Is it required that you need a print server to print over a wifi connection?
August 18, 2007 5:46 AM   Subscribe

Is there any way to emulate a print server?

This may sound like a weird idea, but I'll ask anyway ...

At home, we have a laptop and a printer. We have a wireless network (802.11b) for our broadband Internet connection. Right now, anytime someone wants to print, you have to physically take the laptop over to the printer, plug in the USB cable, wait for it to come up, and then print.

I'd like to be able to print remotely without having to get up and go to the other room. I understand that you can do this with a print server, but I'd rather not shell out the cash for this at the moment. I'm curious if there is a way you can do this via software emulation. I thought I had heard you can print over a wireless network via software, but i wasn't sure.

Any ideas?
posted by zooropa to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Get an Apple Airport Express. It has a built-in USB-printserver that just works through 802.11b and g. The base station does probably too and that does 802.11n too of course.
posted by KimG at 6:02 AM on August 18, 2007

Wireless print server.
posted by doctor_negative at 6:08 AM on August 18, 2007

i suppose you would have mentioned if so, but on the off-chance you have a linux machine on the network you can configure it as a print server (and i just bought a network printer withotu even thinking of this - ah well...)
posted by andrew cooke at 6:24 AM on August 18, 2007

Perhaps the previous responders missed this: "...but I'd rather not shell out the cash for this at the moment."?

Does your printer have a wireless card? More pointedly- how do you intend to hook the printer up to the network? If the printer isn't connected to the network somehow, this is, of course, impossible. If the printer isn't network ready, it certainly needs to be plugged into SOMETHING, whether that something is a computer or a printserver.

In other words, depending on your printer, you might be out of luck.
posted by JMOZ at 6:25 AM on August 18, 2007

If your existing wireless router doesn't have print serving built in, and your only computer is your laptop, you're SOL.

But if you have another computer of just about any type on your network, you can run print server software on that, and print from your laptop via wireless and that computer.

Exactly what to do depends on which mixture of operating systems you're running. Any number of people here would be able to tell you how to set this up, if we knew exactly what you had.
posted by flabdablet at 6:31 AM on August 18, 2007

The printer has to be hooked up to the network somehow. I use a wired connection and a zonet zps1000. It's a little tricky to setup, but has worked very well. The zps1001 can be had for about $40.
posted by jefftang at 6:32 AM on August 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you haven't got a second computer, but your objection to getting one is monetary rather than a matter of physical space, you can set up a perfectly adequate print server for no money at all using a dumpster-grade computer. You don't even need a video card, monitor or keyboard (except temporarily during setup).
posted by flabdablet at 6:33 AM on August 18, 2007

I'm pretty sure if you have a networked computer next to that printer, you should be able to share that printer. We use OS X at home, but for XP, try this page from Microsoft. If you're a mac user, just got the Printer pane in System Preferences and choose the printer and choose share.
posted by advicepig at 7:02 AM on August 18, 2007

Yes, more information needed. It sounds like you have 1 computer, one printer in another room, and you want to emulate 'walking over to another room'.
flabdablet's suggestion is the cheapest, presuming the dumpster-grade computer has a USB port and a network connection. Is the printer next to the wireless network? (Which I presume has ethernet ports- otherwise d-g computer needs wireless).
I know this is easy to do in Windows.
posted by MtDewd at 7:31 AM on August 18, 2007

Depending on where you are located, the electrical cost of running and old computer for a year just to be a printservwr may well approach the cost of a much cheaper to run dedicated printserver or wireless router with a built in print server. Plus setting up a computer is likely to take more time and hassel
posted by Good Brain at 9:42 AM on August 18, 2007

I should finish that thought:on the otherhand if you already have an extra computer running, it should be easy to get printer sharing working unless it is running Linux - I found CUPS to be a complete pain in the ass.
posted by Good Brain at 9:47 AM on August 18, 2007

It cant emulate a hardware connection. Where do you expect the usb line to plug into? This aint magic.

This print server is on sale for 15 dollars right now.
Can't beat that.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:20 PM on August 18, 2007

Maybe you can beat that.
posted by MtDewd at 1:14 PM on August 18, 2007

The thing to look out for with the cheap print servers (or any other kind of cheap wifi device) is what kind of security it supports. A lot of the older devices only use WEP, not WPA, which may mean you'll need to degrade the security on your network.

(I think both of the models so far mentioned will do WPA...but some other, older ones you might find on eBay won't. Just a warning from someone who's had the issue. Check specs first.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:57 PM on August 18, 2007

$15 is indeed hard to beat, but I feel bound to point out that my dumpster-grade Linux server (570GB of drives, a 730MHz Pentium III, and 256MB RAM) consumes under 40 watts average. It's on all the time, and costs me under a dollar a week to run; less than my fishtank. It's also very very quiet, because I'm using a Celeron-grade heatsink with a resistor in series with the fan to slow it down, and I replaced the internal power supply fan with a very quiet one from Papst.

For a print server, you don't even need that much performance. 64MB RAM and a 233MHz processor would be overkill. You don't need a video card, and you don't need a hard drive (boot from CD-ROM and run in RAM). You probably don't even need a CPU fan. If you couldn't halve my power consumption I'd be surprised.
posted by flabdablet at 12:23 AM on August 19, 2007

And you wouldn't go for a wireless print server anyway. Go for a wired one, and just wire it to your existing wireless router. You really don't want more wireless devices operating in your house than you can help.
posted by flabdablet at 12:24 AM on August 19, 2007

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