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Archive for June, 2013

Samsung ML-2160 printer woes

June 16, 2013 1 comment

When our school started migrating to Windows 7, we discovered that our collection of HP LaserJet 10xx series printers were not very Windows 7 compatible. You could get a basic driver from HP for the device, but it lacked many features compared to the XP version. Added to that, printing a PDF document often hung the print spooler service. No matter how low and high we searched, the conclusion we drew was that HP were more interested in selling you a new model printer than providing robust driver support for a reliable work horse of a printer.

Late last year, we purchased 2 Samsung ML-2160 laser printers to start replacing the HP’s. They were cheaper than the similar modern HP LaserJets. The Samsung’s had the benefit of full Windows 7 compatibility and a smaller size than the existing HP. However, it lacked an envelope/bypass tray and the cartridge price was about on par with HP. Nonetheless, in they went and we had no problems with them as trial devices.

Earlier this year, we bought an additional 6 of them to replace most of our HP’s. At first, like the 2 from last year, we had no issues or complaints. Until one day when I got called upstairs, as after a cartridge change the printer refused to print. I swapped cartridges, inserted a new one, restarted the printer and even tried to do a printer reset. All to no avail – both of the LED lights on the printer stayed orange/red in colour. A few days later, another one of the batch did the same. We then took the printers back to the place of purchase, who then sent it away as it was under guarantee. About 2 weeks later we got the printers back. Apparently the printed circuit boards had been replaced.

Those 2 printers have gone back into service with no complaints so far. We breathed a sigh of relief, thinking this was just a freak stroke of luck. That is, until the Principal’s printer did the same thing last week. That printer too has gone back for a circuit board replacement. That’s a 50 percent failure rate for that batch of printers bought from the same shop. Either they got a bum batch of printers from Samsung, or the model itself is faulty. I think it may be a bum batch from Samsung, as it seems this particular printer is rather popular country wide. There’s been massive toner cartridge shortages, which indicates some sort of popularity I think.

In closing – if you have this model Samsung printer, be aware that the PCB might just randomly die one day, leaving you unable to print. There is nothing you can do to fix the problem yourself, so it’s best to return it if it’s still under guarantee. If not, a printer repair technician may be able to repair the device, but it may cost almost as much as simply buying a new printer would. That to me is the rather scary and almost ridiculous part.

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Realtek drivers and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit

June 2, 2013 1 comment

Our school recently purchased 3 new computers using Mini ITX motherboards. I originally wanted an Intel based motherboard, but it wasn’t in stock and our supplier ended up getting us Gigabyte H77 Wifi motherboards that had more bells and whistles on it. However, said motherboard has Realtek network cards on-board, specifically the 8168 model. Nothing wrong with this card, except getting it to work with Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010.

These days, the computers I’m in charge of at the school are setup using MDT rather than installing from a DVD drive. The process is largely automated after the initial first steps, and my task sequence has been set up to pull in all the latest Windows patches from our WSUS server. However, this all depends on the network card driver being able to work in the Windows PE environment. The Realtek card is not natively supported by the Windows PE version of MDT 2010, so you have to get drivers installed. The same goes for any network card not supported out the box by Windows 7, as that is what the Windows PE version of MDT 2010 is built from.

Thankfully getting things like storage and network drivers injected isn’t a difficult task. I used the drivers off of the support DVD and injected them into the Windows PE image. I started up the new workstation, only to be greeted by the error message below (sorry about the poor quality of the photo, it was taken using my phone)

WP_20130517_001

I found this odd, since the drivers were off the motherboard DVD, and they work fine in Windows itself. When you double click on a driver file in MDT, you can see all the models that the driver supports. It only became clear after a while what the potential problem is. The error message has a “&REV_06” part at the end of the vendor ID. When I looked closer, I realised that though there was indeed a line with the exact same vendor ID, it was for “&REV_01”

This means that while the driver will indeed support the network card, Realtek or Gigabyte have forgotten to add this extra line into their *.inf file that comes with the driver. I copied and pasted the existing line, and modified the end part to read REV_06. This in theory should add support for this chip in Windows PE and let me image these computers.

However, my theory did not work out. Despite modifying the driver package and completely regenerating the Windows PE images, I could not get the client PC to pick up the network card at boot. Manually loading the driver using drvload at the command prompt worked, but it defeats the purpose of using MDT in the first place.

My hope is that when I upgrade to MDT 2012, the problem will be solved. Since the Windows PE version in MDT 2012 will be based off of Windows 8, I am hoping that there will be a generic or native driver built in that will avoid me having to inject Realtek drivers into the image. While I would prefer to only use Intel network cards, it sometimes simply isn’t possible – many laptops I’ve seen lately are all using Realtek network cards for their Ethernet connection.