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More routers used as switches


© October 2009 Anthony Lawrence

Yesterday I drove into Boston to see one of my love/hate customers. I love the people: great folks, easy to work with, pay their bills on time even though their customers do not, hard working, honest - I love these people. I hate going there because there never, ever is a place to park in their lot, and there's no street parking either. Yesterday I had to park at a nearby mall and hoof it over. If it had been raining hard, I wouldn't have gone!

I was called in to install two new printers. I thought that was a little odd - oh, sure I have customers who ask for simple things, but these folks have a "guy" and I thought he could have installed new printers. But maybe not, and money is money, so..

I got a good chuckle when he showed me the first printer. Only one network tap near where they put it so - he bought a router. Yeah, I've been down that road with other customers. As it happened, the router defaults to a 192.168.1.x network and the rest of his machines are 192.168.4.x, so it kinda/sorta worked - that is, it didn't instantly cause grief elsewhere and the one user plugged into the router could print. Nobody else could, and he no longer could get to the Internet, but he could get email and get to their local app server, so it wasn't completely broken. Just kinda/sorta.

I sent the "guy" out to get a couple of switches - I figured I'd find the same thing at the other new printer. But no, this wasn't a network printer at all. USB connect, hooked up to a new Vista Home machine. Oh, I just LOVE finding XP/Vista Home in businesses, don't I? They don't have a AD server, so it sort of doesn't matter, but they are bound to get forced down that road someday and in the meantime, well, in the meantime "Home" doesn't always play well with networks.

Which is exactly what this piece of $400 Microsoft junk was not doing - not playing well with the rest of the network. It had a DHCP address. It had the USB printer shared. It was even in the same workgroup as (most of) the other machines. TCP/IP was working because it could telnet to the app server and could fetch mail from the email server and could happily browse the internet. What it could not do was see other machines, in or out if its workgroup, and no other machine could see it.

Loverly, just loverly.

I tried everything I could think of but no luck, so I asked him to go buy a USB print server. I don't like shared printers anyway - unnecessary complication, especially with Home's quirkiness. It's cheaper to by a $50 USB print server than have me hack at the stupid Vista for an hour - a LOT cheaper, and of course that then gives them the flexibility to move the printer anywhere.

Though when they do that, they might dig up that router again...


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