one might be better off without them.

I recently tried reinstalling Canon CanoScan LiDE 30 drivers on my mother's Intel Mac Mini. I had odd error messages about "error code -5000" and "N067U not found" during my reinstall attempts, despite running as an administrator. My guess is privilege/security issues and left over bits from an earlier install were confusing Canon's very (very) primitive installer. A quick Google confirmed my suspicion that this was not a battle worth waging. So I went about removing the bits and pieces.

Wow. What a mess. OS X desperately needs to permit only use of signed installs with the Apple Installer and true uninstaller support. Canon's installer sprays junk everywhere. Spotlight seemed to find it all, including seven files in \Library\CFMSupport. (Touch that folder with great care -- like everything in \Library it can have some dangerously critical stuff in it. In my case, however, Get Info showed every file there belonged to Canon.) Then I had to delete two "login" entries. (I got rid of some Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard drivers at the same time, that uninstall was only marginally better but I think they were well behaved enough that I could have left them alone.)

I then tried Vuescan. Vuescan is the idiosyncratic [1] OS X and Windows product of Ed Hamrick, a Caltech alum who's been working away at it for 9 years. I think he may be a one man shop, and based on my own CIT experience (unofficial motto: "the truth shall xxxx you over") I have a clear (though likely incomplete) mental picture of Ed. In brief, trustworthy, stubborn, irascible, reliable.

Mercifully Vuescan supports the LIDE 30 without any Canon drivers (but not, for example, the LIDE 35 -- that scanner is junk now). I'd registered Vuescan two years ago, but my one year upgrade period had passed and Ed doesn't offer old downloads. He does offer[2], for $40, upgrades of an old 1 year license to a "professional" license that provides upgrades as long as Ed stays in business. That's the same as a new 1 year license and the new version (pro or regular) has a "guide me" feature that I think my mother might be able to use (the other pro features don't matter to me).

So I upgraded to Vuescan Professional and it's working well so far. I do get odd behaviors with auto crop, similar to what I remember with earlier versions. but the manual crop works.

Oh, the Vuescan Installer? Drag icon to Applications. Uninstall? Drag icon to trash.

[1] Ed's approach to license numbers, serial numbers, and email addresses strikes me as a bit over-engineered, but with some patience and persistence I was able to figure it out. I've no idea why he insisted on changing my customer number with the upgrade -- maybe something to do with identifier misuse.
[2] Download new version. Enter old information. Try to register. You get an upgrade button.

PS. If Apple really wanted to please customers, they'd use some of their billions to hire some device driver programmers to create Apple drivers for scanners and printers. Either that, or return to the old days of reselling devices under the Apple name. Canon, HP, Brother, etc are incapable of producing quality drivers - on any platform. XP/Vista is no different, but there Microsoft writes the drivers that work. For that they deserve praise and credit.


YP said...

The error you got(error code -5000" and "N067U not found) is because of the permissions on /Users/Shared folder.
I had to switch it to allow read/write access to everyone. The driver installer finished properly after that.

Anonymous said...

Hey... I got around this issue on my MacBook (running OSX 10.5.6) by using VMWare Fusion with Windows Installed on a VM, and the windows drivers.

Canon really need to get their act together though. Setting up a virtual machine so that you can use a scanner is ridiculous!

Someone might want to try if VirtualBox from Sun works too... not sure.

Anonymous said...

use Image Capture and be done with it.