How Not to Work Your (Home) Network

Thanks to a late-night flash of brilliance (not really), I spent the better part of today feeling as though I’d accomplished something major. I decided to network my OfficeJet all-in-one and my mom’s LaserJet so that everyone could print wirelessly, something I meant to do a long time ago but pushed aside in favor of Lynda.com classes and catching up on what’s been an ridiculously entertaining fall TV season. Finally resolved to tackling the task, I found a few logistical issues standing in the way of my printing Nirvana. For one thing, my brother insisted on keeping both the modem and wireless router in his hell hole of a bedroom, so keeping the printers in there was out of the question. And there wasn’t room for the all-in-one printer in my mom’s office because every inch of useable space was occupied by CDs and thick Franklin Covey planners from the past decade. The only alternative was breaking out my trusty Airport Extreme, connecting it to the wireless router via one long-ass ethernet cord, and then plugging the printers into the Airport Extreme.

Mind you, the part about networking the printers via ethernet didn’t happen until today. Last night, I was all about USB connectivity though I’m not sure why. When I had my  network set up in Maryland my printer connected via ethernet, but I think it had been so long since I had to set up a network that I all but forgot. Nope, scratch that. I never learned how to connect via ethernet while in Md. I used the USB port on my Airport Express to connect my printer via Bonjour. That’s what it was! Even still, that’s the silliest way ever to connect a printer if you don’t have to. And the sucky part about that was I used always have to make sure my Apple Hi-Fi and all-in-one were close together because they shared the Airport Express connection to stream music and print respectively. Well lucky for me, I discovered the USB port on the back of the Airport Extreme base station which I learned would allow me to connect my external HD to the network,  too. And that meant all my music, photos, TV shows and documents could be accessed WIRELESSLY as well. Yeah, the kid is slick, right? Not so fast. In the most antiquated move of the year so far, I clean broke out ye olde USB 2.0 port with four slots, connected the all-in-one and HD to it, then connected the port to the Airport Extreme base station. Dunder-headed? Yes, but I was working my way up to something better.

Ye olde USB 2.0 is so 2001...which is right about when I bought it.

Thanks to some quick Googling and a driver update, I learned that my all-in-one is so much smarter than I’ll ever be. All I had to do was plug one end of an ethernet cord into my printer and the other end into the base station, enter the printer’s IP address (found on the printer’s configuration page, i.e. Setup button on L7590 > press right arrow key to Network Setup > press OK > Print Network Settings), reset the computer’s printer settings (by right clicking or control clicking the printer’s icon, then choosing the ‘Reset Printer Settings’ option), then add the ethernet connected printer to my computer’s printer que (by clicking the ‘+’ sign at the bottom of the que). The process was even simpler with our LaserJet since that driver was built into Snow Leopard and Windows Vista (Tyrone & Jackie’s computers—c’mon son, you know I’m a Mac chick). So to recap, the score might be technology: 1, Letita: -1, but everybody can print to both machines and I can access my HD from anywhere.

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

Still, I kinda feel this is one of those “D’oh!” moments where you just know software developers work hard to make stuff super simple and crazy person-proof. It’s like that Joe Piscopo/Stevie Wonder Nikon skit from Saturday Night Live where they’re playing tennis and taking photos of each other on the court. Joe Piscopo’s photos are all nice, framed action shots of Stevie Wonder missing each and every volley. And when Stevie gets the camera, his photos of Piscopo are of everything but his sighted tennis buddy. At the end of the commercial, Joe has the camera in his hands, examining it quizzically as though he’s run into some problem, and Stevie reaches over, removes the lens cap and says “So simple, anyone can use it!”

N.B. In case I buried it, here’s the list of equipment and drivers I used to update my network and resolve a communications issue between my all-in-one and Snow Leopard:

  • HP Color LaserJet 2605dn
  • HP Office Jet L7590
  • Airport Extreme 802.11n base station
  • LaCie 500 GB external HD
  • HP driver update available here
  • Two 6-foot ethernet cords
  • One 60-foot ethernet cord (only because I extended my wireless network using an ethernet connection from a router housed down the hall; I’m sure there are more elegant ways to do this)
  • One 6-foot USB 2.0 cord
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