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Windows logic

9th July 2004

In our office we have two new Hewlett-Packard LaserJet printers connected to two desktop machines via USB and shared out over a Windows network of mostly Windows 2000 and XP machines. Both printers are named identically and it can prove difficult to recognise which is which from a Print dialog, and sometimes I mistakenly send documents for printing to the wrong one, helpful if that one contains labels instead of plain paper.

The machine I was using earlier today only knew about the printer at the far side of the office (with the labels in), and it was time it also knew about the nearer one which I was meant to be using. After adding the printer to the Printers window, I decided to rename each one so that the machine would not have two identically named LaserJets in the printer list.

At the top of the printer’s Properties dialog in the leftmost tab is the printer’s name in an editable text field, and using this field I renamed the new printer to “Karen's LaserJet” and Tim’s printer in the corner to “Tim's LaserJet”. Strangely, the Printers window did not reflect these changes, so I went into the program that I had been using and invoked a Print dialog, which produced an error saying that I needed to add a printer before I could print (despite all the printers being available across the network). Notepad’s Print dialog opened as normal, but still listed all the old names for the LaserJets.

I went back to the Printers window to see where else I might need to change the name of the printer, but the printers’ Properties dialogs refused to open, claiming that the printers could no longer be found. Oddly, another machine on the network also could not find one of the LaserJets.

When I went over to Karen’s PC that was sharing one of the LaserJets, I found that it had been renamed on her machine. That is, by changing the name of the printer on the PC I was on, instead of changing the local alias of the printer for that machine, Windows renamed the printer on its host machine, and furthermore it failed to register the change locally making it inaccessible on mine (as it was still looking for a printer by the old name). Nor was the name change registered on any other machines on the network, so most of the office could no longer see either printer. What is more strange is that on the machine that I was using, I don’t even have the permissions to change the time, yet it doesn’t mind me renaming everyone else’s printers and rendering them inaccessible to anyone. Likewise, the current login on Karen’s machine does not have the permissions to rename even the printer that it is hosting (meaning that I could not put the name back)!

The solution was to re-run the Add process for both printers from my machine using their new names, rename them both back from mine, delete the two printers, and then re-add the one I needed again using its original name.

I must have confused Windows 2000 on Karen’s machine too much because it later went on to lock up and need a reset. Small wonder I try to demonstrate to people that there are alternatives to Windows out there.