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Switching to Windows

© April 2009 Anthony Lawrence

Today I popped in to help an app provider with a problem they were having accessing a shared printer from a Windows Server 2008 box. When she'd try to connect, it would say "Access Denied". By approaching it from different angles, I was able to get by that, but when we actually tried to print, her app would lock up and the printer status would say "Offline".

The 2003 Server didn't have this problem but unfortunately we needed this to work from the newer box - no choice there.

While I was noodling this I kept thinking that something was wrong. Well, duh, of course somethings wrong - that's why you are here. But no, I meant that something else was bugging me - the dialogs weren't right, something was missing..

Oh, stupid me - of course! I looked at "About Windows" and yeah, it was XP Home. Aaargh. I don't know if Server 2008 should be able to print to a XP Home shared printer, but it doesn't surprise me a bit that it was giving us grief. As the printer in question (a Dymo Label printer) didn't need to be specifically there, we went looking for an XP Professional system. That wasn't easy to find, but just as we were about to give up, I found one. We hooked up the Dymo, shared it, and the server connected to it without complaint.

Unfortunately her app still wouldn't print. No hang now, but an application error. She felt she might have the wrong style of labels in the printer so we decided that it probably was an XP Home issue, perhaps complicated by a problem in her app. As we could now happily send test pages from the server and it never complained or put it off line, I felt that was a pretty good guess.

She then asked why they weren't running a Domain Controller. I reminded her of the XP Home machines and pointed out that prior to her app, they'd used a Unix based app which certainly had no use for a DC. She agreed, but reminded me that, well, now they kind of do need it. Not absolutely, but it sure would help things from her point of view. I agreed, but again noted the XP Home machines everywhere. Would they be willing to upgrade all those? Can you still buy the upgrade? Would they have to go to Vista and if so, neither of us thought that many of the machines we'd seen were up to that task. Uggh.

"I hate Vista anyway", she offered. "Whenever I work on one, the customers complain about how slow it is and how many times they get asked for permission.. they hate it. So I disable the questions."

I raised my eyebrows.

"Yeah, I know: I tell 'em I'm killing their security but they don't care. I figure it's no worse than if they had XP.."

Well, yeah. I guess.. But I wonder how many Vista machines have been "improved" like that and where that leaves Microsoft's latest security chest thumping. Isn't it kind of like having a big steel safe and not locking it? Yeah, kinda.

So she's going to get more labels and talk to the programmer responsible for the app and I don't know what the customer is going to do. That sure could add to his switching costs..

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-> Switching to Windows


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Thu Apr 16 07:07:11 2009: 6186   NickBarron

I am glad it was you that went on this call out not me :)

Though why they are using Windows is a mystery, this is what happens when you install junk!

Thu Apr 16 11:36:48 2009: 6190   TonyLawrence

Well, the first rule is that if you need the app, you suffer the OS it runs on.

This is the app his business needs, the programmers who wrote it don't grok anything but Windows, so there he is.

Thu Apr 16 12:00:46 2009: 6192   TonyLawrence

What I do NOT understand is why they don't pass through printers (this is a Terminal Server situation) or put the Dymo on a print server.

They say that their app won't work with local printers/devices passed through.. I can't imagine why, because that's how most apps handle local printers in Terminal Server.

They also say that a print server won't work. That I believe even less. I suppose some specific print server might have given them trouble, but I find it impossible to think that it can't work. Heck, Dymo even *makes* a print server just for this: (link)

But - it's not my place to argue too hard with the app people. It's often best to just let them do what they want to do because if you do something else, they'll blame that anytime their app has a problem.

Thu Apr 16 13:24:15 2009: 6199   EdBaptist

My experience with shared Dymo label printers is that some times they work and sometimes they don't. Even two XP Pro PC's will differ greatly in how stable the sharing is. There have been certain ones where I can configure the connection to the shared Dymo printer and test it the morning, only to be called back in the afternoon when label printing has failed. I always recommend that they buy more Dymo printers rather than spend the money in service calls for something that fails repeatedly.

Thu Apr 16 13:28:02 2009: 6200   TonyLawrence

Have you tried print servers?

Thu Apr 16 16:16:04 2009: 6202   Ralph

Well. as you describe the problem, I'd think this is a clear case for SAMBA. After all you've kind of turned the XP into a print server, but this function in addition to being a primary domain controller will be much more reliably performed by SAMBA, even with a standard configuration. The printing problem of the Windows app may come from the fact, that unlike UNIX, the Windows system has to install a device driver for the exact model it uses, even though the print server has already installed one. Printing on Windows is something decentralized, no matter what you try to achieve.

Thu Apr 16 16:29:42 2009: 6203   TonyLawrence

No, the right drivers are installed everywhere. This is either a Server 2008 -> Win XP Home issue or their app is screwed up - maybe both.

As to Samba, a print server would be a heck of a lot easier and if the app vendor is looking for excuses (as they usually do, sooner or later) Samba is a much bigger target than the print server would be.

Sun Apr 19 09:28:35 2009: 6229   drag

This sort of thing puts me on edge when dealing with application vendors and whatnot. If your not allowed to change anything then how the hell are you suppose to fix a seriously broken infrastructure?

As far as the file and print issues go... I have no idea what the problem is exactly, but I do know that Microsoft has a different version of SMB protocol for each version of the OS it has released. Situations were you have Windows server and clients that are not operating in a domain-controlled enviornment just float all sorts of broken functional to the surface. It is very very obvious that Microsoft had absolutely no desire to see any of their business customers running anything less then a "Small Business Server" were you have Windows XP pro or Windows Vista business running under the command of a Windows Active Directory Server.

Doing anything other then that, seems to me, just inviting all sorts of trouble. If your going to use and depend on Microsoft then your just going to have to play it their way.

And sure it's expensive, and sure it is irritating... but that is why Microsoft makes billions every year (and every year more money then the last) and why ISVs make gobs of cash off of the continious upgrade trademill, why Dell/HP/friends recommend Widnows Vista, and why salesmen push Microsoft solutions to get that nice nice commission money, etc etc. It's a software business ecosystem were you have Microsoft at the core and their partners spread out like leaves sucking nutrients from the tree branches... and all of their collective roots are just dug in very deep into corporate America.

In comparision Linux and other Microsoft alternatives actually end up saving people money.. saving people LOTS of money, which is why it has very little in the way of 'push'. All those folks that got fat and rich off the PC and business PC software market that Microsoft helped create for them have very little desire to see what happenned to Unix happen to Microsoft.

Oh, well.

Sun Apr 19 10:51:54 2009: 6231   TonyLawrence

Nicely put, Drag and of course true.

Typically a Unix based customer might be paying me a thousand dollars or so yearly. If they have no Windows at all (dumb terminals) it might be even less and if they have lots of Windows desktops it might be more, but after they go fully Microsoft, their costs escalate to four or five times what they were previously. That's conservative, of course - it can and does go much, much higher. If they end up hiring even one additional full time IT person (and that's hardly an unusual need after switching) they've added a lot of expense.

That's Windows - Life without Walls means the money just blows away with the wind.

Wed Apr 22 12:06:38 2009: 6252   NickBarron

Ah life without walls means the money just blows away...


Wed Apr 22 12:18:25 2009: 6253   NickBarron

Really one application should not rule or bind them though.

if it is that important and necessary it should either become universal i.e web based or be built correctly no?

Difficult thing to swing I know but in the best interest of the company really.

Wed Jul 22 11:43:58 2009: 6666   TonyLawrence

I installed Dymo print servers. They work.

I had tried a D-Link PS-301U but that saw the Dymo as out of paper. Dymo's print server works, but there is one odd thing: if you want to configure it for a static IP, their program doesn't let you put in a gateway. Without a gateway, you can't use these on the other side of a VPN or router.

The solution was to use DHCP - I preloaded the DHCP server to always give this the same address.

Silly omission.


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