I Have Created Fire!

Posted on Friday 26 September 2008

As anyone who has seen that great move Cast Away with Tom Hanks ( and if you haven’t seen it, you really should! ) After struggling with his sticks ( trying to create a fire ) for what was probably weeks, he finally succeeds and he is so excited and energized that he is almost consumed by the energetic happiness of the event. Having no one (save for his friend the volley ball – aptly named Wilson ) to share it with, he exclaims his success to the world with those memorable lines – “I have created Fire!”

Well, that is basically why I enjoyed being an SA ( Systems Administrator) for large Unix systems. When you spend hours and hours tracking and tracing down an unknown problem, never before seen (and will never be seen again once you fix it. ) Creating the solution is so energizing and SO satisfying that you can’t help but scream it to the world and let out all the energy that it creates!

After retiring, I thought those experiences would be far and few between. So my joy was triply compounded yesterday, when after having battled ( on and off ) a network printing issue with Ubuntu Linux and Windows XP for well over five months, the solution was found! And fixed! Never to be an issue again. What a rush!

Once again, the solution was simple, once you knew the answer!

I had spent hours with some of the best printer minds and read and posted on numerous other blogs only to finally figure it out for myself…. what could be more exciting than that I ask you. In the end, the problem wasn’t with Linux at all – it was really the printers fault – and mine sort of…

I forgot that Unix/Linux/*nix uses a standard printing format, which is why you can’t just plug any printer into a Unix box. It has to understand Postscript ( basically a printer programmin language )and if it doesn’t understand it, then you need to get a program to convert the standard Postscript output to it’s unique format and insert it into the print process – just before it prints!

My problem printer was an HP1000 DeskJet ( A Hewlett-Packard Laser Printer ), which didn’t understand Postscript. I had figured out what all needed to be installed on my Ubuntu box and it printed beautifully from it. Unfortunately, no matter what I did, when I tried to send a print to the printer from my XP laptop through the network, the print didn’t print at all – it just disappeared!

To make a long story much shorter, and to avoid all the technical talk (that isn’t even necessary for this solution ). The problem was on the Windows XP side. I had used the supplied driver ( HP1000 DeskJet ) for the printer to print it across the network. This was a mistake because the driver converted the printout and then sent it on to the Unix machine – which automatically rejected it because it wasn’t in Postscript! So no printout!

The solution was simple, replace the HP1000 driver with a generic Postscript driver from Adobe and voila it works! So note to self…

If a networked printer does not print out or prints out incorrectly on your Unix machine from a Windows machine. Replace the custom driver with a generic Postscript driver and you will probably fix the problem!

Once again – too simple and I will probably never have to solve that problem again – but boy – What a Rush!

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