Little pains of switching

I have been running the Unix only workstations for over a week now. During this week, I have managed to clean up and convert two Windows boxes to VMWARE virtual machines, but actually had to resort to use the VM’s only in two cases. Everything else worked just fine.

The first case was requirement to review an non-trivial Excel file. Normally, Numbers does very decent job when it comes to loading Excel files and for the most the remaining cases, the OpenOffice (in it’s more polished Cocoa version NeoOffice) works just fine. Well – as long as you do not open spreadsheet with pivot tables. In my case, the spreadsheet contained pivot tables and charts based on these tables. Numbers warned during import that this feature is not supported and the converted spreadsheet was very good looking – nicer that in Excel, but not quite so functional :-). Strangely enough, the charts were imported OK but lost the drill-down capabilities. After trying out the NeoOffice, the imported spreadsheet had retained some pivot capabilities of the original, but lost charts completely. The only resort was falling back to Office 2003 in virtual machine and using Excel. Fortunately one of the two VM’s created from old hardware had Office 2003 installed, so that worked out OK.

The other case of “works only with Windows” was the Active X control used by our VPN to get access to internal network. There is no alternative, so to get to our internal Wiki, JIRA or timesheet system, I have to start Windows in VM.

The last issue encountered has not really anything to do with platform change, but it was triggered by this, so here it goes. Back in 2002 I purchased very small and handy laser printer Samsung ML-4500. It worked well for all those years, happily attached to my Windows desktop machine which (being always on) shared it for everybody in home network. Of course, up to the point when that desktop machine was decommissioned. Because ML-4500 is parallel port only printer, has no USB, first issue was to find a machine that actually still has a parallel port (most of new machines do not). By lucky coincidence, my NAS Linux system had parallel port – so I dived into new adventure of configuring CUPS printing system under Linux and sharing the printer via Samba. Which was much easier that it may seem – hats off to Linux hackers. The ML-4500 was part of the CUPS printer’s database and was recognized right away. Only small hickup was disabled parallel port in BIOS – but after this got corrected, things worked OK (thanks to Peter for the hint).

So now I can print from Linux, can even share the printer but still cannot print from Windows or Mac. Why so ? If you try to attach the printer from Windows machine, Windows wants to install driver. The ML-4500 is not in the default driver database. I still have the original CD from Samsung, but attempt to install driver fails with completely useless error message. Updated driver is nowhere to be found. I do not remember how I did install the driver back in 2002, but nevertheless, the machine is gone. Even if I do have the driver inside VM, I do not have VMWARE installed on Linux (and do not plan to do so). So for now, only way how to print from Windows notebooks (or Macs) is to create a PDF file on the client, save it to server and then use CUPS to print it out from Linux. What a pain …

How I see it, the days of ML-4500 are counted … especially when my favorite hardware supplier has very nice color laser network printer for a great price :-).

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