Author Archives: John Hagensieker

Best Thermal Printer For Home Shipping

The Best Thermal Printer For Home Shipping Needs


I have noticed a disturbing trend in review sites.  Google up “Best Thermal Printer” and you’ll find a bunch of pages that say “The Ten Best Thermal Printers You Can Buy in 2023”.  Those pages are full of only stock photos and cherry picked pros and cons from other review sites.

In other words, these people MAY NOT ACTUALLY OWN these printers.   But they will provide you an affiliate link to buy one of “THE BEST THERMAL PRINTERS FOR 2023”.  They get paid, you get bad advice.

You should ALWAYS strive to read reviews from people who actually own, and have used the thermal printers that they write about.

Shipping labels can also be printed from ANY printer on plain paper.  You can put clear tape over your labels.  The only problem here is the continual cost of ink cartridge refills.  This is why thermal printing is so popular for shipping labels.   There is no ink and thermal print heads last for decades most of the time.

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Thermal Printer Selection And Shipping

Selecting A Thermal Printer For Home Shipping

i decided to add shipping from home to my bag of tricks.  That requires having a Thermal Printer.  There are several excellent ones to choose from and lots of comparison and review sites out there.  But all they seem to cover is the printer specs.  That’s good from some aspects but then you get that printer home and realize it doesn’t do all the things you thought it might do.

Thermal Printer

Dymo 5XL

For example, I have a Dymo 5XL.  If I go to the USPS site and create a label the only way to print it on a 4″x6″ label is to download the label as a PDF file, Then take a screenshot of it, and then print from Mac Preview.   It makes no sense to me why I can’t print directly from the USPS website but I can’t.

Then if you go to UPS they have a list of recommended printers that work with their system.  Ditto for FedEx.  There simply isn’t a printer where you can log into any shipping service, make your label and simply hit print.  What works seamlessly at one site will not work at the other without workarounds.

Actually that is kind of inaccurate as you can print with any printer to 8.5″x11″ paper.  But ultimately I want to print on a 4″x6″ adhesive backed label.  This seems to be the standard for shipping boxes.

Shipping Services

As per my example above with the USPS, different services treat the printer differently.  Today I signed up for and created a UPS label for a box.  Their label was pre-formatted for a 4″x6″ printer.  Click, download, print.  BAM.  It worked perfect on my Dymo 5XL.

Even though everything seemingly is wonderful Pirateship has their preferred printers that they recommend on this page.  They recommend the Brother Q1100 and the Brother QL1100NWB.  They also DO NOT recommend Dymo printers and Zebra printers.

UPS recommends several Zebra printers.  FedEx recommends the Zebra ZP printers mostly.  Nobody seems to recommend the Dymo Printers which of course is what I own.

Which Printer To Choose

It really depends on what service you settle on.   And how often you will need to print.  Does it really matter if you have to do a screenshot and to resize if you only make a label infrequently?

If I decide that I will continue to use Pirateship, then I think my Dymo 5XL will work for my needs.  Consumables are expensive and it is slow and noisy but I won’t even use it once every day mostly.  If I were to print directly from the USPS site, or UPS, or Fedex, or DHL specifically………I would probably need to settle on another printer, most likely a Zebra.

A happy medium might be achieved by considering these items:

  • Cost of Consumables
  • Are Consumables Proprietary to Machine
  • Availability of Consumables
  • How You Wish To Connect Machine – I prefer ethernet
  • What Shipping Service Will You Use

Things I Find Odd

I’m curious why the USPS makes their label available as 8.5″x11″ and don’t offer a 4″x6″ pre-formatted label for printing.  I also wonder why more and more label printers require proprietary labels.  My Dymo LabelWriter will only accept labels that contain an RFID chip from Dymo.  Remember when Inkjet printers were cheap but replacement ink cost more than the machine?  Seems to be the same business strategy at play here.

The last thing I think is odd here is that you would think shipping companies would standardize a bit more. How hard is it to offer your shipping label in a couple of different size formats?  Or how hard is it to optimize for thermal printers or various printer languages?

Fill The Void

I’m no design engineer but I see a gigantic void where someone could design a more seamless and cross platform thermal printer and printer driver.  Toss in the ability to use generic labels, then make it wifi, bluetooth, and ethernet.  BAM! Near perfection achieved.

My Strategy (For Now)

I’m locked into this stupid Dymo 5XL printer, and as much as I’d like to upgrade to a high end Zebra Printer or Brother QL1100NWB it probably can’t happen.  I can’t justify the cost.

My strategy for now is simply to keep the Dymo 5XL.  Its main strength for me is that it is networkable via ethernet.  I have a couple of out of the way corners in my house that have CAT 5 drops near and I can easily keep it out of my way.   As horrific as Dymo Connect software is, the printer works really good with PirateShip.  I don’t have any reason to offer shipping outside of USPS or UPS and both places have drop offs near my house and both places will pick up as well.

If I find I’m selling a few things and can justify upgrade costs, then by golly, I will do it.

Shipping from home is simply not as cut and dried and simplified as I thought it was, or should be.

Dymo 5XL LabelWriter Review

Dymo 5XL LabelWriter Review

Dymo 5XLI have a Dymo 5XL and I figured it was time to do a blog about it.  I am kind of a Dymo Fanboy and own several Dymo Label Makers.  Here is my harem:

  • Dymo LabelManager 160
  • Dymo LabelManager 280
  • Dymo LabelWriter Duo
  • Dymo XTL 300
  • Dymo Rhino 6000+ kit

I like them all but will concede the 160 wasn’t a great value.   The Dymo 5XL falls into that category as well.  Normally, I’d ease into my assessment but I can already tell the Dymo 5XL falls short of my expectations.

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Intelligent Mail Barcode Part Deux

How To Make And Use a Free USPS IMB Barcode

In my last blog I discussed Intelligent Mail Barcodes. In this blog I’ll show you how to make on your own Intelligent Mail Barcode for free and apply it to a mailing label or envelope.

Business Customer Gateway Account

First you need a USPS Mailer ID.  This is really simple.  Just create an account on the Business Customer Gateway.  Once you have verified your account you’ll be assigned a 9 digit Mailer ID.  Having this ID is crucial to encoding your barcode.

Zip Code

Next you’ll need the 9 digit zip code for the address you want to ship to.  You can look that up here.

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Intelligent Mail Barcode

Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB)

What is it?

The Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB) is a 65 bar barcode used in domestic mail delivery.  Also, it can be used to track progress of First Class Mail through the system.  It makes sorting easier for the post office bubbas and presumably speeds up your mail as well.

My IMB Experience

A whole lot of years ago I was stationed in Iwakuni Japan as a US Government Employee.  I had lots of time and money to buy toys.  Also back in the 1990’s real mail was more of a thing than it is now.  Now we send emails.

I bought a Dymo Label printer back then and started using It would add the barcode which I believe was called POSTNET back then.   Did I need to add barcodes to my outgoing mail back then?  No.  But if you’re reading this I have long been a geek and a techie. I do things most other folks don’t.  if there is some kind of tech system in place, I try to use or exploit it.

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HDHomeRun Issues on Roku

HDHomeRun Issues

I have an HDHomeRun HDHR5-4US which i reviewed, and I generally love it.  However, about a year ago I moved to a “new” house and the previous owner left all the TV’s that were wall mounted.  All were fairly old TV’s and none of them smart.  I hooked Roku’s to all of them.

That is when the trouble began.   I installed an attic antenna and got good signal strength, and symbol quality on the channels that were important to me.  I could watch those channels WITH NO ISSUES on my phone or on my laptop.  The old Roku connected TV’s were another issue altogether.   The channels would pixelate horribly and the stream would fail frequently.  I have super fast internet and the TV’s are all close to the wifi router as well with great signal.

I really believe it is a transcoding issue with Roku.  Or rather the fact that Roku does not transcode.   Again, it works on my computer, phone, and Firestick devices work fine.


So, to mitigate the problem I bought a new TV for the Bedroom.  An LG 43UQ7590PUB from BestBuy.  Before I bought it I confirmed the LG WebOS had an HDHomeRun app.  However, when I got home there was no app in the LG store. Previous WebOS versions had it available.  I contacted LG Support and they told me to hook up a Roku!


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Dymo LabelManager 280 Review

Dymo LabelManager 280 Review

I’m a label maker nerd and always looking for a new one to shake down.  So stand by for this Dymo LabelManager 280 Review.

Dymo LabelManager 280 Review

Dymo 160 & Dymo 280


I recently picked up a Dymo LabelManager 160 at Walmart for less than $30.

The Dymo 280 costs nearly double however, I’m going to try to convince you that the 280 is the better deal.  Let’s get right to it.

Total Cost Of Dymo 160

If you walk in the store looking for a label maker you’ll likely be impressed at an under $30 one. Until you get it home and realize that it is only a machine and a single tape cartridge that is about half length.  There is no power adapter and no batteries included.  Also the tape cartridge that came with mine was Silver Glitter.  I don’t want Silver Glitter.  I want black on white.

So right off the bat you’ll probably want to buy:

  • Batteries – It takes 6 but batteries come in 8 packs usually.  Rough cost is $10
  • AC Adapter – Buy Dymo’s and it is about $20
  • Tape Cartridge – $23

If you buy all three you just spent $53 plus the $30 you paid for the LabelManager 160.  Now for the 280.

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Dymo Rhino 6000+ Review

Dymo Rhino 6000+ Review

Dymo Rhino 6000+ Review

Dymo Rhino 6000+

When I die, my wife will curse me for all the label makers I own.   Every house should have a label maker for simple organization.  Geeks should have an industrial label maker for networking, cable management, and for heat shrink labelling electrical connections.   While there are label makers aplenty out there, only a few do cable wraps, or heat shrink or 1″ wide tape.  I currently own a Dymo XTL 300 which is now discontinued.  The replacement seems to be the Rhino line of label makers. I just had to get one.   So here is my new Dymo Rhino 6000+ review.

I don’t need another label maker, but I do need the very best label maker.  And I need new gear to blog about.  There is a gigantic quality gap between a $20 label maker from Walmart and a $300 industrial label maker.

Where To Buy

In my opinion there is only one place to buy a label maker or supplies.  Image Supply.  While Amazon and Label City were offering this kit for $299 and Image Supply had the kit listed at $349, they do have a price matching policy.   When I inquired I got an email back from the company CEO telling me Amazon and Label City had Dymo rebates and while his best price was $19 higher that was with tax and free shipping.  Bottom line.  The price came in at $1 cheaper than those other places.

Dymo Rhino 6000+ Review

K-Sun 2001XLB

I bought my first label maker, a K-Sun 2001XLB, eons ago from Image Supply.  I still have it.  It still works great.  And they still sell supplies for it.

And they price matched it back then as well if memory serves me correctly.  You will not get treated better in the Label Maker world than at Image Supply.


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Dymo 160 LabelManager Review

Dymo 160 LabelManager Review

I am a label maker geek.  Everyone should own one.   The price point of these devices run the gamut from really inexpensive home machines, to very expensive industrial label makers.  I decided to grab one of the low tier, entry level,  Dymo LabelManagers.  So here is my Dymo 160 LabelManager review.

Dymo 160 LabelManager Review

Dymo 160

I bought it at Walmart for $29.83 sans tax. It came with one Dymo D1 cartridge which was “Silver Glitter”.

On the surface $30 for a solid performing label maker machine is a very good price.

Sadly, the surface has a basement, and a sub-basement, and a sewer.

Literally all you get in the package is the labelmaker and the single cartridge.

You cannot just open the package and begin making labels, which seems strange to me.

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Laser Related Content Moving

For some reason my laser related blog entries have gained some favorable traction.

In an attempt to appear a tad more professional to the laser community I have taken some of my better entries and created a new website.  I’ll leave my existing laser content here, but all future laser only content will only be posted to:

and it can be parsed by an RSS reader at:

I did not in my wildest dreams think that anyone followed my blog in an RSS feed until a plugin I had installed broke my RSS feed and several people told me.

Anyway, thanks for reading and bookmark my new laser page if you come here for the laser content.