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PDB HELPDESK: Debugging a Shared LaserJet 6L
By Thiravudh Khoman

Re: Rob Lepper's problems in getting a shared HP LaserJet 6L to work properly in a peer-to-peer network (Post Database, December 22, 1999), we have a similar setup at work, and for the record, the HPLJ 6L can and does function as a shared printer. I don't have a definite answer why his print sharing isn't working properly, but there are several things we can try.

Out of necessity, I'm going to make a few assumptions: a) that the peer-to-peer network referred to is based on Microsoft Networking and not something like Lantastic, b) that his computers are already equipped with the proper network hardware, and c) that his computers are running Windows 9x.

Checking the Network

The first thing is to check whether the network components are properly installed. On each computer:

  1. Go to the Control Panel and then "Network". In the main window, the following should be installed already: a "client" (most likely "Client for Microsoft Networks"), some kind of LAN "adapter" (too many to guess), at least one "protocol" bound to the LAN adapter (NetBEUI, IPX/SPX-compatible protocol and/or TCP/IP), and a "service" called "File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks" (figure 1). If there is a modem in the computer, there might also be a Dial-Up Adapter and TCP/IP bound to this, but this is unimportant to us.
  2. Click the button that says "File and Print Sharing" and make sure that "I want to be able to allow others to print to my printer(s)" is checked. "I want to be able to give others to access my files" may or may not be checked, depending on whether disk/file sharing is permitted. However, I suggest that this be checked for now, since we're going to need it to run a test later (figure 2).
  3. If any of the components mentioned in 1) are missing, the network setup is incomplete, and adding these will require the use of the Windows 9x installation CD (unless the files are already installed on the hard disk). A reboot will be required after this.
  4. After re-booting, go back to the Control Panel, click the "System" icon and the "Device Manager" tab. Look for and open the "Network Adapter" category (figure 3). There should be no yellow/black exclamation mark next to the LAN adapter which would have meant that something was wrong. Next, choose the LAN adapter and click "Properties". If everything is OK the line "The device is working properly" should be shown (figure 4).
  5. If everything is OK so far, one final check is to copy a large file (say about 10mb) from one computer to another across the network. This is sometimes necessary to verify that Windows' plug and play didn't choose a wrong adapter or install a wrong network driver (sometimes it does).

If a 10mb file isn't available, here's how to create one. On the computer attached to the HPLJ 6L, go to DOS, and then change directories to C:\Windows or C:\Windows\System. Look for a file of about 1mb in size. Copy this file to C:\, naming it xx. go to C:\ and type the following:

    copy /b xx + xx + xx + xx + xx 5mb
    copy /b 5mb + 5mb 10mb
    del xx
    del 5mb

(WARNING: If you already have files named xx, 5mb or 10mb that you want to keep, choose different names for the above!!!)

The first line above creates a 5mb file by performing a binary copy of the file xx 5 times, while the second line creates a 10mb file by binary copying the file 5mb 2 times. (Note: The file doesn't have to be exactly 10mb.) The last two lines delete the no longer needed files xx and 5mb.

Before we can copy this 10mb file across the network to other computers, we first need to create directory "shares" on the 3 computers with "write" access. Only if "I want to be able to allow others to access my files" was checked as I had earlier suggested, can we setup directory shares.

Load Windows Explorer, right click on drive C: and select "Sharing". On the next screen, select the "Shared as" radio button and give the share name "DRVC". Under "Access Type" select the "Full" radio button, and then click OK (figure 5). In a few seconds, you should see a blue hand holding up drive C:, indicating that it is now "shared". Do this for all 3 computers.

I'm going to assume that the three computers are named PC1, PC2 and PC3, and that PC1 is the computer connected to the HPLJ 6L. Now, go to PC1 and type:

    copy c:\10mb \\PC1\DRVC
    copy c:\10mb \\PC2\DRVC
    copy c:\10mb \\PC3\DRVC

This copies the file 10mb to a directory defined by the DRVC sharename on computers PC1, PC2, and PC3.

Repeat this for PC2 and PC3. If the copies occur without any errors, your network setup is fine. If an error occurs, doing a 3-way copy should isolate which is the problem computer. Odds are, that computer has an incorrect network driver, in which case you'll need to hunt down a better/newer driver, or there is a hardware problem somewhere.

Before proceeding to the next section, remove the 10mb files on the 3 computers. Also, if file sharing isn't desired, remove the DRVC share from each computer by right clicking on drive C: from Windows Explorer, choosing "Sharing" and selecting "Not Shared".

Checking the Printer Driver

The second thing we can check - and in my opinion, the problem is probably lurking here somewhere - is to see whether the printer drivers are installed and configured correctly.

  1. It's best to start "clean" and therefore I recommend removing the HPLJ 6L printer drivers from all of the computers. This is done by running an uninstall routine which is found at "Start", "Programs", "HP LaserJet 6L". If this entry doesn't exist, go to the Control Panel and then click "Printers". Find the HP LaserJet 6L printer icon and press the "Del" key. You'll be informed that certain files are no longer needed and can be removed. There's no need to remove these since you're going to do a reinstall anyway.
  2. At work, we misplaced our installation diskettes, so I had to download a fresh copy from HP's website (https://www.hp.com). The file is called LJ121EN.ZIP and is about 3mb in size. It's a good idea to create a C:\DRIVERS subdirectory on one of the computers and save the most current printer, network, modem, scanner, etc. drivers there for easy access.
  3. To install the HPLJ 6L driver on PC1 (the computer that's physically attached to the printer), unzip the LJ121EN file into some temporary subdirectory and run setup. The setup program should detect the printer and offer you a choice of a "Typical" or "Custom" setup (figure 6). May as well choose a "Typical" setup which is easier. When this is finished, you will need to reboot.
  4. After rebooting, go to the Control Panel and click "Printers". Look for the HP LaserJet 6L entry, right-click on it, and choose "Sharing". In the field marked "Shared As", give the printer share a name, for example "HPLJ6L" (figure 7). In a few seconds, you should see a blue hand holding up the printer, indicating that it is now "Shared".
  5. That's about all you need to do for the print server, except to print a sample page. Right click on the printer, choose "Properties", select the "General" tab and then click the "Print Test Page" button. The test page will say "If you can read this ..." everything is alright.
  6. To setup PC2 to use the HPLJ 6L attached to PC1, again unzip LJ121EN into some temporary subdirectory and run setup. This time, setup will be unable to find the printer because it's not physically attached to PC2, and you will be given some choices what to do. Choose to continue. You will again be offered a "Typical" or "Custom" setup. Choose "Typical". You will now be asked what port to print to. LPT1: will be highlighted but don't choose that; instead, click the "Create a New Port" button. On the next screen, type in the "Path" field: \\PC1\HPLJ6L and make sure the "Reconnect at Logon" box is checked (figure 8). Next, choose the LPT1: port that is routed to \\PC1\HPLJ6L and the drivers will start installing. A reboot will be required when the installation is finished.
  7. After rebooting, go to the Control Panel and click "Printers". Look for the HP LaserJet 6L entry, right-click on it, and choose "Properties". One more thing needs to be confirmed, something very critical in fact. The HPLJ 6L is a bi-directional printer. This means that not only does your computer send information to the printer, but the printer also sends information back to the computer. Unfortunately, this only works when the printer is connected to the computer via a parallel cable; it doesn't work on a network connection. Thus, bi-directional communications must be disabled on PC2 (and later, PC3) if it isn't already.
  8. Go to the "Details" page and look for a button labeled "Spool Settings". If the section which includes the line "Disable bi-directional support for this printer" is greyed out, you're OK (figure 9). If it's not - and this might occur if the printer was previously installed on this computer, but was moved to another computer later - then you should click the radio button that says "Disable bi-directional support for this printer". Important: Do not disable bi-directional communications on the print server (i.e. PC1). If you do, you won't be able to print at all. If you don't like the pop-up animation which occurs when printing, you can configure it to pop up only when errors occur, not during normal printing.
  9. That's it. Go to the "General" tab and click on "Print Test Page". Hopefully the page should be printed correctly.
  10. Install PC3 exactly the same way PC2 was installed (steps 6 through 9).
  11. Incidentally, this is not the normal way to setup/make use of a shared printer. Normally, you would click on "Add Printer" select a network printer installation, and then choose a printer or click "Have disk". The reason why we can't do this here is that the HPLJ 6L requires that you only run its setup program to install the drivers. You can't access the HPLJ 6L drivers any other way.

Copyright © 1998-2000, Thiravudh Khoman