The Day the Print Server Died

For a long time the home network was fine. Then yesterday nothing would print. The problem seems to be the print server. I've proved that the printer cable from the print server to the printer works. The printer self-tests fine. I've tried two different cables from the Netgear PS111W print server to the Linksys BEFW11S4. The print server also has a wireless card in it (free if you mail in the coupon, but it took six months to turn up), so even if the cable were bad, it should work.

None of the computers on the network see the printer any more. After I reset the print server to the factory defaults, the administration software was able to tell it was there…sort of. Although it comes up as the sole item on the list of print servers when I do a survey, and I was even able to rename the print server from the default name to 'P2', the configuration software was initially unable to do any other sort of configuration, or even to read the settings. Yet the config settings are there: I can get the print server to print them out to the server.

In desperation, I read the manual and downloaded the binary file to re-flash the firmware. The manual does not list the error message I get from the administration software. But it does have instructions on how to configure the print server via FTP. I try that (I know the IP number because that's on the printout when you dump the config file). The print server will not respond to FTP—I get a 10060 (timeout) error. I can force my win98se computer to “find” the printer on the network if I give it the name, but I can't get it to install a new printer to that name (or take existing printers back online) because the printer installation system thinks the printer is not found or offline. I bet Linux users don't have these problems.

Having downloaded the firmware flash binary, I look for instructions on how to apply it. There are none in the manual, and none in any evident place on the support page .

Basically, the print server is not responding to tcp/ip requests. Maybe flashing the firmware would help, maybe it's hardware. I think it's just out of warranty, so it may be planned obsolescence. I've spent about three hours debugging this, and I didn't fix it. I've emailed my story to tech support, and if they don't have useful ideas, then I suppose I give up and buy a new print server.

I think I know a fair amount about computers, and usually feel proud that I can debug most of the domestic problems that come up on MS products, PC hardware issues, and the home network. But this experience makes me wonder: was this knowledge helpful here? If the right answer is, buy a new print server, a complete tech ignoramus could have reached that conclusion much more quickly….

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3 Responses to The Day the Print Server Died

  1. Andrew Lazarus says:

    You might get something out of tech support yet. I was having trouble with a printer attached to an SMC router by parallel port, printing from XP. Tech support emailed me within the day that the settings in their docs are wrong, change xyz in Printer Properties, and bingo. I was pretty impressed.

    Having said that, it does sound like you have a hardware failure. They might swap it if you mention your occupation.

  2. Matthew says:

    I don’t know about the wired connections, but I have a BEFW11S4 in my apartment and all the wireless tools and toys I have lying around (plus some friends’ computers) have difficulty connecting to it via 802.11b – so perhaps there’s something wrong with the underlying Cisco chip in the router.

  3. Michael says:

    I’ve been pretty happy with the BEFW11S4 except for its limited range. I have the original edition, and especially when using original edition Linksys USB wireless WUSB11 the effective range is very short, and very sensitive to line-of-sight. Using the updated version of the WUSB11 about doubles it and works around corners too.

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