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December 2003

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Remote Printing - Part 1

By Walter F. Metcalf © December 2003


    In small- to medium-size offices and homes with a LAN (local area network) and one or more printers installed, the printers can be connected in several different ways. Before we can begin to look at these different configurations, however, we need to define some terms.

  1. LAN

    • The term LAN is an abbreviation for Local Area Network, A LAN is a network of computers that are in the same general physical location, usually within a building or a campus. Usually each computer in a LAN is directly connected to a hub, or a switch (Ethernet), another computer (Token Ring), or the network backbone (Bus) by cables or wireless Network Interface Adapters (NICs). For an overview of the different network topologies, see How Stuff Works: How LAN Switches Work.

  2. File and Print Services

    1. File and Print Services (also called Peer Networking) is an optional component of the OS/2-eCS networking software that supports transferring data between workstations. With File and Print Services installed on a workstation serial ports, data printers, drives, directories, and files on that workstation can be viewed, created, modified, and copied from another workstation. It also supports remote printing by making a printer on one workstation available to another workstation. It is clear that Peer Networking adds a very powerful and flexible feature to the operating system.

    2. Unfortunately File and Print Services can only used for remote printing if the printer is directly connected to a remote workstation. With printers connected to networks, we must look for other ways to print. These will be covered in subsequent parts of this series.

  3. Print Server

    1. A print server is a device that physically and electronically connects one or more printers to a network, usually a Local Area Network (LAN).

      1. Print servers can conveniently be subdivided into two basic classes: "dumb" and "intelligent".

        • A dumb print server, as the name implies, has no CPU and therefore has few, if any, features beyond that of simply connecting the printer to the LAN. Many, however, assign an IP (Internet Protocol) address to the printer. (The significance of this will become clear a bit later.) These devices are sometimes found built-in to other hardware devices. The SMC SMC7004ABR Barricade router is a good example. This device combines a sophisticated 4-port switch/broadband router containing a host of additional features, including a firewall and NAT, with a simple yet effective print server that can be connected to almost any standard printer.

        • An intelligent print server contains its own microprocessor, making it capable of adding many additional features to the basic print server functions. Some of these features include the ability to vary the IP address, the ability to regulate when the printer cleans itself, and the ability to create a virtual "front panel" for each printer it serves. These are only a few of the many features of modern intelligent print servers. Such print servers actually enhance the intelligence of the printer(s) connected to them.

          There is one "fly in the ointment", however. Currently there are many printers on the market that cannot be used with print servers, or with OS/2-eCS for that matter. These are the host-based and GDI printers. Host-based printers depend on the computer CPU to produce the rasterized image of what is to be printed. Using the CPU for that computational-intensive task can put a real burden on the system. GDI printers use the Windows GDI interface to do the same thing. Both lack the firmware and hardware that traditional printers contain, and so cannot be used with print servers (or with OS/2 since they are designed to be used with software contained in a Windows operating system. Some host-based printers can also be used on Macintosh systems as well.)

          The way these printers are marketed is extremely underhanded because you will often search in vain through the manufacturer's documentation to find any reference to this design. If Microsoft and computer manufacturers want to sell this inferior hardware, that's one thing. However they should at least clearly state what kind of hardware it is.

          Since printers are not marked, how can you avoid this inferior, incompatible stuff? I have found that one very important clue is price. If the price of a printer seems much too low to be believed, then it's probably cheap because it's a host-based or GDI printer, and therefore a significant portion of the hardware is missing! For example a name-brand colour laser printer priced much below $700 USD or a name-brand colour ink-jet much below $70-80 USD is almost certainly a host-based or GDI machine. (I find it significant that the HP Colour LaserJet 1500L, a host-based machine with an engine very similar to the traditional HP Colour LaserJet 2500 is shipped with only 16 MB, whereas the latter is shipped with 64MB.) If you have any doubt about the technology in a printer you want to buy, ask the manufacturer (not the retailer) before you buy!

  4. Networked Printer

    1. A printer connected to a network via a print server is assigned its own IP address, and behave like nodes on the network with the same status as a workstation. This is especially true when the printer is connected to an intelligent print server.

    2. Networked printers on a LAN offer an important advantage over printers attached to workstations using File and Print Services: they can remain on-line, even when most or all computers on the LAN are off-line.

  5. Intelligent Printers

    • Some higher-end printers such as the HP Colour LaserJet 2500n are "network-ready" and come with a print server built into them. As an interesting side-note with such printers, you can finally eliminate the bothersome parallel cable. The network cable handles both the network and data traffic.

  6. Clustered Printers:

    • Some very-high end printers, such as the HP LaserJet 9000n, designed for enterprise-class businesses can be connected together and treated as one unit by the computer on the LAN.
    We will not cover the intelligent or clustered printers in this series. I don't have any experience with (or the budget for!) these machines.

Now we are in a position to briefly list the basic configurations you will find in a LAN with one or more printers.

  1. Printer connected to one workstation and used by another workstation.

  2. Printer connected to print server.

    1. "Dumb" print server.

    2. "Intelligent" print server"

  3. Intelligent printer(s).

  4. Clustered printers.

    I hope you have managed to stick with me through this rather long introduction. The subject of remote printing is considerably more complex than it might seem at first. Consequently I felt it was necessary to describe a number of terms and concepts that might have been new to some people, so that we could all "start on the same page".

  5. File and Print Services

    1. Overview

      1. During the installation of both OS/2 Warp 3 Connect and OS/2 Warp 4 the user was given the option of installing a feature called "File and Print Services", often referred to as "Peer Networking".[¹] Peer networking is installed by default with eCS 1.1, although it can be disabled on the "Network Configuration" screen by de-selecting the "Share files and printers" option. See the screenshot below.

        (Click on image to expand to full size.)

        1. The File and Print Services software package gives the workstation and user the ability to share files, printers, and serial ports with other workstations that have operating systems with compatible software installed. There are a number of techniques by which the user and/or the network administrator can place limitations on which files can be copied, printed, or viewed.

        2. Peer networking requires that one or both of the NIC driver protocols NETBIOS or NETBIOS over TCP/IP are installed.

          • File and Print Services is also compatible with most versions of Windows so that it is possible to have a mixed LAN consisting of both OS/2-eCS and Windows machines, all able to share files and printers with each other. In fact I have been running such a LAN in my home for about two years.

    2. Command Line Setup and Use

        There are two ways to set up a printer connection. One is to use the OS/2 NET command in a Command Line Window. The other is use to the GUI interface consisting of the "Sharing and Connecting" object [²] and a few utilities.

        Even if you only use the GUI Interface to share files and printers, it is a good idea to have a working knowledge of the basic command line techniques. This is because you can do a number of things that are difficult-to-impossible with the GUI object interface. For example, you can build the NET commands into the STARTUP.CMD and other batch or REXX programs, making them much more flexible than their GUI counterparts. Finally the NET xxx interface is much older than the GUI and therefore tends to be more reliable than the GUI interface. However, if all the fixpaks and convenience packs are applied to Warp 4 and eCS, the GUI interface is quite stable: IBM has done quite a bit of work "under the covers" in fixing a lot of the bugs that used to exist.

        Now here's a very brief tutorial on the basics of the command line system:[³]

      1. Make sure Peer Services is running, and then go to a command line on the system to which the printer is physically connected and enter the following command:

        net share HPLASERJ=LPT1: /REMARK:"Monochrome Laser Printer"

        1. "HPLASERJ" is the physical name of the printer as defined in the printer object of the printer you want to share with other workstations. (The physical name should be carefully distinguished from the printer's title and the name of the driver. One helpful clue is to note that the physical name is limited to 8 characters; the other two can be almost any length.) The printer will be accessed by the other workstations using this name

        2. LPT1: is the physical port to which the printer is connected.

        3. /REMARK allows for an optional comment. If you have multiple printers on your lan it's a good idea to put a brief description of the printer here. (Additional information on the NET SHARE command is available in the "Command Reference" document in the "Help Center" folder of your system.)

        4. The printer is now available for access by other workstations on the LAN.

      2. If a remote user wants to use (i.e. access) this printer all he or she needs to do is to enter the following command at an OS/2 command line:


        1. LPT2: is the port name (of the remote system) to which you want the system to attach the printer. Note that this port doesn't have to physically exist.

        2. WALTER-DESKTOP is the host name of the computer to which the printer is connected. (Host name is set to a value chosen by the user when networking is installed. This value is reflected both in the HOSTNAME parameter in the system's CONFIG.SYS file and in the TCP/IP Configuration object. See the screen shot below.)

          TCP/IP Configuration

          (Click on image to expand to full size.)

        3. HPLASERJ is the name of the printer object as defined in the NET SHARE statement. (See previous section.)

    3. GUI Interface Setup and Usage

      1. Setup or Sharing

          The primary vehicle by which access to the GUI interface is gained is the "Sharing and Connecting" object, called the "Shared Resources and Network Connections" object in Warp 4.x. (I am grateful to Serenity Systems Intl. for changing that hideous, unwieldy IBM name to something a little more manageable.) However, in this article I will frequently shorten it even further to "S & C Object".

          1. To get started, double-click on the S&C object. If you have not logged onto the system, you will be asked to do so before you can proceed. Once the logon has been validated, you will need to double-click on the S & C object again. If the "Description" field is blank, it's a good idea to enter a short phrase that describes your machine.

          2. Depending on whether you have a user or administrator userid, you will see either three or eight tabs. In order to set up Shares, you will need to be logged on as an administrator. Henceforth I will assume you have the required userid and password, and are logged on as an administrator.

          3. Now that you are logged in as an administrator and have edited the Description if desired, click on the "Shares" tab, and you will see a screen that looks something like this:


            (Click on image to expand to full size.)

          4. When you first install Warp or eCS the window will be empty. If you wish to share any of your drives or printers with other workstations, you must first make them "shareable". This is exactly analogous to using the "net share" command we looked at previously. It is also very similar to the techniques used in Windows 9x and 2000. The Windows 9x "Network Neighborhood" object is equivalent to the OS/2-eCS "Sharing and Connecting" object. For some reason Windows 2000 changed the name of the object to "My Network Places". The functionality has not changed, however.

          5. To set up a device for sharing, click on the "Create Share" button. The following window is displayed:

            Create a Share

          6. In most cases you would enter a drive letter and optionally a directory into the top window, which would set up a share for a disk drive or directory.

          7. However, since this article is about printing, we click on the "Printer" button, and then click on the down-arrow to expand the drop-down list. Here is the result:

            Setting up a shared Printer

          8. The drop-down list shows the three printers attached to the system called Walter-Desktop. (On this computer, only HPLaserJ is actually connected to a physical port. The others are set up using special techniques. For example FaxPrint refers to the PMfax for OS/2 program installed on the system; this pseudo driver allows the user to fax a document simply by printing it using this "printer" or by dragging it to the FaxPrint object. HPColour is a networked printer which we will discuss in detail later in the series.)

          9. To make a printer shareable, click on the desired printer in the list, in this case HPLaserJ, and click on the "OK" button. This screen will appear.

            Create a Share

          10. I have included some text in the Description field, however this is optional. The Description field corresponds to the "/REMARKS:" parameter on the Net Share command. I recommend you fill this in with some text that will distinguish this printer from others on your LAN. On my system the "Start sharing at workstation startup" is checked by default. If it is not checked, you might as well check it because then it's one less thing you to have to worry about.

            Managing Access

            (Click on image to expand to full size.)

          11. If the OK button is greyed-out, then check the "Audit this resource" box. Now click on OK. The purpose of this window is to set up permissions for the shared device. By default the printer is set up so that all users are treated equally. You can override this by checking the "Customized" radio button near the top of the window.

          12. Click on "OK" to finish setting up the share by defining the permissions.

          13. You will be returned to the "Create a Share" screen; click on the "OK" button to conclude the "Create a Share" session. Close the window to exit the session.

      2. Accessing or Connecting

        To access or use the printer we just set up as shareable, we have to go to another computer on the LAN and "connect" to it.

        1. To do so we go once more to the Sharing and Connecting object. There is one difference, however; to connect you can use any valid userid: an administrative userid is not required.

        2. Click on the "Connections" tab, and then on the "Create Connection" button, and you will see the following screen:

          (Click on image to expand to full size.)

        3. Click on the "Printer" radio button; next, click on the down-arrow in the "Servers" field to display the list of available of workstations:

          Create Connection

          (Click on image to expand to full size.)

        4. Select the workstation which is directly connected to the printer on which you want to print, then click on the desired printer in the drop-down list.

        5. Now check the window beside "Local printer port", and make sure it is correct. (Remember: this is the port on your machine, not the one on the computer to which the printer is actually connected.) The default, LPT1, is acceptable in most cases.

        6. When you are satisfied everything is correct, click on the OK button. You should be returned to the "Connections" screen of the S&C object, where you will see a list of the connections currently defined on your system and their status:


          (Click on image to expand to full size.)

        7. Check to be sure your printer connection is present and defined correctly. Once you are satisfied with everything, click on the "Close" button in the top right corner to exit the S&C session.

      3. Usage (Printing)

        1. Now that you have the printer share and connection defined correctly, all that remains is to print something to it.

        2. When you click on the "File" item on the main menu of most applications, you will see either a "Print Setup", "Page Setup", or "Print" item, perhaps more than one. If you click on one of these, you will find a drop-down window labelled "Printer". (You may have to look around a bit.) Click on the down arrow, and select the printer to which you just connected. Note that the name specified within an application is often the title you used when creating the printer or the description you gave the printer when you set up the share. So you have to be a little flexible.

        3. Now you should be able to start the application and print a document on the printer you set up as shareable.

        4. There is a simpler way to print which does not require an application. If you want to print a pure text file, you can go to a Command Line on the remote computer and simply type:

          COPY file.txt LPTx:

          where file.txt is the text file, and x the number of the parallel port assigned to the remote printer.

This brings us to the end of Part 1 of this series on Remote Printing. Please plan to join me next month when we start looking at Networked Printers. As I mentioned previously, that's when things start getting really interesting.

¹ Installing "LAN Requester", which was shipped with LAN Server, would give OS/2 Warp 3 the same functionality as Warp 3 Connect. (My thanks to Timothy F. Sipples of IBM for that piece of historical information.) Warp 3 Connect, Warp 4, and eCS are complete packages, requiring no outside software except possibly NIC drivers.

² Using the "Sharing and Connecting" object of File and Printers is really just another way of creating the required NET USE commands.

³ Complete information on the NET command and all of its options and parameters, along with examples, can be found in the Command Reference document in the Help Center, which is located in the Local System folder, on your system. Here is the path to get to the Help Center:

Local System|Help Center|Information|eComStation Components|IBM Convenience Package.

There is also a shadow icon to the Help Center on both the eComCenter and the eCenter toolbars.


   How Stuff Works: How LAN Switches Work -
   How Stuff Works: IP (Internet Protocol) address -
   SMC SMC7004ABR Barricade router -
   How Stuff Works: NAT (Network Address Translation) -
   HP Colour LaserJet 1500L -
   HP Colour LaserJet 2500 -
   HP Colour LaserJet 2500n -
   HP LaserJet 9000n -
   PMfax for OS/2 -

Walter Metcalf has written many articles on the use and usefulness of OS/2 and eComStation. He was widely known as the Guide for the " OS/2" site until its unfortunate plug pulling. Walter is President of VOICE and is also the Co-ordinator of VOICE's Warp Doctor project You can read more of Walter's articles in the archives of the VOICE Newsletter and many of his previous articles at his personal web site

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