Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Climbing Glass Walls

You may have heard that the Apple Mac is supposed to "just work" without a lot of muss and fuss. Largely, this is true. When you need to do something on a Mac, all the commands are straightforward and clear.

Yet, beneath that beautiful face that Apple shows to the world is a beast. It's like you learn that the cute blonde cheerleader is also a vampire hunter.

And not lame pursuer of sparkly metrosexual vampires. A hard-core sort who'll drink Professor Van Helsing under the table then go on to stake the most powerful vampire on the continent.

My latest brush with the beast in cheerleader clothing happened this evening when I went to print a draft of "Gallows Pole" a story in my upcoming anthology Grimm Futures. I didn't want to print using my Ink Jet printer, and I had a Laser Printer I wanted to use.

So, I queued up the print job and nothing happened.

I kicked the printer and it was happy and healthy. The Wireless Print Server less so. Somehow its DHCP settings got bolluxed up so I couldn't set it on my network. This unit has been a pain since I bought it years ago. I tried a factory reset and couldn't get it to talk to my Mac, my work PC, or an ancient XP laptop.

He's dead, Jim.

So, I went googling for a solution. My first stop was a USB to Parallel port cable. It might work, but Apple warned of compatibility issues preferring I use a network printer. I googled network adapters that had a parallel port and I saw my solution on the web for sale at $230. But, hey, I recognize that device in the printer, someone gave me one a few years back and it's sitting in my junk box.

Then I went about finding the darn thing's power supply. It took some looking.

I got everything hooked up and managed to ping the print server.

Then came configuring the thing. When you print on the Apple, you use something the Unix boys put together years back called CUPS. It's a very powerful printer management tool. And Apple doesn't want you to see it, so they hide it in the attack like an autistic savant who embarrasses the family. But I have the knack.

I goto CUPS and it tells me that Apple has shackled, and where the key to the handcuffs are. So, I unlock the CUPS Web Interface. Ah, yes, I remember you old friend from configuring my Linux boxes a decade ago.

Five minutes later, I've created a new print queue, and moved the print job I'd started four hours earlier. And the print job comes out. Huzzah.

The lesson is that all that hard Unix stuff lies beneath the OSX surface. Apple does a good job of hiding all the really powerful--and dangerous--functionality. But every once in a while, particularly when configuring a 20 year old printer with a 15 year old print spooler, that Unix stuff is invaluable.

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