SUMMARY: Networked printers

From: Elmar Kurgpold (
Date: Wed Feb 24 1993 - 19:37:50 CST

Thank you all for your support and advice. I did apologize for my
question possibly not being apropos for this list, but most people
suggested that it was not, and many asked for a summary so here it is.
I apologize for the long summary, but there are also a few alternative
suggestions for those who inquired-- read on ;-)

I did not mean to single out the Milan FastPort, and should mention
that Microplex and Lantronix were also highly recommended. Majority of
people who had it liked the Milan device. Its best features seem to be
stability and setup, the latter apparently not requiring the
administrator to have a brain. Drivers supplied include...
> Sun, HP 9000 series 300/400/700 & 835, DEC Ultix and VMS, PC/TCP,
> PC-NFS and Novell, all on 3.4" PC-format diskettes.
Concensus on reliability seems to be on par with Sun's own equipment;
they need to be power cycled, along with connected printers, about
every six months. They can be set up on the network with RARP or you
can program the ROM with a dumb terminal. From then on you can use
telnet to see what's going on or cancel print jobs. Setup of a
bootserver is not required.

Headless printer servers that connect directly to the network, so I am
told, generally use a Unix host to control spooling. It sounds like
the port on the box acts just like a local port on the Unix host. The
Milan install scripts can setup printcaps for you.

In my question I mentioned PostScript, but only because I have heard of
other devices (such as certain terminal servers) being "bad" for it.
However, I am not worried about translation of ascii to PS, which print
servers in this sense do not seem to support. Otherwise, people seem
to have little problem printing with PostScript (see exception

Another alternative is to use an old PC running pcnfslpd.exe in
"dedicated" mode. This is certainly a cheap solution (if you have a
redundant supply of dinasaur XTs), but there are some drawbacks. The
most obvious drawback of using dedicated PCs is space. They take up an
enormous amount compared to the FastPort, or even the HP (internal)
JetDirect card. Not an option for a cramped secretary's office :(
Also, you need a network card. And if the PC goes down for some
reason, you have to make sure it comes back up with someone logged in.
I don't think there is a way around this, although you *can* hard-code
a username and password into the network.bat file-- unfortunately I
can't accept this.

Here is another idea, if you happen to have serial lines installed in
your building (like we did-- we used to have 'a hundred' dumb terminals
connected to a single Prime computer). Hook up a SPARCstation (it's
called "use what you have that's not already being used") in the main
room with a serial port multiplexor, or use a headless muxer. Be
careful though, we tried that and got a lot of "ERROR 22" messages on
the HP LJ's, which seems to indicate interference. I know there are
amplifiers and such available for this problem, but how many boxes do
you want me to buy?

I had one warning from Andrew Watson ( who described
intermittent problems using the Milan with an HP IIIsi in PostScript

> Milan seem to have no idea what
> the problem could be, and are sending me various different firmware revisions
> to try out. This is taking some time.
> The problem symptoms: print jobs spooled from my HP 9000/350 and Tadpole
> Sparcbook 1 print OK, but the Milan box also seems to send occasional rubbish
> characters down the parallel interface to the printer, which is in Postscript
> mode. If no job is printing, this causes the printer to think for a minute,
> then spit out a "timeout error" page (I have the printer's Postscript debugging
> feature switched on). If a job is in progress, it gets mangled.
> I don't know whether the problem is with the Milan box, the network or the host
> running the spooler. I've switched on filtering in the box so that it only
> listens to the host running the spooler, but to no avail. If necessary I'll try
> chopping and changing things to isolate the problem, by putting the box on it's
> own Ether with the spooling machine, running the printer from the serial port
> etc. However, I haven't resorted to this yet.

Please keep in mind that this was the only such report that I received,
so it is probably an isolated incedent. Andrew, please let me know how
it turns out!

Thanks everyone!!!!!! In order of appearance:

Tommy Reingold (
Jim Ray (
Julian Dryden (julian@syd.dwt.CSIRO.AU)
Rob Scott (
Arthur Young (
Andy Toy (
chuck yerkes (
Andrew Watson (
Andy Heaps (
Craig Mcguinness (
Gordon Roberston (
Mike Andrews (
Wilson H. Bent, Jr. (whb@hoh-2.ATT.COM)
Dave Shevett (

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