Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

We need to buy a new printer

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Photo of the HP Deskjet All-in-One F2140 printer

Here’s a photo of our current printer. It’s a HP Deskjet All-in-one F2140, and I think it dates from around 2008. Suffice to say, it predates the computer that it’s connected to, has been through several house moves and periods in storage, and even predates my relationship with Christine. You can also see how much dust is on top of it, and I’ll admit to having to shift a pile of documents stacked up on top of it to get the photo.

Okay, so we don’t use it very often. But having a printer is useful from time to time, and we use the scanner every now and then. Christine and I recently scanned all of our qualification certificates, so that we had electronic copies on hand in our shared Dropbox folder.

So why the need for a new printer? It still works, and we can still get hold of new cartridges easily.

The issue is networking.

Christine’s new laptop

Christine recently bought herself a new laptop – a very lightweight Lenovo Ideapad 320S. She’s doing a part-time university course, and her previous laptop bought in 2010 (when we first started dating) was getting too slow. It’s also big and bulky compared with what you can buy new nowadays. As she will need to print from time to time, she tasked me with setting up the printer on her laptop.

Our HP printer isn’t wireless, and so it’s connected to my Mac Mini (also dating from 2010) by a USB cable. I’ve been using Apple’s Bonjour network sharing protocol to share it across our Wifi network. For Windows, Apple offers a Bonjour Print Services utility that will discover any printers shared using Bonjour. And on Christine’s old laptop, this worked fine.

But I couldn’t get it to work on her new laptop. I think the core issue is that Apple last updated the Bonjour Print Services tool in 2010, and so it pre-dates Windows 10 by some time. Her old laptop was set up under Windows 7 and so was fine. Despite following my own printer sharing guide, and manually installing HP’s Windows 10 drivers, I could not get the Bonjour Printer Wizard to complete without failing with a permissions error (even when running as Administrator).

Whilst my Mac is generally on all of the time, it’s probably about time that we replaced it with a proper wireless printer. To get it to work with my iPhone and iPad, I’m using Printopia, which works okay but it’s a bit of a hack. Having a proper wireless printer, which works with all of our devices (Windows, Mac, iOS and Android) would be a big improvement. Especially when it comes to scanning, which we can currently only do on my very slow Mac.

A custom solution?

New wireless printers start at £30, so it wouldn’t be a big expense. In fact, it’d be about the same price as buying a new Raspberry Pi and setting up some kind of bespoke solution. Which, whilst appealing to my geeky side, would probably take a lot of the very little free time that I have nowadays. Plus, there would be the added ‘fun’ of trying to find a way of scanning documents on the Raspberry Pi, and then have them available to use on our other devices. I’m sure it’s possible, but what’s the point when you can buy an off-the-shelf product that already does this?

I could also look at buying a printer sharing hub, but again, the cost would probably be about the same as a new printer. So I might as well just buy a new printer.

We’ll have a look out for any good deals and will buy a new printer soon.

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