A friend who works in the local office of a non-profit organization was complaining to me about some computer problems they’re having at the office. In her words:
The issue first came up when I mentioned to her that I was getting 2, 3, or 4 copies of every e-mail she sent. Since it is a small and underfunded office, I volunteered to take a look and see if I could figure out the problem.
I went last night and the people there told me what had been going on and showed me the setup. I’m pretty sure that the problem is with the network. They have a wirleless network. I’m not a network guy so bear with me. The hub (is that the correct word?) is a blue box with two rotatable antennas, one on each side. It resembles the base station of my 2.4 gig spread spectrum cordless phone. It plugs into a DSL connection and has an HP laser printer plugged into it. They use laptops, each of which has a wireless network card. After some discussion we reached the conclusion that the multiple email problem was occurring because Outlook was slow to respond and people were impatiently hitting the send button repeatedly. This, plus the reports of the internet being unreliable makes me think that something is causing a network slowdown of some kind. During the time I was there the internet was responding perfectly and rapidly but they said that there were occasional problems with it.
The big problem, the one that’s really slowing down what they’re doing, is the printer. Suddenly nothing will print. It has power and pushing the button on front of it causes it to print a test page with no trouble (trying to print a test page from one of the computers fails). All of the laptops recognize the printer as being online and available. But when you try to print to it from any application (Word, Notepad, whatever) the job goes into the que and is marked “printing”. After a few minutes it fails with a non-helpful error message. The printer used to work for all of the laptops. Now it works for none of them. They told me that recently they had many more computers hooked into the network for some special project and that the network was very slow during this (no surprise). They think the problems started after this but they’re not positive. The only other thing that happened is that they recently put new ink into the printer. I doubt that that is the problem since it prints a test page with no problem.
I’m not a network person but I do have a tentative hypothesis. Something is bogging the network down. The printer driver is able to exchange the small amount of info necessary to know that the printer is available and to put jobs on the que and display that que, but when it tries to send the amount of information needed to print a page it eventually gives up and times out. There is one problem with this hypothesis - at the time I was there the internet connection was working rapidly and reliably and it uses the same wireless network as the printer. I don’t have the model # of the printer or the brand and model # of the network but I can get those if it would help. The only other info I have is that the printer driver talks to the printer through tcp/ip. Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated!