Why Can’t Windows Just Get Along?

Subtitled:  Windows 8 Cost Me Five Hours of Time For A Simple Task

I spent a largish part of this weekend at St. John’s taking care of a lot of stuff that has built up a backlog.  Most of it was straightforward:  I got all of the lab computers up to snuff (except one that has a video card slowly failing, and another with a balky network card, which I managed to leave at home so I couldn’t install it), and ran a stress test on the lab network.  Ian got the computers in Raegans room connecting and working, and I re-crimped a new network connection for them.

I also worked to get the (previously four) five computers in the 2nd/3rd grade room back on the school network.  This was a significant untangling job, but straightforward.  Those four computers have shared a laser printer (an HP 2100TN) using XP printer sharing for a long time.  Due to where the computers are now physically located, I changed the printer server computer from one to another, printed a test page, and then went to the other three XP machines to connect them to the new printer server, and delete the old one.  I also replaced the five-port 100Mbps switch (four computers and the building network connection) with an eight-port, since I had two additional computers (the W8 box and one other).

I’ve said in the past that shared printing is one of the things Microsoft got 100% right, and pretty darn easy, since the days of Windows 1995.  All of the computers are in the same subnet, and in the same workground, and all can ping each other, so no problem.

Next I went over to the new computer, a Windows 8 box.  So it’s a new UI.  Whoever came up with it, and deletion of the Start button and menus, ought to be tossed out of the profession of software development.

Here’s an example.  I get the move-the-mouse-to-the-upper-right-and-swipe-down to get a menu (well, I know to do it, I do not see the utility).  So I want to change printer settings as in add a printer.  On XP, click Start, Printers, and you get a dialog that includes a button Add A New Printer.  Windows 8?  Do the odd swipe thing, then click Settings (this makes sense).  You get Devices, including Print.  Sounds reasonable.  Click that Print, and you get this:

WTF?Just what in the hell does this mean?  You can’t right-click or click anything except the left arrow back button.  FOUR USELESS CLICKS.

I finally found the add a printer dialog by clicking the faux-Start button on the lower left, and then typing on the odd tile screen P-R-I-N-T, and eventually Windows 8 showed a link to Printers.  I clicked it and got a fairly standard Printers and Devices that included an Add Printers dialog.

OK, now we are getting somewhere.  I got to the shared printer box, but Windows could not see the XP box.  I found a place to set the Workgroup on the System menu, and rebooted the machine.  It refused to see the computer that was sharing the printer.  Couldn’t see any of the other four computers in the workgroup either.  Wouldn’t take a direct entry in the form \\server\printername either.  I mucked around with all this for more than an hour.  Did some reading about W8 and sharing, and found that Microsoft was really interested in having people set up Homegroups.  Well, Microsoft, bite me.  I ended up giving up for the evening.

The next day, I brought everything up from scratch and tried again.  Still no luck.  I was pretty frustrated at this point.  I could sort of understand having issues connecting XP boxes to a W8 printers (understand, but not agree).  But the allegedly more advanced W8 should talk to XP flawlessly.

So after a lot of reading, I came to the conclusion that the W8 connectivity problem was not solvable.  The printer had a JetDirect card, so I decided to connect everything up that way.

I connected an RJ-45 cable from the printer to the switch, and had the printer dump a status page.  The printer had a static IP address set up in the 10. range.  I changed one of the XP boxes to a static IP in the 10. range.  I could ping the JetDirect.  I tried to hit the JetDirect via a web browser; no luck.  I did a telnet to it, and got asked for a password.  A null password didn’t work, nor did admin, or a couple others.

Off I went to the web to find out how to reset the password on a JetDirect card in a LaserJet 2100TN.  I had to look through dozens of pages that had some variety of powering the printer on or off, while pressing the GO and CANCEL buttons.  To save anyone else from having to do this, here is what to do:

1.  Do not trust anything related to the 2100TN on the HP website.

2.  To clear the password on the JetDirect card in a 2100TN, power the printer OFF.

3.  Hold down the Cancel Jobs button.  It’s the smaller one.  Power the printer ON.

4.  Wait 30 seconds.  Release the Cancel Jobs button.  Wait about 3 minutes.  The JetDirect should be cleared, and the default is to get an address via DHCP.  You can verify this by holding down the GO button and then pressing the Cancel Jobs button to get a printer status page printed.

Now, if you have a DHCP server, the JetDirect should have received an address in the same range as your computer.  If not, you will need to change your computer IP address to be in the same subnet as the JetDirect.

The web server still didn’t work.  I did a telnet to the JetDirect.  It does NOT support the ECHO ON command, so you will be typing in the dark.  I used the DHCP-CONFIG: 0 to disable DHCP, and IP: address to set a static IP address so my DHCP computers could find the printer.  Now I was able to ping the printer from all the workstations.

Next I set all four XP machines to print to the newly IP-enabled printer, and deleted the shared printers.  That was easy.

I went to the W8 machine.  It could ping the printer, so that was a good sign.  I started the Add Printer dialog, and almost immediately got this:


Yay, looking good so far.  So, I thought, this will be easy.  I clicked next, and got a dialog that didn’t have that particular printer, but it offered to go off to Windows Update and find it.  I clicked OK, and W8 went off and thought a bit.  It came back with this:


So, W8 went off and downloaded drivers for approximately 10,000 printers.  Well, maybe not that many.  But, I would have expected W8 to at least download the driver for the printer that it had already identified.  Or at least pointed at the printer in the selection lists.

Regardless, I pointed at HP and then found the printer in the list of printers, and the driver installed and the printer was printed to.

But this was way hard.  I’m good at this stuff, but while it’s been pretty easy to share printers since W95, and nearly trivial since W98, turned into a heck of a lot of wasted time for me due to W8 being way too difficult in talking to ANOTHER Microsoft operating system.

I’ve not blogged about it, but two weeks ago I had a non-trivial time getting a W7 box to reach out to another W7 box.  This leads me to believe that MS wants to junk workgroups in favor of homegroups.  If that’s the case, it’s quite user antagonistic.


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