August 2011


In my small network, Windows is only on one machine. My daughter needs to connect to her work which has some programs which can only use Internet Explorer. She’s happy enough and doesn’t need more.

The rest of the computers run a form of GNU/Linux and share a network printer. So does the Windows machine.

Recently printing started to act up. I suspected that the print server was the problem and purchased a new one. Trendnet makes a small print server with a single parallel port which fits inside my HP laserjet printer. No extra desk space is needed.

Such print servers have a default IP address which doesn’t match a typical network and Trendnet delivers a CD with a small Windows program that discovers the print server directly and lets you change the IP to a fixed address that is part of your IP range. Most small networks use numbers in the range of 192.168.1.1 to 192.168.1.254. The broadband router uses the 1.1 address and connects to your cable or phone company line to get connected to the Internet.

This time, I took a shot. I put a copy of the program from the CD on my Kubuntu machine and used the Wine emulator to run it. It worked perfectly.

All that is needed is to enter your desired IP number, the network mask (which is almost always 255.255.255.0) and the address of the router. In the following illustration you can see what I got after entering those numbers for my situation.

Program Window

The final step, depending on how you chose your IP address, might be to check the printer setup of each computer that uses it. If you simply retired an old print server and set up the new one with the same address, you’re all set. If you changed the IP address, you’ll need to set up the printer settings on each computer.

That turns out to be easier on a GNU/Linux computer than on Windows. With GNU/Linux, just change the address for the printer you had set up before. On Windows, you need to create a new network printing port and then delete the old one.

Thanks to the Wine developers for solving another problem for me.

Wine is normally an option in the package manager, but you can also get it directly from the Wine website: http://www.winehq.org/

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Infographic

The following video clip encouraged me to make this infographic.

I’ve taken on a task for the end of summer.

A friend of a friend has been allowed to try to make some use of a cart of laptop computers. He wants to use them with Google Docs. JavaScript capabilities are therefore important in the browser.

The computers are Dell Inspiron 4000 laptops which have 128Mb of RAM in each machine. Windows Millennium Edition. That wasn’t going to cut it. I hope a version of Linux will solve the problem. Floppy drive module. Was able to swap the floppy for a CD drive from a Dell Latitude laptop (hooray for parts compatibility).

First try: Damn Small Linux. 4.4.10 – DSL specs say it works great with low resource hardware.¬† It installed easily and fairly quickly. It recognized the wireless card, attached¬† working driver software and connected to Google Docs, but the browser wasn’t new enough to handle the job. After about an hour, the mouse pointer started to wander and finally got “stuck” in a screen corner. Move on…

Next: Puppy Linux 5.25 – It installed with a bit more work, but didn’t connect with the wireless, even when I used the exact same driver that had worked with DSL. Move on…

Xubuntu 11.04 – SLOW install. Gave up the first time while the screen stayed blank at the networking hardware stage. Tried again and walked away for errands for two hours. When I returned, the wireless card had been detected and the install went forward, though still slowly. Mouse pointer stable, I think. Firefox 5.0 is the current browser with software updates applied. Wow! Modern browser. With 128Mb of RAM an actual Google Word Document almost works. Doubling to 256Mb, grabbing a memory module from another laptop, makes it work pretty well. The issue is the space required for the JavaScript that makes Google Docs work.

I’m now searching for more RAM. Dell’s page says the machine maxes out at 512Mb, two sticks of 256Mb. The first two I found weren’t recognized by the laptop which shut down right after turning on.

Anybody got ideas?

Anybody have compatible memory (PC100, SDRAM CL=2, non parity, 3.3V according to the Crucial Site) who would be willing to donate it? (Couldn’t get a PC133 chip to work. Would a BIOS update matter?)

128Mb memory modules would be enough to make the system workable. As it is now, the 30 laptops will supply enough RAM to have 15 working units. Clearly it would be nice if all 30 could be deployed. Class sizes are big at the school.

I’ll report on progress.