A couple of years ago, the Git’s venerable HP LaserJet 5P that he lovingly converted to a 5MP these many long years ago started to misbehave. It was time to invest in something new. While the LaseJet had a hard life and printed many, many pages, especially in its early days, the replacement was only for light use. Dick Smith had a Brother HL-2140 on special, less than $AU75 IIRC; a replacement toner cartridge for the LaserJet was $AU125!
Despite some misgivings due to memories of unavailable spare parts for Brother printers in the early days of computing (9-pin dot matrix days), the Brother was set up and making a grand job of printing in minutes. It was much faster than its predecessor and has twice the resolution. While the build quality wasn’t up to the standard of the HP, the build quality of the current low-end HP printers isn’t up to the standard of the 5P either. The HL-2140′s manual feed is primitive compared to the LaserJet, but has seen little use. There was really only one problem that I finally got around to fixing this week. Sharing it across the Windows network didn’t work.
You could browse to the printer in Network Neighbourhood, but printing to the share didn’t work. A Google search informed me that some HL-2140 users had no problems; others solved the problem with a print server. This little device takes input from your switch, or router, and sends it to the printer. The Git’s is a TP-Link TL-PS110U and cost all of $AU60.
The Git set the device up as per the enclosed instructions that, as seems usual these days, are set in tiny type, so needing a magnifying glass to read. The software setup ran on the 64-bit Win 7 machine, detected the print server on ip 192.168.0.10 and the gateway on 192.168.1.1. In order to be seen on the subnet 192.168.1.xxx, the ip of the server needed to be changed to 192.168.1.10. The software accepted the Git’s change, but for some odd reason, refused to save the change, reverting to the default. Running the setup from one of the two WinXP machines on the network also failed to alter the default ip. Running setup from the netbook running 32-bit Win7 also failed to persuade the device that, yes, The Git really, really wanted a different ip.
Of course, the Git could have changed the ip addresses of the router and the six machines to be on the same subnet as the print server. The only thing preventing this is the loss of the username & password to administer the router. Actually, it’s the username that the Git forgot; he uses only a limited range of passwords. The default username for the router is Admin; other routers use Administrator. If you want to foil a hacker, changing the username to something hard to guess places two obstacles in their path, rather than just one. Unfortunately, the Git set an obstacle in his own path by forgetting to record his username. Fortunately, he doesn’t need to administer the router, and it can always be reset to the factory defaults and set up again.
An email to TP-Link generated a response in less than 24 hours (thanks Lina Zhou). The machine telling the print server to make changes has to be on the same subnet. So, the Git changed the ip of his machine to 192.168.0.100 temporarily while he did this. Changed the ip of the print server to 192.168.1.10, successfully this time, then changed his machine back to 192.168.1.100. None of this fiddle-faddling would have been necessary if the print server had come set to 192.168.1.10, which is what the instructions say it is set to!
The driver CD that comes with the HL-2140 doesn’t contain drivers that Windows can directly use, so you can’t just Add a printer in Explorer. You must run the HL-2140 software. This allows you to choose a Custom install that then allows you to browse the network for a printer. The problem is that your printer is on the other side of the print server and so is invisible to the network browser. So, before running the Brother setup, you need to create a TCP/IP port to print to.
If you have a “printer” such as OneNote, or Document Image Writer installed, then you can right-click that and choose Properties. If you have no printers installed, then install any old printer so you have a device where you can choose Properties. On the Properties dialog, choose the Ports tab. Add a port of type Standard TCP/IP Port. Enter its ip address, 192.168.1.10 in the Git’s case. This automatically generates a port name based on the ip you entered. You can accept this, or change it to something else. Changing it makes no difference to what you see when you browse for printers in Explorer. When you proceed, the device won’t be found at the ip you entered since you haven’t installed the printer driver yet! Choose PRINTSERVER. If you use OneNote/Document Image Writer, don’t forget to reset this to its proper port before exiting. You now have a port that the Brother Custom setup can see.
Insert the Brother Setup CD in the drive and follow the instructions until you get to the dialog that has Custom Setup at the bottom. Choose this rather than USB (the default).When you get to using the browser to look for the Brother HL-2140 on the network, click Cancel and you will be presented with a list that includes the TCP/IP port you created earlier. Choose that and click OK and follow further on screen instructions.
Is there an easier way to achieve all this? Dunno. The Git welcomes any suggestions. If you are in the market for a Internet router, you might want to purchase one with an integrated USB printer port. You could purchase a printer with an ethernet port, but that would likely cost more than the Brother HL-2140 and a print server. While the latter cost me $AU60 in Tasmania, they can be had from Hong Kong for half that price.
As Jerry Pournelle has said so often over the years: we do these silly things so you don’t have to.