Posts tagged Windows

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.

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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Hooray, it’s Freshers’ Week! Today involves having to negotiate the swarms of scared looking freshers as they look in a confused manner at maps of campus. It’s also the day when ICT is watching the servers nervously, as 10,000 students all try to retrieve their (still not published, so don’t bother) newly published timetables. Here’s an important message: don’t panic. If you get lost or confused just grab a helpful looking person and 9 times out of 10 they’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

In the slower-paced world of Online Services R&D my task for today (in between the mind-numbing tedium of SU induction workshops) is to iron out the last few kinks in the printing implementation, more specifically those to do with user rights. Once that is done I can get cracking with test servers and get a functional SafeCom system working. Despite needing to dip in and out of the office this week to attend inductions, welcome backs and Freshers’ Fayre (come visit Drama Society, we’re awesome!) I realistically hope to have a workable solution in place by the start of term next Monday.

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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.