Monday 27 August 2012

Old Printers Never Die: Obtaining an HP LaserJet 4L Printer Driver for 64-bit Windows 7

Printing desires
My career in information technology does not have office doors or opening hours when I visit friends or relations. There is usually one little problem that requires a good looking at and sometimes I will think up an elaborate solution just because fundamentally I believe using computing tools should be a pleasure to the user at work and at home.
Recently, my cousin just wanted to print to an old printer she was never able to get to work with her laptop – what she wanted was a simple solution and decided to have a look.
Her idea was to connect the printer to her laptop whenever she wanted to print anything but that presented a number of inconveniences I felt should be eliminated.
It’s old but not to be sold
First of all the printer was a HP LaserJet 4L printer, it think a second generation one because it a non-detachable USB cable that went into that back of a not easily accessible old desktop running Microsoft Windows Vista.
Immediately, I thought I could share the printer and that would mean everyone would be able to use the printer over the wireless network.
I have always hated Windows Vista security and the idea of each person having to log on to the system to print was just extraneous, they all belonged to the same IP subnet but each computer was in a different standalone workgroup – all functions of inconsistent installation methods offered by Microsoft.
I shared the printer and then removed password protected sharing which meant any printers and the Public folder were open for usage to those on the network.
Where is the driver?
I started with my cousin’s laptop which was running 64-bit Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate Edition, it saw the printer but could not download the driver from Microsoft Update. Hewlett Packard said the driver was contained in the installation of Windows but there was nothing I could do to get the driver.
I modified the properties of the printer to allow the Microsoft Windows Vista to render the print jobs for all clients and tried again to no avail. Then I got the printer to work from other laptops running 32-bit Windows 7 of various editions – the installation just downloaded the driver from the Windows Vista system.
Now, if Hewlett Packard was saying the printer driver was within the Microsoft Windows version and consequently obtainable from Microsoft Update but during installation it bombed out searching for the driver automatically, somehow, there had to be a way to obtain the printer driver because Hewlett Packard was just not providing one.
What was even more surprising was none of the forums I contacted had any clearly thought through solutions, it all seemed like some trial-and-error activity eventually solved the problem and that was just not enough for me, I had to understand the how and the why.
The most persuasive solution offered was Microsoft has my printer driver, so I decided to search for the printer driver on the Microsoft website.
That is how I came upon the Microsoft Update Catalog, it expects you to be running Microsoft Internet Explorer or a browser with IE Extensions else in my case running Google Chrome thanked me for visiting before asking me to upgrade my Internet Explorer installation.
At the Microsoft Update Catalog, you are presented with a text search box into which you can type in your search terms, I was specific – HP LaserJet 4L – and that offered a number of choices two of which were for PostScript drivers – those were not the ones I needed.
Getting the driver
The description of each driver is clear enough, with a button to Add [1] the driver require, as indicated in the graphic and once the drivers required are added, click on View Basket [2] to see the added driver(s) with the option to download.

Clicking on the Download [1] button on the graphic below presents a dialog box asking for where to save your downloaded file(s) and the downloaded file is a Microsoft Cabinet file with a .CAB extension.

You can either extract the files into a folder but right-clicking on the file and choosing where to extract the files and then install the drivers from that folder using the dialog that appears after Windows Update fails to find the files needed or use the Windows Package Manager (PKGMGR.EXE) from an elevated privileges command prompt with the command line:
pkgmgr /ip /m:<path><file name>.cab /quiet
This integrates the driver into the system so when the driver is being searched for by the wizard, it will automatically be found and installed.
In conclusion
The long and short of this treatise is, if the manufacturer of any of your old devices suggests the driver you require is available within the operating system or from Microsoft Windows Update but the drivers cannot be automatically found and downloaded – go to the Microsoft Update Catalog and get the driver you need.
Your old devices need not be replaced because of the frustration of not being able to find the right driver or because the forums that should provide clear directions just assume too much of enquirers and their knowledge of these things.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Social Media: The Fall Guy

Social media – the fall guy
Over the last couple of months, social media and by that I mean the use of Facebook, Twitter and Blogs has taken a bad rap in Nigeria.
From politicians uncomfortable the ease of access, freedom of expression, unrelenting scrutiny with the attendant abuse that would put Mosaic curses in the shade through its use by swindlers, kidnappers and murderers for incomprehensible ends.
The same social media has been exploited for political advantage too, for engaging the youth in the political process, for aspects of good and sometimes bad propaganda, for crowd-funding, crowd-sourcing and the dissemination of ideas.
The problem is use
However, it is the tragic case of Cynthia Osokogu that brings to the fore elements of usage that we need to very aware of. The young lady apparently met two men while interacting on Facebook, began a business transaction with them that involved her travelling to Lagos where she was picked up, drugged, raped, beaten up, murdered and then dumped in a mortuary where her family finally discovered her.
Fundamentally, the problem here is not social media, or Facebook in particular, Facebook just served as a medium of communication that could have been achieved by other means though maybe not with the same ease.
The problem with the use and I emphasise the word use of Facebook is people have by reason of the ease of interaction lowered the thresholds of trust they have such that they probably do not go through more stringent steps of ascertaining and verification of activities they get involved in.
Before social media they existed
Before any of the social media we have today, swindlers, confidence tricksters, kidnappers and murderers existed just as there were people to be taken advantage of through foolishness, ignorance, naivety or vulnerability.
We so easily let our guard down hoping that the social media vehicle we are using will take up the slack and do the vetting for us but there is no substitute for doing the basic things of not meeting strangers outside your comfort zone, informing people of what you are up to, documenting whatever you are involved in and taking a friend with you if need be for your safety.
When I am going to meet strangers, I always leave a sheet of paper on my table with all the contact details along with a backup element that can be found if there is a need for that.
Some basic analogies
The analogies to use are simple – you do not because you have bought a new knife use it recklessly, you are probably going to be more careful with its use lest you cut yourself. Likewise, the ease of communication offered by social media should have your suspicious and alert mechanisms at their most primed to ensure you are not sucked into a vulnerable situation from which you cannot extract yourself.
In the same vein, you do not because you have a fast car put your foot down on the accelerator and go over a cliff with glee, with a fast car comes better brakes and better control – if those controls are used wisely, you are in a safer vehicle for it protections rather than for its speed. Likewise, the ease with which you can share information should inform the carefulness involved in keeping some of that information back
Common-sense with social media
I have always worked on a simple principle – If in DOUBT, keep it OUT – there is just no need to dump all that information out there just as you do not have your home as thoroughfare for the public to walk through at will without restraint.
We are naturally careful about our private information, it should not be different from our adoption of social media and like our mothers used to say when were kids – Don’t take sweets from strangers – the same principle should apply to anywhere we interact with strangers – we do not know them well enough to trust them and God only knows what they have in mind for us.
Conversely, we should try to believe the best of everyone whilst retaining a modicum of suspicion, it does not have to border on paranoia, but a healthy dose of paranoia is not bad or the principle of personal safety and the possible elimination of dangerous situations.
The real problem
Without making little of the tragedy that befell Cynthia Osokogu, social media is not the problem, it has never been the problem, it the use of or the lack of knowledge of the common-sense uses of social media that is the problem and that is where people need the most education that it should not lower the needs to ascertain, determine, verify and be careful about the people we interact with and it cannot carry the burdens of trust and trustworthiness that come from being streetwise, smart and discerning of character, aims and intentions.
We once had letters, then telephones, then telegrams, then telex, then facsimile machines, then mobile phones and now the smorgasbord of easy communication untethered and free – we are however still human and have not metamorphosed into cyborgs – it means those very basic human characteristics still matter and years from now newer modes of communication will be created and hopefully human-beings will know not to abandon their gut instincts for the thrill of technology.
To Cynthia Osokogu – Rest in peace – no know can begin to think of the harrowing experiences you went through as those men took your life and to your family my heartfelt condolences.