Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Wireless Printing

We have a wireless network in place that uses the first version of Apple's AirPort. The latest version of their wireless product is the AirPort Extreme. It's a secure network -- password protected. (By the way, it's amazing to see how many folks have wireless networks that aren't password protected -- they're open to anyone. They must have simply plugged in the unit right out of the box and used the default setting of no password. That means anyone can connect and start using their wireless network and internet service. Probably not the best idea.) The wireless network has been great to use with our Apple laptop. It's nice to be able to access the web from anywhere in the house.

While internet access was great, we still had to "sneaker net" or email files to ourselves on the desktop computer in order to print something. Not a big deal, but an inconvenience when placing orders on the web (e.g. getting an intinerary when making travel arrangements). It would be great to be able to print through the wireless connection without having to relax security on the wired network. We also have the problem of being a mixed, Mac and Windows PC household (I recently got the Motion Computing tablet PC).

After doing a little reading on networking, it didn't seem like it should be that hard to set up wireless printing given our simple system. I didn't want to set up a home server (yet). We were looking around Office Depot a few nights ago and saw a product from D-Link that looked like it should fit the bill for our network. (Yes, we were just browsing at Office Depot after dinner at Ando, a very good Japanese restaurant. Dianne loves to look at office supplies. It's cute how excited she can get over something like a stapler/caribiner clip product.) I decided to try the install and configure the unit from our desktop machine. The installation process seemed to go well. All the expected screens were coming up and behaving correctly. All was good until I tried a test print. Nothing! To make a long (3 hour) story short, I wasn't able to get the print server unit to respond. So, back to Office Depot.

Although I thought an Ethernet cabled solution would be easiest to set up, I decided to try a wireless connection to the printer using Apple's new AirPort Express product. This multipurpose unit offers Ethernet, USB, and Audio outputs. Dianne was able to get the Mac side of things working relatively quickly, but I wasn't able to print from the Motion tablet. I followed the manual, looked for help on the web, played with various settings, etc. but wasn't able to print. I was getting discouraged. After all that monkeying around I found out I only needed to look to my lovely bride for help. She looked at the tablet PC for an hour or so and figured it out. The "trick" was to manually disconnect the wireless connection we had established on the tablet and then re-establish the wireless connection after the AirPort Express unit was configured. Apparently rebooting the PC wasn't enough to recognize the new, wireless connection to the printer.

I should have had her look at the D-Link product before I returned it. :^)

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