Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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.

Saying goodbye to FOG

December 4, 2011 Leave a comment

In just over a week’s time, I’ll be shutting down and replacing my FOG server at work. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, and with the end of year in sight, I decided it’s as good a time as any. The main reason I’m shutting down the server is that FOG can’t really compete against the tools available from Microsoft for free for imaging Windows 7.

When it comes to imaging Windows XP, FOG is a wonderful tool. It works and works very well at this task. I think it beats the stuffing out of Symantec Ghost, and rightly so. It’s free, doesn’t require any licenses and is mostly straightforward to use. When it comes to Windows 7 however, the situation becomes a little more tricky due to the way Windows 7 is built. Windows 7 needs far more input for a successful clone in comparison to XP. As such, I’m looking to reduce the number of steps involved, not increase them.

Besides the above, I’ve also run into some issues with FOG over the last year. My most major issue is multicast not being entirely reliable. Despite being correctly configured, multicast is still a hit and miss affair on FOG in my experience. It’s no fun to start up 39 pc’s in a lab, only to have them sit and wait on a blue “Please Wait” screen. The pc’s then need to be imaged via unicast, and this takes a lot longer.

Another issue that has cropped up but isn’t FOG’s fault directly is speed when running in a virtual environment. We run a Citrix Xen server at work. One of the downsides is that if your guest OS isn’t supported, your OS will run a lot slower than if it was supported. Specifically, it comes down to the optimised storage and network drivers giving a supported OS the edge. Ubuntu Linux support under Citrix Xen is pretty thin at best, and since FOG runs best on Ubuntu, it’s a bit of catch-22 situation. Imaging is about half the speed it was on a physical server, due to no optimised drivers.

To replace FOG, I will be using Microsoft’s Deployment Toolkit 2010 as well as Windows Deployment Services, which is built into Server 2008 and up. In the time I’ve spent experimenting with MDT so far, I’ve come to see its power and flexibility. With some thought and a few clicks, I can set up a sequence that will SYSPREP and capture a computer, or will deploy an image to a computer. It can also join that computer to the domain without any 3rd party tools or separate accounts in Active Directory. Another benefit is that the images are stored in the WIM file format, which can be opened, edited and serviced by a number of tools. WIM files are also pretty highly compressed, which is a big bonus.

Once I get going with reimaging my computer labs, I’ll be posting more info on the blog on my experiences and thoughts with these tools. To FOG, I say thank you for 3 years of service, and I wish you continued success as a project. You are one of the few open source projects I truly enjoyed working with.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Interesting times with new copiers

November 14, 2010 Leave a comment

After much complaining and campaigning by my colleague and myself, the school eventually got its act together and set out to obtain new copiers to replace the rubbish Sharp machines I mentioned here. After a number of proposals, time spent taking them to the governing body and so forth, the school decided to invest in a solution from Nashua, based on Ricoh copiers. We have received a massive refurbished Aficio 2105, as well as a much smaller brand new colour Aficio MP 2050. The 2105 is a massive beast of a machine, capable of up to 105 pages a minute, as well as stapling, punching and booklet making with an extended device. The school went for all the bells and whistles basically.

After some limited testing, we found the 2105 to jam if we even looked at it. After having the senior techs from Nashua in, it was determined that the paper quality was not good enough for such a high volume high speed machine. Of all the things that could cause issues, this was something no one had thought of. It turns out that the paper we were using is fine for anything except this high speed machine. Once that issue was sorted out, the machine began to really earn its keep, printing out exam papers, booklets and other odds and ends. The machine still jams, mainly in the morning, before settling down and working like a workhorse for the rest of the day. These minor teething problems have been annoying, but the machine has more than proved its worth already.

The MP 2050 colour machine is a bit slow, but it works like a champ as well. I put through a 4050 colour page print job, the copier only jammed 3 times, and each jam wasn’t actually a jam. Next year we intend to make this copier available to students who want to print in colour, with an appropriate charge of course.

Next year, we will be getting a small multi function to fax, scan, copy and print in our front office, replacing 1 aging terrible fax machine, and a small Sharp copier. We will also be getting a medium sized copier/printer for our staff work room, which will give the staff the chance to print/copy small volumes.

The existing Sharp copiers are going to be collected in about 2 weeks time, and I for one am incredibly happy to see them go. From poor copy quality to lack of features, poor repair time and piss poor Windows drivers, we will finally be getting somewhere in reducing the school’s printing costs. After that, I would like to see some of the small printers in the classrooms going, as these are also open drain plugs for money.

There is still quite a while to go with the various areas that need attention, but I for one am very happy to see progress on this front. Next major overhaul will probably be the telephone system once the contract on that rubbish Samsung PABX system runs out.

Categories: Uncategorized

Migrating Exchange 2003 to 2007 mailboxes on the same server

Recently, I had the problem of needing to migrate my old high school’s Exchange 2003 mailboxes over to Exchange 2007. I had promised them that no mail would be lost, so wiping the server and just installing Exchange 2007 wasn’t an option. If the school had more servers, the process would have been pretty straightforward, as the 2007 server would slot into the existing Exchange organization, and I could have moved the mailboxes over. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so simple.

The school only has 2 servers, and only 1 of them is 64-bit capable. This was the server that had run Exchange 2003. The other server would just run Windows Server 2008 to do Active Directory, DHCP, DNS and so on. The decision was made not to do inplace upgrades, and we also chose to use a new clean internal domain name, thus clearing out all the cruft that had accumulated over the years.

Searching the net told me that Exchange 2007 SP1 could import and export PST files, which would be perfect for migrating the mailboxes over. I duly set up a management workstation with Windows 7 and Office 2007, as well as the Exchange management tools. Previously that week, I had extracted all the mailboxes from Exchange 2003 using the ExMerge tool. I now fired up the Exchange Management Shell, typed in the commands and expected to see results. Not so.

Every time I tried to import a PST file, I would get an error message. Being very generic, searching the net yielded only limited results. I tired all sorts of voodoo to get the import going, to no avail. I was getting desperate and running out of time, when I happened to stumble upon a solution. I had read that some people running Exchange 2010 were having similar problems exporting and importing PST files, and they had Outlook 2010 on those machines. That caused me to think for a moment.

On that hunch, I removed Outlook 2007 from the management workstation and installed Outlook 2003. Tried importing again, only to be told that I needed Service Pack 2 or above. Cue another large download of Office 2003 SP3. Eventually, after that was applied, I tried again. Eureka, all of a sudden mail was being imported successfully.

If my theory is right, then the problem relates to the Exchange-Outlook MAPI relationship. The mailboxes I extracted were on Exchange 2003, and ExMerge is a tool from that time frame. Outlook 2003 was the matching version. It seems that in order to import to Exchange 2007, you need the version of Outlook that matches the Exchange version you had. I haven’t yet tested this, but I assume that if you export from Exchange 2007, you need to have Outlook 2007 on the management workstation, as it the matching Outlook version to Exchange 2007.

The end result of all this toil is that the school now has a much more stable version of Exchange, with a stable Server 2008 base underneath. No longer will the mail store dismount as it hits the 18GB limit of Exchange 2003 Standard, and the mail system now should be able to last a good few years now.

Hopefully, this post can spare someone else developing a splitting headache and grey hairs trying to do the same thing I did.

My first post :-)

Welcome to my first ever attempt at a blog.

I just decided to set one up on the spur of the moment, as I was a bit bored. I have some things I want to say, and I wanted a place to say them.

For now, this is just my first post. As time goes on, I’ll refine and improve features on the blog, provided I can figure out how it works lol.

Here goes nothing 🙂

Categories: Uncategorized