Discussion on Network Printing – a complex subject…

Printers on networks are complex…but the benefit is convenience and power savings. When you have a network printer installed, you don’t have to leave a computer on 24/7 to share it to others on the network.
 
If you have a router, then you have a local area network (LAN). The router sits between your modem and your LAN.
 
Usually in a LAN you have the ability of having 254 Internet Protocal (IP) addresses or 254 devices. These IP addresses can be used by computers, printers, and other devices (like TIVO, etc.) that need an IP address for network and internet access.
 
There are 2 ways to get an IP on the LAN. First is by Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (dhcp) issued IP addresses from a pool of available addresses. A portion of the range of 254 IP addresses is assignable by the router via dhcp.
 
The other way is to manually issue static IP addresses. You need to issue these outside the dhcp range. And you should write them down in your computer notebook for future reference.
 
Most devices can acquire an IP address via dhcp. And for the most part this is not a problem. Except for when you have other devices using the services of an IP in the range – like the services of a printer or a storage device. So it is best to issue the printer a static IP.
 
You can usually do this via the printer’s front panel. Every one is different from every other one. You will probably need to get the printer’s user guide for this. If you no longer have it, you can download it from the manufacturer’s website.
 
Anyway, you need to issue your printer a static IP address. You may also need to issue it a Sub Net Mask and a Gateway. Typically the subnet mask is 255.255.255.0 and the gateway is xxx.xxx.xxx.1, but in some routers you may see the gateway address as xxx.xxx.xxx.254 where the xxxs are the same as the first 3 sets of xxxs in the dynamically issued IP addresses of the computers currently on the LAN.
 
And, your printer needs to be plugged into the LAN with a Network Interface Cable (NIC).
 
Now from each computer, you need to install the printer as a “network” printer.
 
For a computer where it is already installed as a USB printer, you may be able to go into the printer properties and change the port to a network port (may be termed TCPIP) at the static address you have assigned to the printer. You may have to create this port in the printer control panel before you can change the printer to a network port address.
 
On computers that do not already have the printer installed, you need to go through the “Network Printer” installation process. If you have the original CD, this may be supported there. If not, you need to go to the printer manufacturer’s website and locate the driver for your Operating System (OS), download it to yout desktop and run it from there.
 
EVERY printer tends to be different and every software installation also different. Not just from Manufacturer to Manufacturer, but also from printer to printer from the same Manufacturer. And of couse then there are the differences from OS to OS.
 
Finally a little more about the LAN. The typical router today has a Wide Area Network (WAN) input connector where the modem goes and then there are 4 connector ports for your LAN. These are generally considered “Switch” ports. And the router does not care what you plug into any switched port. The switch function is supposed to figure our the IPs at each port and for the most part this works seamlessly as a hardware function.
 
But what to do when you get the 5th piece of equipment that needs to plug in and use and IP address? At that point you purchase a second switch from Staples or similar store and you plug it into one of the ports on the router and then you have several more available ports you can use. Note you may see devices called HUBs at the store. Switches work much better and I recommend you avoid HUBs.
 
The switch can be located right near the router, or, at the other end of your home or office. The network limit for TCPIP Category 5 Cabeling is 100 meters so most of us will not have a problem with length. Most cabeling available the  last few years is Category 5 or better.
 
I hope this discussion assists you in your Network Printer quest.
 
Bill Perry
PerTel Communications, Inc.
bill@pertel.com

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Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), should I do it or not?

So now Microsoft is really promoting IE9 to the Windows community of users. For the most part it has some really good new features. But here are several things we have run into where we had to uninstall IE9, taking the tystem back to IE8.

Flash is a flashin! On one user’s system we uninstalled and re-installed the Adobe flash plug-in a couple times and still the flash image in her home page was flickering and moving in the most distracting manner. Finally removing IE9 fixed the problem.

On this user’s system everything slowed down. Looking at the task manager revealed nothing. Memory usage was within the range of the existing memory. Nothing listed in the process list gave any indication of over usage of the CPU. The antivirus was not causing any issues. Finally, we noticed IE9 was in there. Removing it returned the system to is previous snappy speed.

On another user’s system, he was unable to view his own simple website. Nothing fancy about it; IE9 simply would not load it. We had to flush the cache on this one and them he could browse his website. We left IE9 in there but advised him to let us know if he had any other browsing difficulties.

Finally, we were working with Network Solutions on some configuration issues for a new website. We got that done but during the conversation the technical support person advised us of their new service; reviewing existing websites for IE9 compatibility. Sooooo existing websites are at risk of not working once IE9 is installed.

We are a Microsoft partner and are proud to be so. But sometimes it is difficult to know that they are not too busy making life sooooo much better that they cause these other difficulties.

We still love them, but, come-on guys……

Bill Perry, PerTel Communications, Inc.

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Why bother with antivirus?

Many people run a version of Microsoft Windows. Today we see mostly XP, Vista and Windows 7. Unfortunately there are “holes” in these operating systems that allow hackers to enter your system and gain the use of it for nefarious reasons.

What to do?

First, Windows updates are critical and most systems are installed with windows updates enabled. If yours are not enabled, you should pursue how to make that happen. BUT beyond that, you need additional protection in the form of antivirus software.

Then, there are quite a number of free antivirus packages out there and here is a list of some we have had success with:

Microsoft Security Essentials

AVG

Avast

There others that charge a yearly subscription:

Norton/Symantec

McAfee

Nod32

We recommend using one of the free ones with the caveat that you be aware of the significant social engineering being done to trick you into clicking on a windows that takes you to an infection. From a social engineering prospective, we recommend that unless you are being prevented from performing a job, that you DON’T CLICK on ANY PROMPT that you see. This philosophy will save you greatly in headaches of dealing with infections that occur this way.

So, with windows updates running, an antivirus installed AND updated regularly and you being socially aware of the pitfalls associated with clicking on anything you did not expect, you will have a good chance for regular use of your computer without additional problems.

Just sayin!!!

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Website Thoughts

So you want to have a website. There are 3 things needed to have one.

1. You need a domain name. You can never own the domain name outright, but you can lease it for a period of years. you must renew it at the end of each lease expiration period or you will lose the use of it.

2. You need programming. This is the HTML and other code that sits behind your page. You can use a simple editor to create your web-pages, or you can use a high powered tool such as Dreamweaver to create them. Also there are many languages that can be used in your pages. Some of these are JavaScript, Cold Fusion, Classic ASP, .net, and there are others. You do not have to use them, but they do offer greater functionality than static HTML programming.

3. You need a host. The host is where you store your web-pages. When a user types your domain name, such as http://www.pertelcomm.com into their browser, your webpages will be served up to that user from you host and then displayed in the browser they are using.

These are the basics of getting your website to work. But now there are many browsers and many versions of those browsers. it has become a challenge to make a web-page look good and the same in all browsers. As you become more expert in programming your web-pages, you will no doubt run into these differences. Simple pages tend to be easier to display in all browsers so sometimes the KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) principal is best.

Another consideration is the user’s screen. Screens are measured in resolution dots. it used to be that 800×600 was widely used and 1024×768 was up and coming. Now 800×600 is all but obsolete and there are dozens of higher resolution screens in use. So when you program your web-pages, you need to bear this is mind and plan on testing your work in various resolutions.

I will have more thoughts soon. Thank you for checking in!

Bill Perry

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Backup Your Data (or Lose It)

This is a new test posting from Bill Perry at PerTel Communications, Inc.

In this one I will discuss backing up your data. This is something we all know we should do and yet we do not do it, many times, until we lose precious data. And it has become so inexpensive to backup data now.

First, I recommend using an external hard drive to “duplicate” you data right there at your system. External hard drives are very inexpensive, way under $100 now. Some of them come with backup software. I do not recommend using this software as some of it is very hard to understand.

I recommend SyncBack as a free file level backup software application. It is simple to use, very effective and can be scheduled so you don’t always have to remember to perform your backups. This software will backup all the files to wish to save.

If you wish to use an image backup there are many options for you to consider and I will cover that in an image backup blog later.

Finally for file backups, after you have an external hard drive, I further recommend offsite backup. If you use Mozy.com, you can get 2 Gig bytes of offsite backup for free. Beyone this you can get unlimited backups using Mozy for under $60 per year. This way you have an onsite duplicate of your important files, and, you have an offsite copy as well. Sometimes it can take a few days to backup your files offsite, but once the main group of files is backed up offsite, the additional ones usually go offsite very quickly and you won’t notice it happening.

So then, when the worst happens and your hard drive fails in a way that you cannot read it, you can recover all of your files from the local drive. If your local drive is also unable to be read, like your office was robbed, you can get all your files from your offsite storage location.

Irreplaceable files are just that, irreplaceable.

More soon,
Bill Perry

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