Connecting to a Ubuntu Shared Printer

Posted by : Rob Stevens | Sunday, February 07, 2010 | Published in

I've recently had to rebuild my Linux server following a hard drive failure and have had to go through the hassle of once again getting my file and print shares correctly configured. As with all system rebuilds, you learn from the process of last time and add in the improvements and extra features that you wish you'd thought of then. This time around I've gone with the x64 version of Ubuntu Server 9.10 and tried to keep it much more minimal than last time with as few services running, and as much crap removed as possible.
Admittedly my Linux knowledge has improved somewhat since the last time I did this a couple of years ago, but this time round the process of getting things how I want them has been much less torturous. Setting up the file sharing was a breeze and getting the printer installed and shared, while not exactly easy was not as bad as last time.

Anyhow, I'm digressing from the point of this post. All of the above was fairly straight forward and non-bitchy. The irritations started when I started trying to connect Windows clients to the printer. The two that I set up initially are both Windows 7 Professional. One is x64, the other x86.

The x86 machine connected to the printer fine, but I hit problems when it came to selecting a driver. Obviously the my model wasn't included in the list of pre-installed drivers, that would be far too easy. For some reason Windows 7 doesn't give you the option for searching Windows Update for drivers when you're connecting a network printer and the printer manufacturer doesn't supply one. They tell you to use Windows Update. After much hunting around, swearing, and trying to extract the driver from manufacturer driver releases for earlier OS' I stumbled upon this Microsoft support article telling you how to manually download Windows updates via the web. Yes, it should be obvious that such a useful site exists, but I had no idea it was there, so I'm guessing quite a few others don't either. We learn something new every day, and all that... Anyhow, a quick hunt around on here found me the driver files I needed, and problem solved.

The x64 version however was altogether bitchier. Trying to connect resulted in a typically descriptive error of "cannot connect to printer". A little help here. Why can't you connect? Just a hint? Cue more hunting around on Google. Whilst this failed to produce a direct fix, I did discover quite a useful workaround:

Open up a command prompt and type

net use LPT2: \\servername\printer

Then start the 'Add Printer Wizard' and choose to connect to a local printer. Select LPT2 and you will then be presented with a driver selection screen that actually lets you use Windows Update to acquire your driver. Imagine that!

I also have to get around to adding this printer to the Vista Home and XP Pro machines we have here. Lets see what problems that throws up...

Evony, Interupted

Posted by : Rob Stevens | Thursday, February 04, 2010 | Published in

Players of the online RPG Evony have apparently logged on today to find there's something missing. Something as in everything. Nothing left. Gone. The forum dwellers are going mental.

The game has been running for quite some time now and people plough real cash into it, so there's going to be some seriously pissed off gamers out there! The companies' main site says that they are doing some server upgrades. One can only assume that someone screwed up.

Haven't played it my self, but if everybody's being dropped back down to the same level I may just have a look...

I'd say that it's very unlikely that they'll not have backups, but who knows. Sillier things have happened.

Edit: And they're back. Ah well, drama while it lasted ;)

Logitech Touchmouse App

Posted by : Rob Stevens | Wednesday, February 03, 2010 | Published in

For my media centre at home I have pretty simple system of a PC connected to my TV via S-Video and the sound run through my stereo system. I'd previously been controlling it either via a wireless keyboard and mouse, or by using the free version of VNC. Both of these have drawbacks. The keyboard and mouse are an absolute bitch to keep paired. They both run through the same receiver and every time the batteries go on one of them it takes large amounts of time resetting, swearing, resetting again and more often than not, failing to get both to pair. This is were VNC usually comes in. For the most part it's OK, but it does get really laggy when watching streaming video (Youtube, iPlayer, etc.). This gets really annoying when you start watching something and it takes 20-30 seconds of frantic scrabbling before the volume can be pursuaded to go low enough for the building to stop rattling. I had been thinking of trying out keyboard and mouse with seperate receivers to cut down on the bitchiness, but obviously this is an outlay of cash that I would rather avoid.

Enter my latest iPhone based toy. At the end of last week the Logitech Blog announced an iPhone app and corresponding computer service that allows you to use your iPhone as a touchpad mouse, and includes the usual iPhone keyboard. The app offers a three button mouse with configurable tracking speed (I found the default needed turning down a bit), and two finger hoizontal/vertical scrolling (again with ajustable speed). The app apparently works on the iPod Touch as well and is available for free from the Apple App Store.

The app and server seem to work very well. There is the occasional stutter, but I expect this will be ironed out through performance tweaking in later realeases. The only major thing that's missing that I would like to see from this is the ability to create access lists on the server end of things. As it stands, anyone joining the same wireless network will be able to connect and control any computer on the network running the service. The app doesn't give any sort of visual feedback, so actually doing anything would rely on guesswork, but being a picky, security minded type, it's a hole I'd rather wasn't left open. The other minor niggle is that the connection seems to drop when the iPhone goes to sleep, meaning that you have to disconnect and reconnect to keep using it. Again, hopefully these minor issues will be corrected.

Overall, an excellent app that provided a much needed scratch for my mediacentre itch.

Edit: Just in case any of the good folks at Logitech happen to see this, I have another addition to my feature wish list, this time on the UI front. It would be good if there was an option to choose the screen position of the mouse buttons. I think I would find using the app more intuative if the mouse buttons were at the bottom of the screen, in a similar position to those on a laptop trackpad. Having them at the top feels awkward and can require two hands to perform tasks that could be done with one with suggested layout.