If your router has a USB port and is running DD-WRT, you can turn it into a DD-WRT USB print server. It can still do wireless duty while it allows your computers to print to your wired USB printer over your wired or wireless network. It’s not very intuitive or user friendly, but it works. Here’s how to set it up with Windows 7. Other Windows versions will be about the same.
I picked up a couple of refurbished Linksys EA6200 routers this past weekend. For whatever reason, DD-WRT isn’t officially supported on them, though it does seem to be a popular DD-WRT router. A lot of people make the upgrade far more difficult than they need to. With some simple hacks, Linksys EA6200 DD-WRT installation is pretty straightforward.
I came up with an 18-step process that I simplified just as much as I could. Unlike some methods I’ve seen, I don’t have you editing any binary files or creating custom startup scripts.
Many routers, notably Belkins, have a feature in them to schedule an automatic reboot periodically, usually once a week. Frequently this “feature” is there as a workaround, because something about the router’s software gets unreliable if it’s been running longer than a week. So it’s a kludge, but it keeps the thing working without a lot of effort, so the feature is there.
The respectably rock-solid DD-WRT also has the ability to schedule a reboot built in. I don’t know if it’s there to make life easier for developers, or if it’s there to deal with second-rate hardware, or if there was a time when it was necessary and they just never took the feature back out. Regardless, it’s there, though many DD-WRT stalwarts brag about never needing it because their router’s uptime is more than six years.
It’s fun to get into uptime contests, but it’s poor security. If you have a router, it’s a good idea to be rebooting it every so often, so you might as well turn on that feature, even if it costs you some pride. Read more
There’s an addition on the back of our house, probably added in the 1970s or 80s, where the wi-fi reception is exceptionally poor. Something about the walls makes it tricky, and I also suspect we get some interference from the neighbors behind us.
My project to fix that began with a TP-Link TL-WR841N router. It’s inexpensive–frequently available for around $20–has a good enough reputation for reliability, and if you dig deeply enough, you can find a DD-WRT build for it. There are fancier routers available, with more antennas and gigabit ports, but this one would take care of my immediate needs while I wait for 802.11ac. I don’t have any 802.11ac-enabled equipment yet, so I’ll wait for the price to come down before adopting it.
A very good question came in as a comment to my earlier post, the benefits of practicing IT at home. What do I mean by putting some Windows 7 machines on a domain? It’s one of several good home network projects.
I mean standing up a server with centralized user accounts and shares, running on Windows Server or Samba, whichever you can afford. Make it a print server too, and print from it, just like you would from an office. Then extend it, and extend your sysadmin skills. Here are several ideas for projects of varying length, difficulty, and expense.
You can improve the speed of printing slightly and, depending on the nature of your print jobs, dramatically reduce disk writes if you move the print spool directory to your ramdisk. It’s a little performance tweak you might have never heard of, but it’s helpful.
This trick works best with a ramdisk product that loads a disk image at startup, such as Dataram Ramdisk.
Next weekend is Labor Day weekend. I can’t remember if it was one Thursday or two Thursdays before Labor Day weekend in 1997, but one of those two days happened to be the beginning of the first crisis of my career.
Whichever Thursday it was, it was getting close to midnight when my phone rang. It was Max. The print server wasn’t working. That happened a lot. That server had IBM’s Services for Macintosh on it, which never worked all that well, and, worse, tended to make the rest of the server act up a lot. That in and of itself shouldn’t have been a crisis. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Read more
Old servers never die. That’s part of the reason I share responsibility with two other people for administering 125 of the wretched things. And “wretched” is a nice way of describing the state of an NT server that’s almost old enough to drive.
How about two free tools for moving at least the shares and print queues off old servers and onto a new one? Moving the applications is still up to you, but moving file shares, either manually or via a batch file, is tedious work, so these are still welcome tools for the weary sysadmin.The first is Windows Print Migrator 3.1. This is a tool you should be running anyway, even if you can’t get rid of that particular print server, because it backs up everything about your printer configuration. Should that print server die by means of something other than a BOFH-style unfortunate (wink wink nudge nudge) incident, this tool’s backup copy lets you re-establish print queues in no time flat.
The second is Microsoft’s File Server Migration Toolkit, which allows you to move the shares from one server to another, and, if you have DFS set up, you can even preserve the UNCs so that the migration is completely transparent to the end users.
Both tools are a little bit tricky, so you want to play around with them in the test room with a couple of old machines on a hub or switch that’s not connected to the main network before you try them in production.
But once you master them, they can take work that would have taken you days to finish and reduce it to an hour or so.