2011-09-05

HP Photosmart: nice screen, shame about the firmware

In an earlier post to this blog I talked about my use of dd-wrt to help me get my home wifi signal to span my house.  See Open Source Routers to the Rescue.  Well, I have finally got fed up with some of the flakey behaviour from my Virgin router.  Periodically it crashes and I have to cycle the power on both my new HP Photosmart B110 and the old HP Officejet 6310 to re-enable printing.
 
To recap, dd-wrt is open source router firmware with a host of well-documented options to allow you control your router hardware.  In the end I found wireless repeating (extending the range of my virgin hub) too unreliable and so I used it to configure my second router as a "Client Bridge" instead.  This allowed me to connect devices without wireless support by plugging them into the LAN ports on the back of the second router.  Client bridge mode is not compatible with the use of DHCP to automatically assign IP addresses.  According to the dd-wrt site this is actually a restriction of the Wifi protocol itself so I configured my home network with manually assigned IP addresses for most devices.

This was easy to do on my the old Officejet printer which has a low-res calculator style LCD screen and a fax-style numeric key pad.  But on my new HP Photosmart B110 printer, which comes with a flashy colour LCD panel and an icon-based interface (no touch screen though) the network settings can only be set through the built in web browser, so it must already be connected to a network.  This seems a bit dumb but I guess most wifi networks will support DHCP so less of a problem in practice.

I now own a third router, I have been planning to take advantage of something called WDS which is the proper way of joining two wireless networks.  With WDS you can extend wifi coverage and bridge the physical LAN ports in a way that fully supports DHCP.  (It is a pity that my Virginmedia router does not support WDS on its own, but given that WDS is not a proper standard yet mixing and matching suppliers is probably unwise anyway.)

I had been putting off the chore of reconfiguring the network but what better way to spend a wet Sunday afternoon?  I now have a normal DHCP-based home network again.  The two connected routers mean I have coverage throughout the whole house and some of the garden.  At last, I've been able to turn off the wifi beacon on the Virgin router and relegated it to little more than the cable modem it replaced.

Reconnecting all the devices to the new network was simple, until I got to the Photomart printer.  The network transformation involved a change of subnet so the static IP was now useless.  I went back through the wireless wizard to join the printer to the new network but the old IP settings persisted.  I then hit the 'reset to factory defaults' option in the menus - restarted the printer and then ran through the wizard again.  The printer still remembered the old static IP.  I even plugged the printer into my Mac via a USB cable and ran the printer utility but there was no way to affect the network settings that I could find.  In the end, I went back to my box of old routers and dug out an old Netgear wireless access point which I was finally able to use to contact the printer and change its IP settings back to automatic.

An option to reset to factory defaults should surely do what it says for all settings?  Now all I need is something like dd-wrt for my Photosmart printer...