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07 October 2005

Installing a "Brother" Printer

Can you believe this?

This may sound like a joke. Today I had to install a new printer in the office, a Brother HL-5170DN, a small laser printer with an ethernet port. It turned into an adventure. Of course, actually putting the printer in place was easy enough. Setting it up from two Mac OS X clients was easy too (even though I had to install the PPD from the CD, it seems this one does not come with the system?). Then I had to set it up on a laptop with Windows XP too. What a nightmare...

First try: System control panel

Click on "Start", click on "Printers and Fax", add a new printer. A wizard opens. I can see the printer in the workgroup, but it is seen as a PC, not as a printer.

Second try: Printer CD

Maybe Windows does not know about this printer too, so pop in the CD and see what we got. Choose "Driver install". Click through a few screens until it is clear that this utility does not see the printer either. Open the manual, read, read, read. Apparently due to the use of NetBIOS, the printer should be seen here. But it isn't. Of course all troubleshooting information is for stuff like missing paper and not plugged in power cords.

Third try: Thinking about IP addresses

The Macs got this printer working through AppleTalk and Bonjour (née Rendezvous), but on other systems I would expect the printer to go up with some IP address. Looking through the manual I can see that this is true, but the setup has a Catch-22: When the printer comes up, it is configured to get an IP using DHCP. We don't have a DHCP server on our network, so it does not get one. Then it reverts to giving itself an IP in the 169.something range, which is reserved for this purpose and almost guaranteed to not be in use. Brother has a fancy name for this, APIPA (which is especially funny in Greece, as spoken aloud it contains the word for oral sex). So the printer is friendly to your network admin, because it does not use someone else's IP address. On the other hand, it is kind of rough on the admin trying to set it up, since you can't connect to that address. Oh, I forgot to mention one little detail: On a lot of printers you can set the IP address manually, because there is a small LCD display with some minimalist user interface. Not on this printer.

Switch off APIPA (do not say this out loud when in Greece)

What are you supposed to do? Switch APIPA off. Then the printer will revert to a static IP. Easy enough. Consulting the manual I learn that I have to switch the printer off, hold the "Go" button, switch printer on. Watch the blinkenlights till first they are all off, then the "Toner" light is on alone. Release "Go", press "Go". Wait till the blinkenlights play some more, then till "Status" lights up in green. Release "Go", hoping that all worked out (no feedback, what did you expect?).

Fourth try: Get a static IP

The IP this gives you is That is one funny IP address. It looks like it is in private address space, but it actually isn't, according to RFC1918. But it is probably not used on the Internet or your LAN, so it's unlikely to mess with someone's network settings. But then, it's also highly unlikely that you can connect to it. The proper thing is now to set up a machine on the same subnet (say on and connect to the printer. Wow, that worked.

Last step: Setup the printer in the PC

Finally we're here, the driver installer finds the printer, I can install the driver (which auto-setups the printer) and print. There is nothing like a good hour or two of puzzle solving fun to get something so simple as a laser printer to work. Oh, I have not found out how to teach the PC to use the second tray on the printer. That will be probably in the next game.

Posted by betabug at 17:41 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
ch athens
Life in Athens (Greece) for a foreigner from the other side of the mountains. And with an interest in digital life and the feeling of change in a big city. Multilingual English - German - Greek.
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Re: Installing a "Brother" Printer

I think HP also uses that IP address (192...) sometimes.
Anyways when installing network printers on Windows, I always setup "IP Printing", no fancy NETBIOS or anything like that. I first install only the driver (when possible) and then add an TCP/IP port with the IP from the printer. Also couldn't you configure a machine with a static IP on the same subnet as the 169... one? I think I have done that in the past.
What's the problem with the 2nd tray?

Posted by: Rodolfo Gouveia at October 07,2005 19:47
Re: Installing a "Brother" Printer

If I had known about the game with the 169.xx.-IP-Address, I would have
tried setting up a static address in that range too. I think a driver
intaller that does not work when the printer is not found is bad.

I don't know yet what the problem with the 2nd tray is. It looks like I
can't configure the printer driver in the PC to set the information that
the printer has a 2nd tray. The 2nd tray is going to be used for special
invoice paper, so the PC has to use that. I don't want the special paper
in the 1st tray, as that would lead to a lot of mistaken prints on this

Posted by: betabug at October 08,2005 11:14
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