Posts tagged Print From My PC

As promised – an updated about the state of PFMPC and Windows Vista / Windows 7:

We don’t know what’s happening. All our testing works perfectly, with every combination of things we can find, but there are still some end users (students) who can’t connect to the server. It only affects Windows Vista and Windows 7. Firewalls, antivirus, service packs, settings, existing printers, wireless drivers and everything else seem to make no difference at all, but the problem is replicable on the same computer.

There’s also a second issue (we think it’s unrelated) to do with 64 bit systems installing the printer driver (we think it’s Windows 7 only), but again this is only on some systems and not others.

Turns out it’s not ready for the prime time at all – we’ll keep working at it. In the meantime if you know of anybody with problems using PFMPC please get them to drop me an email at nijackson@lincoln.ac.uk and we’ll try work it out.

We are aware of some possible issues when setting up printing from Windows Vista or Windows 7 which are causing trouble for a small number of users. We’re taking a look at this right now, and hope to have an update for you before the day is out.

Printing from Windows XP, OS X and Linux is unaffected.

As promised not long ago (earlier today, in fact) more work has been done on the Common Web Design to make it a bit shiner and a bit more ready for prime time. In all honesty, Alex did a lot of the work to actually make the design fit together, and now the challenge is how to make it friendlier for things like large text browsers. I suspect there will be much mucking around replacing pixel values with em values.

Anyway, regardless of what needs to be done I thought I should share with you some of what has been done – specifically mockups of a shinier Print From My PC support website, and the beginnings of my.lincoln. I’d like to point out that these designs aren’t put together in Photoshop, they are genuine renders by the browser, in this case Safari. They also work in Internet Explorer as far back as IE6, Firefox, Opera, Chrome and even Lynx (people using screen readers will love us).

Mockup of Print From My PC using CWD.
Mockup of Print From My PC using CWD.
Mockup of my.lincoln using CWD.
Mockup of my.lincoln using CWD.

Shiny, huh? A nice side-effect of this design – and one which was planned to be doable from the beginning – is that they are easily tweakable to be touchscreen friendly with big, chunky menu buttons and fixed height presentation. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what we could do with touchscreens and a nice web interface to University services, because we don’t have any plans (or even solid ideas) at this end.

Okay, it’s been a while, so here’s a roundup of what’s going on in the land of Nick.

Get Satisfaction

My never-ending quest to get the University using Get Satisfaction seems to be nearing an end with the news that we will very soon (Monday!) be getting on the basic level of subscription services. This brings all kinds of cool new stuff to the service, including more moderation tools (so we can keep the conversation relevant and better manage how we respond to things), the ability to flag student reps as awesome (so more people listen to them), extra branding opportunities (so you know it’s about Lincoln), more widgets (for letting people use Get Satisfaction from within other sites) and most importantly the support of the University!

Now all we need is a cool name. So far thoughts include feedback.lincoln.ac.uk, thoughts.lincoln.ac.uk, qipp.lincoln.ac.uk, comments.lincoln.ac.uk and my personal favourite (although highly unlikely) wtf.lincoln.ac.uk – anybody got any more ideas or preferences? Let me know.

Print From My PC

Our ‘wireless printing’ service is still on track for a week 6 soft launch, although we’re experiencing some interesting glitches with printing from Ubuntu and other Linux flavours since they don’t trust our certificate provider. Kirsty took a brief wander around the library to work out where we could put posters advertising the service and you should hopefully see them appearing soon (so that you can break things and complain at us).

Lincoln University Network Access

This is a new one – LUNA is the name for an updated network access controller which will be rolling out to Student Village after the Christmas break. It includes improved security, better guidance on what to do when things go wrong, and (best of all) redesigned pages so you still feel like you’re within the University. Guess who’s been tasked with dismantling the existing pages, figuring out how they work and redesigning them all? Yup, it’s me!

All in all it’s a load of exciting things going on here in ICT. Hopefully once Get Satisfaction is working I can get cracking on another Service 2.0 thing (I want to see if there’s something I can do with the helpdesk…), there are some big enhancements to timetabling floating around in the cloud, and there’s a huge (and I mean huge) set of changes to student communications in the pipeline.

Following our massive success of printing using SMB, and being told it was a security hole we then evaluated IPP. IPP works fine, as long as we clobber it so that it works over HTTP.

Trouble is, of course, that HTTP isn’t secure. So we need to use HTTPS, which brings with it a whole new and exciting swathe of problems to deal with. Put simply – it doesn’t work at the moment.

I’m currently trying to break in to the server at the other end so that I can see what’s going on other than the cryptic messages which get dumped to the client. I strongly suspect that somebody has forgotten to tick a box, or that HTTP authentication is disabled or using the wrong realm.

It will work, I really mean it! Even if I have to rip apart CUPS and Kerberos and slam them together in a Frankenstein’s Monster of a print system with authentication to the AD (although I’d really rather not – CUPS is a mess internally and Kerberos would involve Yet Another Server).

Update: I managed to break into the server, admittedly by getting myself set as an admin. Once inside I discovered that as I suspected HTTP authentication was disabled entirely. A quick click to turn it on, set the default domain and realm, and force clients to use HTTPS. Job done.

Next up, documentation and implementation.

Yes, it’s true. Printing from your own PCs – the #2 item on student surveys about IT for quite a while now – is just around the corner and should be open for use by Week 6 (just in time for all those lovely assignments), with a few caveats.

The University's SafeCom printers, working from my laptop.
The University's SafeCom printers, on my laptop.

Firstly, the initial offering will be ‘Windows only’. As in, Windows (XP, Vista and 7) will work properly and everything else will work after a fashion but be unsupported. This is because of a curious implementation of the protocol at Microsoft’s end which means that clients using CUPS (OS X and Linux, this is you) will print fine, but not know when printing has been done. Some systems such as Ubuntu will then helpfully try to print again, so if you don’t remember to manually clear your print queue then you’ll end up with 100 copies of those lecture slides and no credit. This is very much a work in progress, and I’m actively working on some alternatives to solve this problem. In the meantime, when this is released all OS X and Linux users make sure you follow the guides very, very carefully.

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We’ve finally come up with a working print solution for use on-campus, with support for off-campus users not far behind! Yes, coming soon (as soon as we’ve gone through a meeting, approved it and built some nice tidy servers without all our development detritus on them) you’ll be able to use your own Windows, OS X or Linux laptop from anywhere within the Campus WiFi to print using the University printers!

“But how?” I hear you cry. “We thought it was impossible because Windows Server 2003 has such a ridiculous implementation of the IPP standard!”.

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Following a break from routine yesterday (I went to Sheffield to attend TEDx, where I learnt that I should listen to the Beatles, build cool things with Arduino, use my right brain more, disrupt things, adopt a workflow with no incentives and finally think inside and outside the box at the same time) I am back today and looking at the final pieces of the remote printing puzzle before I get back to revolutionising the way we deal with support queries.

It turns out that Windows Server since 2000 has included IIS components for doing IP Printing (IPP for short) as standard, and all you need to do is share a printer and tick a box. Even better, it comes with support for Windows Integrated Login (the amazingly annoying one which means you need to put “NETWORK\” before your username) and HTTP authentication for those of us who enjoy the *NIX approach to life (Mac guys, that includes you as well). The icing on the cake is that this authentication information is still passed all the way to the spooler in the same way as when you print locally or over the domain (as Lincoln’s printing works at the moment).

So in summary: we already have a fully featured, standards compliant (although admittedly I still need to work out exactly which ports need punching on the firewall for it to work without the HTTP transport) printing solution for non-domain machines of all OS flavours which supports authentication against our existing Active Directory with no additional hardware, software or expenditure and only a short afternoon’s work to implement it

I’ll let you know when we’re ready to let you play around.

Whilst I’m waiting for various bits of Get Satisfaction (and similar services) to get back to me, I am getting on with my second quest of bringing good, reliable and easy remote printing to the University. By this I mean that anybody – be they in the Atrium on their own laptop, in the student village, up the hill or on the other side of the planet – can send documents to their University print account, wander up to one of our SafeCom printers, punch in their numbers and pick up their printing.

This of course runs into some interesting challenges and raises some questions, which I’m going to ask you all to answer in the comments box. Alternatively if you don’t understand logging in to these blogs, are a fresher without an account or just can’t be bothered doing it any other way you can fire me an email.

So, questions.

  1. Do you know how to print from inside the University, and to collect your printing using SafeCom?
  2. Have you ever wanted to print from outside the University? If so, what kind of things (Word documents, images, PDFs etc)?
  3. Do you know how to add a new printer to your computer?
  4. Would you be happy installing a bit of software on your computer to look after remote printing?
  5. How important to you is being able to adjust the default settings, for example single/double sided print or stapling?
  6. If you can’t change your system settings or add a new printer, would you be happy to send your original document (by web or email) and let us try to print it?

Hello everybody, it’s Nick here with yet another blog. You may have come over here from my student blog, where I’ve spent most of the summer rambling about how I think bits of the University may be tweaked. Well, I’m now working for the lovely people in the ICT department and looking at the feasibility of implementing those tweaks!

I’m kicking off my first ‘proper job’ by looking at Get Satisfaction (read up on my other blog) and IP printing (or; being able to use the MFPs in the University from anywhere). This blog will be a repository of how everything is going and what sort of cool, new and exciting things I’m in the process of prodding until they break.