How to spend an hour goofing off

I previously posted this on the Windows newsgroups and thought you folks might get a kick out of it. Its not my best work, but you should have a chuckle or two. Don’t worry, I don’t plan on giving up game development (for a writing career) anytime soon. Though I have been tempted on occasion

I have an M940 printer and after I installed SP3, it would only print garbage. Sometimes it won’t print at all. Period. And other times it would just barf up several blank pages.

I have been talking with Xerox since the day I installed SP3 (on 08-04) and they’re as clueless as anything. No surprise that their SOHO unit has been shutdown and these printers no longer supported etc.

They told me that I should uninstall SP3 and go back to SP2 because Xerox will not be releasing new drivers for this printer. I bought this printer back in February. Sorry, but I didn’t know any better.

In the end, I had a brainstorm. Seeing that the print driver interface for winXP isn’t that much different (if at all) from win2K, I decided to take a chance and use these drivers.

What follows is an adventure in itself, told only by someone with obviously too much time on his hands :

  • I downloaded the winXP drivers for this printer from xerox.com

  • uninstalled the Xerox win2K drivers from control panel. This also uninstalled Pagis and Textbridge. Gee, look!! co-ordination.

  • shutdown, turned the power off (…its the only way to be sure)

  • unplugged the printer’s power and unplugged the USB cable from the
    computer

  • booted up

  • saved registry (as I was about to do obscene things to it)

  • went on a search and destroy mission in my registry for anything with ‘xerox’, ‘pagis’, ‘textbridge’ or ‘m940’ and deleted all occurences. I used no less than three tools to get the job done, including manual edits.

  • rebooted

  • saved the registry (now devoid of this abomination)

  • installed the winXP drivers for the M940. I was also prompted for the original printer CD-ROM btw. If you’ve lost yourse, you’re as screwed as the Taliban.

This is where it got tricky. Normally when you install the win2K drivers, after the reboot, you would be prompted to plug in the printer, it will get tested etc etc. This didn’t happen. No siree bob, nothing should be that easy.

After the reboot from printer install, the only evidence I could see, was the Pagis inbox on the desktop. The control centre wasn’t in the
tray.

So, I simply reached out and plugged in the USB cable. Win2K
coughed up something about detecting the printer and auto-magically extracted the drivers - from God only knows where - and copied them over. I was too scared to watch, so I didn’t notice where the drivers came from. I suspect that all it did was resume whatever it was the now croaked Xerox printer install was supposed to have been doing after prompting me to plug in the printer (which, of course, it didn’t do).

Xerox then pops-up, as if from a slumber, and decided to join the fray by volunteering to run the tests it normally would. Never miind that, at this time, the control centre icon in the tray, had a nice slash in it, indicating that it was offline and not communicating with the computer (though it was very much alive and prepped to cough up hairballs on cue).

By this time, I was near catatonic because the anticipation had literally frozen the left side of my brain, leafing the right side with only thoughts of what movie I was going to go see tonite. Go figure.

All the tests came back with a PASS. At this point, I almost collapsed. Thank God for the fresh cup of coffee I had somehow managed to hang on to through this whole ordeal, without so much as even taking a sip.

After staring at the screen in disbelief, not realizing that I had somehow succeeded in taking a sip without burning something, most of all, my ass - I came to the conclusion that the xerox guys were brilliant! Somehow, they managed to communicate telepathically to a printer that, for all intent and purpose, didn’t exist as far as Bill Gates and his printer driver cronies were concerned. Oh well. Thank the Lord for small miracles.

  • I finally decided to hit the OK button to reboot - all the while fearfull that the next time I saw my nice win2K desktop, it would be shrouded in a haze of brightly colored blue pixels, nicely woven together to form the infamous BSOD - whose monotony is broken only by the equally lifeless and nerve shattering White text display indicating, of all things, that your ass, as you knew it, was grass. This, in itself, sending a terse message to your seemingly malfunctioning brain : “Got Backup?” or better yet “Got Milk”? (cuz you’d need to suck on a cow’s tits to recover from this farce without a backup or ERD). Since cow tits are in short supply where I live, I have a foolproof backup strategy at all times. Worse case scenario, I could restore from yesterday’s OS backup.

  • I decided to leave the room. At first, I wanted to go pee. Then I decided that I’d probably only end up peeing all over the seat, considering the state my nerves were in. So, I decide to make a beeline for the coffee machine - nevermind the fact that my cup was still practically full. Any excuse to walk away from the machine was good enough for me. Though I did consider reading my copy of Maximum PC which had just come in. But to do that at my desk, would mean sneaking a peek at the screen and probably shattering my nerves even more.

So coffee it was

  • When I came back, the machine was all booted up, control center icon was fine and and and and the printer wasn’t coughing up smoke or anything.

I decided to go pee after all

When I came back, I made a beeline for Win2K control panel, checked the printer properties to make sure this wasn’t some horrible joke. Sure enough, it was all there. I check the print processor mode to make sure it was set correctly. It wasn’t. It was set to print in RAW format. So I changed it to PMJOURNAL, didn’t touch anything else and did a test page print.

Watching the printer shudder from side to side (if you own one of these, you know what I’m talking about) and making really loud and odd noises (the staple of the Xerox printers), the thought crossed my mind that any minute now, it would choke up an ink jet cartridge or something. So much for hairballs. But, by this time, I had an almost empty coffee cup, just in case an airborne ink jet cart needed a software landing.

The test page came out just fine. For good measure, I printed a document from Word. That came ok too. At this point, I had my confidence back and decided to go all out. And tried scanning something, running OCR etc etc. I mean, the works. However, I did resist the urge to scan my butt and fax it Xerox… By the time I was done, I’d lost the good part of an hour, had a pounding headache and I was just about ready to call up Xerox and cuss the freckles off the first person to pick up the phone.

Instead I called them up, gave the guy (Mike) my problem number. At which point, the bastard asked me to go fetch my printer’s serial number because as far as he knew, all these printers were out of warranty. This is the part where I was about to either (a) be shafted for money on a support call or (b) given a verbal enema about the merits of buying products from a dying or well, dead, company. Nevermind the fact that since the beginning of August when I first reported this problem to Xerox and the lady (Wendy) had been helping me, that there was an entire history (which he was reading from), right there on the screen… No, he wanted to start from scratch. Such incompetence should be rewarded with a Pink slip, don’t you think.

Anyway, after I had curtly told him that, not only did I have no intentions of going back to that printer (for fear that I’d just upset the poor printer by creating a disturbance in the farce) and that I wanted him to STOP tallking and just LISTEN - I told him that I had found a fix for the win2K SP3 problem with the M940/.950 printers. He listened and informed me that he would pass this info along so that the ‘solutions’ people could post something online. Midway into his speech, which I had no intentions of listening to. I promptly hung up, went back to my printer and gave it a nice cleaning.

That is all. Enjoy your weekend folks!

Thrilling.

The weird coincidence is that I had the exact same experience with Battlecruiser 3000.

Heheh. Sorry, Derek, but I gotta give “Ted” points for that one. :-)

Yeah, 'es a right bastard ain’t e? :D

Derek,

You sound like you’re almost ready for a job like mine. Try this:

Win95b, Win2k, WinXP mix of systems spread over 1500 PCs. Half log into Novell 4. All login to the NT domain. LAN systems with full server racks in Akron, Toledo, Mansfield, Youngtown, and Canton. Every other small post office in Ohio has either a frame-relay 56k line or a very high latency VSAT dish connection. Some have both. The PCs themselves are a mix of models from Digital p166 to Compaq EVO P4 1.7 celeron. Probably about 15 different models over the years.

Anytime something breaks, the users are supposed to call the national helpdesk. This is run by EDS, and staffed by a bunch of people that were flipping burgers at their previous job. All calls to them cost $18.75, and if they tell you to reboot and call back, it’s another $18.75. Smart people just call me. However, they’ve figured that out, so next week we have to change all our phone numbers to unpublished ones, and we only accept support calls that have been routed through the national desk. Basically, this means that they fiddle with it, pass it around for 3 days until $60 or so is invested in the call - then pass it to me for a real solution. About all this is going to accomplish is spending two to three times the amount of money per call, and it’ll get those simple “I can’t print my email attachment” calls off my back.

Technically, I’m the network engineer - but in reality I do that, plus database programming (I built the inventory system we use, as well as the IP address database that keeps my job sane.) and the general helpdesk calls that come my way. Why? Because people pick a favorite tech, and no matter what your real job is they want YOU to fix their stuff from now on.

So, how would I have fixed your printer thing?

Derek, what’s your IP? bang I’m in PCAnywhere looking at your desktop. Uninstall your printer. FTP the current driver over to your box, reinstall. Does it work? No? Ok, put that bitch in a box and ship it to me. Meanwhile, I’m sending you a Lexmark M410. Call me when it shows up. Open my inventory database and red-flag your printer.

What happens to your printer? Well, it doesn’t work in win2k with the approved drivers, but I’ve got an office with win95 boxes that are bitching up a storm about their ancient Lexmark Optra E

haha, been there, done that. Used be a technician for a bunch of IBM resellers in a previous life. That was before I got ambitious enough to become a consultant - which - simply put, is just a technie who gets paid more :D (and people wonder how I was able to fund my BC addiction over the early years).

As for being the techie who knows it all, yep, been there, done that. Once people finger you for the guy to call, thats it!! All of a sudden you’ve got new best friends :D

To tell you the truth, as much as I love programming, I love troubleshooting (…and no Ted, I don’t leave bugs in my code so that I can go back and troubleshoot them :D) just as much. This scenario with the printer is just one of many. I only dramatized it because when I went searching for a solution on Google, all I saw were people bitching about the same thing and with no solution. Thats why, like I always do, I decided to share it with the microsoft.public.win2000.printing group. There were over 500+ pages on Google related to this printer and figured that the next time someone decided to check, they’d find my post, find a solution and get a laugh at the same time.

Sometimes I miss being a techie, but since I’m the guy who builds all our machines, this sort of crap is the closest I’m ever going to get to the real techie stuff. I envy you. ;)