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Author Topic: Network problem - can anyone advise?  (Read 4868 times)

m_s

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Network problem - can anyone advise?
« on: September 17, 2005, 01:18:26 PM »
I'm about to overhaul the small network in the office I work in. I probably know enough to do this, but I'm going to have to supplement as I go along by reading up on particular subjects.  So my first question is: does anybody know a good introduction to networking? 

The network we have was set up long before I arrived into the office, and it does some very strange things.  One thing that happens quite regularly to some (but not all of us) is that when we send documents from Word, there's a long delay and it looks like Word has frozen - other programs work fine - then eventually (this can literally take 5 minutes), you get a message saying something like "MS Word has been unable to connect to the printer; it might be possible to print anyway. Click yes if you want to continue waiting, or no to try print now" - it's roughly that, but I'm writing this from home so I don't have the exact wording in front of me. Nothing at all happens if you choose not to wait; if you wait, it continues to look as if Word is frozen, and then a minute or two later it gives the same dialogue again. This repeats a few times, and then eventually the printer fires up and it all works smoothly from then on. I don't work so often in the office anymore, but it used to be that my first print-job of the day was tortuously slow, but thereafter it was quicker - I think it's now slow every time.

As I said, this happens to some of the computers on the network: two of the three machines running XP, and one of the Win 98 boxes. To tell the truth, the Win 98 ones are not that important. What's really weird is that it doesn't happen on the third XP machine, which is a laptop that is only occasionally plugged into the network, one or two days each week. The other two XP machines are the important ones, and my colleagues are going out of their minds. Has anyone seen anything like this before?

mouser

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Re: Network problem - can anyone advise?
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2005, 01:26:55 PM »
our links page has the best networking sites i know about (right hand side look under Best Help/Tech Support):
http://www.donationc...com/Links/index.html

i have to say, i don't have your problem, but i have very long annoying delays when exploring my lan network after periods of not exploring.  that is, it seems to take 30 seconds or so for it to re-establish friendly communication between machines on the lan after a period of them not talking to each other actively.

one thing to always try and suspect is your firewall.  anytime i have trouble with lan communication or any other communication, i try turning off the firewall and trying again.  once one determines that it is the firewall then at least you have a place to start looking for settings to change.

jpfx

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Re: Network problem - can anyone advise?
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2005, 06:28:39 PM »
making a lot of assumptions about your network...

I would suggest giving the pc with the printer a fixed IP address. Update hosts file on all PCs so they know what the printer's pc IP address is and make sure that they can ping it. Could be a master browser issue of some sort.

But I really don't know, just suggesting something to try.
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m_s

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Re: Network problem - can anyone advise?
« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2005, 11:29:42 AM »
Okay, I've spent the day working on this problem, and I don't feel that I've got very far at all - but I do understand the setup a little better, so I hope you all won't mind me picking your collective brains.  I'm reassured by my day - because I feel pretty certain that the network is working alright; but I'm also disappointed that the original printer issue persists.

What we have is two Win XP machines (HP desktops, 2Ghz, 512mb RAM) and one Win 98, with a Win 98 server providing ISDN internet connection and a shared laser printer (Epson EPL-5900L).  We do not share files over the network, only the printer and internet connection.  At the start of the day, I was having difficulty seeing all of the machines using Look@LAN (which is great, by the way!), but I then corrected settings on Kerio firewall on each of the XP machines, and everyone is talking nicely now.

There has never been a problem with the shared internet connection - only with the printer.  And now, even though I can see each of the machines from the server, and see each from every other, there's still this printer problem on the XP machines.  The 98 machine works appears to work alright, but really it's an extra machine - just used by visitors occasionally.

This is what happens: opening a document in Word takes a long time - partly this is antivirus scanning, but it seems much slower than on my own machine.  And then we get the error message that's attached.  If we click 'Yes', it ticks over for a while, and sometimes asks again, or sometimes open properly; if we click 'No', it will load the document immediately, but we're doomed with regard to printing then.  Okay, document is loaded, click 'File' ... 'Print' ... and the same message comes up - click 'No' and yer doomed, click 'Yes' and there's a pause and then it comes up again, click 'Yes' again, and eventually - it's usually three or four cycles of this message - you get the print dialogue and it prints fine.

I think it's a problem with the connection between the 98 server and the printer - I saw that the printer was set to a power-saving sleep mode, so I turned that off, and I think I've disabled all the other sleep functions, but the problem persists... 

Does anybody have any good ideas?  Thanks.

From Desperate of Birmingham.


mouser

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Re: Network problem - can anyone advise?
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2005, 11:33:07 AM »
have you tried adding the printer again (as a new printer) to the windows xp machines?

m_s

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Re: Network problem - can anyone advise?
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2005, 11:34:46 AM »
Oh yes, many times!  I now have them printing to the i.p. address/printer, rather than to the computer name/printer - not sure if that ought to make any difference, but it seems a little more reliable somehow...

mouser

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Re: Network problem - can anyone advise?
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2005, 11:40:28 AM »
what about moving the printer from the 98 machine to the xp machine - not practical?
and you ruled out the possibility that the firewall might be causing the printer problems?

m_s

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Re: Network problem - can anyone advise?
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2005, 11:48:18 AM »
Not practical at the moment, because of the setup we have in the office, but I am suspecting the issue might have to do with XP-98 communication...  And I did find that switching off the firewall made it possible to see each of the machines with Look@LAN, and on that basis managed to configure them properly - so, no, not as far as I can see is it a firewall problem anymore.

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Re: Network problem - can anyone advise?
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2005, 02:45:41 PM »
I would be strongly suspecting communication to the Win 98 box.  Peer-to-peer networks using Windows 95/98 are notoriously ropey.  I'd strongly suggest moving the printer to an XP box to see if this resolves your issue and if this isn't a practical solution at present (as you suggest) then get your management to invest in a dedicated print server such as a HP Jetdirect, Intel Netport or D-Link FEPS.  A cheap one like the D-Link will cost about £50 but hunt around you should be able to find one for much cheaper still.

I'd also suggest that you check the communication protocols in use on each of your machines and remove any IPX or NetBEUI you come across.  IP only is the only way to go these days but older Win 9X machines had a habit of throwing in everything by default.

A good place for networking advice is http://www.security-forums.com/ and for learning networking http://www.windowsnetworking.com/ is pretty good.
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« Last Edit: September 22, 2005, 03:07:54 PM by Sentinel »

m_s

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Re: Network problem - can anyone advise?
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2005, 03:28:03 PM »
I feel a fool, but a happy one! Following Mouser's advice, I tinkered a little more with the firewall before giving up, and now it seems to be working! I'm not sure about security aspects of this, so can anyone advise? I'm running Kerio Personal 4, and I noticed that under Applications/Network Security, MS File and Printer Sharing was denied for the trusted zone, so I permitted that - but that wasn't enough, so I then permitted Generic Host Processes and Any Other Application - is this network suicide? What does and doesn't need to be permitted? 

Thanks, Mouser: I touch my proud head to your feet!

mouser

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Re: Network problem - can anyone advise?
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2005, 04:18:14 PM »
i generally set my lan to allow all traffic from machines on the lan.
in other words, any machine on the local lan ips can send anything they want to each other, as long as its to and from the local lan range.
i assume that is what you are talking about?  as long as you limit it to and from the lan ips then i think you are ok.

Carol Haynes

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Re: Network problem - can anyone advise?
« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2005, 05:01:09 PM »
If you are using a router or a server you can also limit traffic to specific MAC address. You can find these in the device properties for your network adapters and router. The MAC addresses should be unique to the device (it is like a device serial number) so it is hard for others to access any of the devices without the MAC address.

m_s

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Re: Network problem - can anyone advise?
« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2005, 08:24:29 AM »
I had it working last night, and tested it a few times so I'm pretty sure it was working; but came in this morning, and the same old problem is back.  Just to give it a try, I carried the printer over to one of the XP boxes - of course it autoinstalled when I plugged in the USB cable, and then I just elected to share the printer, and it works brilliantly with no further ado...  So I am going to figure out how to rearrange the office this week, so that I can have it plugged into the XP box that is switched on most of the time...  And I'm pretty sure that'll be the end of my problem. 

m_s

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Re: Network problem - can anyone advise?
« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2005, 02:22:17 PM »
In conclusion: I have now shifted the printer onto one of the Win XP machines, shared it, and all is working smoothly.  The 98 machines print to it perfectly too.  Thanks to all for suggestions and support...