Printing without wires

So at long last I finally got our laser printer working on our wireless network. It was a little bit of a pain in the butt, so I thought I’d share the process with you.

The architecture of the solution, when all was said and done, was pretty simple. LaserJet with JetDirect card, connected via Ethernet cross-connect cable to Airport base station (dialup only), set up as an Ethernet bridge (thanks to Henry B for pointing this out). But getting there was pretty difficult.

First thing that we had to do was get a print server card for the printer. The LaserJet 2100M/TN doesn’t come with Ethernet connectivity, so connecting it to the wireless network required a JetDirect card. The standard card from HP is called the JetDirect 600N. Unfortunately it comes in about five flavors, depending on the type of networking you need to do. The cheapest model on E-Bay is the 3112. Unless you have some TokenRing needs, make sure you don’t buy this model. The one we finally ended up getting is the 3111a, which has 10Base-T and 10Base-2 support in addition to Appletalk (via the old fashioned serial connection). The card fit in the standard EIO slot in the LaserJet printer.

My initial plan was to connect the card to our AirPort base station using an old Intel 4-port 10BaseT hub we had lying around. Unfortunately, this didn’t work too well–we couldn’t address the card. I printed a test page for the JetDirect card and saw that the IP address and gateway were manually set to an unusual number–no doubt the settings required to run it in its previous home. But I couldn’t correct the settings from Mac OS X. I booted into OS 9 and connect to the JetDirect server using a crossover cable. I was able to reset TCP/IP to automatically get a DHCP address. However, when I reconnected the card through our hub, it didn’t seem to get an address. I then manually set the IP address, but still couldn’t address it.

Finally, I had to move the Airport base station to the other side of the room so that I could connect it using the 10-foot crossover cable directly to the printer. Almost immediately, I found it accessible via AppleTalk–apparently our hub was broken. I was able to set up an LPR printer to it, and we downloaded software from HP onto Lisa’s Windows 95 laptop so that she could connect to it as well.

All in all it only took about six weeks… Boy, I really must be a programmer now. Hardware and networking things used to seem easier.

One last note–I’ll have to get another hub if high speed broadband ever comes to our neighborhood–connecting directly to the base station won’t work too well then.