So I’ve been fighting through my astronomy challenges with my scope (Celestron 8SE), mostly with the support of a guy in one of the forums on a site called Cloudy Nights (i.e. when you have clear nights, you go outside; when you have cloudy nights, you can go online!). He’s super knowledgeable, and while he’s not active in the forum anymore, he’s been giving me fantastic suggestions on things to improve my approach.
Tonight, I went to what I consider level 3. Level 1 would be standard stuff. Level 2 would be the tweaking and adjustments I’ve done up until now.
Level 3 i.e. tonight was to check to see if the rate at which the mount slews left / right and up / down is set correctly. Or more accurately, if there is enough tension to stop it from playing too much when aligned. How did it go?
It was a total shit show.
I got it to align, I followed the instructions, everything seemed to go okay. I tried adjusting the settings but didn’t seem to make much difference (it’s a scale from 0 to 99, you start small and make increments). I still felt I was having too much play. And when I set it too high, it became “jumpy” in its movements. Reset back to the basics. I did see one setting in all of it which seemed to be set wrong, and I corrected it.
Did some test slewing. Saturn was behind a building (I was just testing from my backyard), but it was about where Saturn was. Tried Uranus, and it showed me again behind another building, but honestly, it seemed way too far east and north. Tried for Neptune, nothing where it was, but the moon is kind of bright, so could be a glitch.
Then I told it to show me M110. Which it tried to do. By going VERTICAL? Almost straight up. In fact, partly past vertical. I eventually had to stop it. Tried Andromeda, and it wanted to go past 90 degrees vertical, almost like flipping over to the other axis.
Like I said, total shit show.
I’m out of my depth. I’ll try taking it to the telescope store tomorrow, but right now, I’m out of options.
I’m not usually against free upgrades, but Windows 10 has been a costly one, albeit only partly in money. Awhile back, I ran into a problem with printers after the initial Win 10 setup and it took me 2 hours of trial and error, and a sudden inspiration / brain fart to try something that worked. The simple explanation is I have a router, 3 computers, and 3 printers. Two were running Win10, 1 was running Win7. No big deal, except the printers are all wired to 1 computer. If that sounds odd, it shouldn’t — one was an old laser printer that only had a parallel port style connector, one was a newer colour model but couldn’t connect to my old router by USB or Ethernet (the router didn’t support it), and a label maker that works best when directly connected to a single PC.
With the upgrade, all hell broke loose. I could get the 3 PCs to talk to one another, and for awhile the main PC could print, but nothing else could. Then the others could, but not to the laser printer, just the ones connected by USB (that should have been a bigger clue). After fiddling for 2 hours, I was about to throw in the towel when I realized if the printer wasn’t the problem, and the printer driver wasn’t the problem, could there be a problem with the PORT driver? Not usually, that’s a pretty basic driver of input and output, but I searched in the bowels of my setup, found the problem and voila! My parallel printer started printing, and everyone could print. Great!
Then after another Windows update in early December, I lost my laser printer again. No problem, I thought, I knew how to fix it. Three clicks later, I found out that everything was still already set properly. Another hour or two, no more success. I couldn’t print to that printer no matter what. Didn’t help Andrea was in the middle of finishing her courses, but we muddled through and I was trying to figure out what to do.
One of the “saving” graces when I upgraded to Win 10 was that it said, quite clearly, that if you didn’t like it, you could downgrade back later. So once Andrea’s courses were all done, I proceeded to try the downgrade. Not an option. WTF? Apparently, buried in the small print was a note that it was an option for 30 days, but users were told to note that keeping a second copy of everything on their system was using up a lot of extra disk space so Windows helpfully deleted it after 30 days. You know, to help free up space. Would have been nice to have some sort of question or prompt at that point to say, “Hey, it’s been 30 days, and after this, downgrading won’t be an option anymore, are you sure?” Because I would have said “NO! I’m not sure! Ask me again in 30 days!”. But no, it just deleted it. On both systems. Now, sure, I have legit copies of Win 7/8, so I could wipe everything off, reinstall from scratch, put everything back the way it was, but I’m going to get forced to upgrade at some point anyway when MS Office or some such program doesn’t work on the old Windows anyway, and at the rate Microsoft is actively trying to kill old versions, that won’t be as long perhaps as most users hope.
So I accepted that the 20-year-old work horse of a printer was probably headed for the scrap heap and ordered a new network-compatible, double-sided, laser printer. Decent printer, decent price, free shipping with Amazon (I’m really enjoying the free shipping from them on my Prime membership). It arrived, and I hesitated to hook it up. I just knew there was every possibility that it wouldn’t go smoothly, and if it didn’t, I might take a hammer to it. My coping energy has been down, and is only slowly building back up since Christmas with some careful internal techniques.
However, in the meantime, just this past week in fact, Andrea upgraded her PC to Windows 10. And suddenly I couldn’t see her PC anymore, she couldn’t print, blah blah blah.
I found the problem right away, and it is the same problem that I think has underlaid some of the challenges from the beginning. When I upgraded my PC, my PC’s “name” was in the form of “Joe” (as in Joe Computer). Windows 10 however has a much stronger tie to the Microsoft online accounts, so the upgrade changed my PC name to “Joe Computer”. Now here’s the fun part — Windows 10 apparently doesn’t seem to want to admit that Joe Computer and Joe are the same computer or that Joe ever existed at all. Occasionally, when I try to do something deep in the bowels, Windows tries to tell me that Joe Computer doesn’t have the rights to do that because Joe didn’t give JC the rights. I over-ride, we keep going, all good. Except when it comes to networks.
From the beginning, Windows has told me that I’m connected to something called Network 7 i.e. a network created with Windows 7 by Joe. And that Joe created a Homegroup on said network. That I can join if I know the password. Here’s the thing — I *do* know the password, but when I try to connect I think it wants Joe to say Okay, but Joe doesn’t exist anymore. Or rather Joe Computer is asking itself, and it gets confused. It works for Andrea’s computer and the laptop, but it tells me I’m on the network already and I can join but it won’t confirm me. I followed all the helpful/unhelpful advice on Microsoft’s community forums, and nada.
Tonight, I went drastic. I disconnected from the network. I removed all the network settings I could find. It told me to do this for all three PCs, and then reconnect just 1 and create a new network + homegroup. Except that when I went to do Andrea’s PC second, it said, “Would you like to create a homegroup?”. Wtf? It wouldn’t let me do it before…oh right, my PC is now off. Joe and Joe Computer are both GONE. And her PC knows the proper name of my network, not “network 7” that I’m not sure exists anymore (it does, but I’ll get to that).
So I create a new homegroup. Looks perfect. Go to the laptop, and there is Andrea’s homegroup. Which I join, no problem, also set perfectly for the same network. Come back to my PC, turn it on, and voila! I’m still connected to Network 7 dammit.
I read something online that suggests it could be a “sticky” ID name and that it is still the right network. There’s an option to join a HomeGroup, which I do. Except this time I enter the new password from Andrea’s computer. And wait.
The computer whirs.
The icon spins and twirls.
It whirs some more.
Then it says, “Congrats, would you like to do something else now like….”.
Hallelujah and pass the ammunition! We have ourselves a network.
I quickly try to print to the parallel port to see if my some miracle it also fixed that but no. So I kill it, unhook it, and set up the new laser printer.
That can connect wirelessly to the router, and anything on the router can print to it. For some odd reason, it doesn’t ask me for a password, I am not sure why. Maybe because it is a printer and not a storage device. Odd, but I’m going with it for now. Bears further investigating, but not now.
I tweak a few things on my PC, and there is the new laser printer already in my setup. I love plug and play and auto discover — when it works.
I find an email I want to print, choose double-sided, and press SEND. And miracles of miracles, it prints just fine. No issues at all.
Andrea’s PC can’t print to it yet even though it can see it, but I think it is just delayed setup. Should work fine once she’s rebooted. I think. I hope. We’ll see. But *I* can print to it, and Andrea can print again to the colour. Plus all our machines are networked so files can be moved around more easily (particularly photos when I’m trying to amalgamate them all to one place for processing and backups!).
Stay tuned! But I’m hopeful I’m nearing a fully working network…
Let me start by telling my brother Mike, my friend Mike, and another friend Aliza, NO I WAS NOT TALKING ABOUT MY SEX LIFE! Okay, with that out of the way, let me tell you about my latest computer fun tonight.
For my home setup, we have three computers and three printers. The computers are (a) desktop for me, (b) desktop for Andrea, and (c) laptop mainly for me in the basement for TV. They are networked with wired connections to our modem/router.
Two of the printers are straightforward –a DYMO label printer about 10 years old and an HP Photosmart from about 7 years ago (just before the wedding, although it sat in a box for a year). Neither get heavy use, but they were relatively cheap and are for niche uses.
The real printer is an HP LaserJet 4L. I bought it in 1995 when I left DFAIT the first time and thought I was going to be a full-time consultant. It cost me almost $600 (on sale from $800), and it was a step above what I probably could afford at the time. But if I was going to be doing professional consulting, I needed a decent laser printer, and I couldn’t afford the real workhorses they had in government. This machine has been a beast. It’s not the fastest, 5 or 6 ppm, but I’ve had it repaired twice at a cost of about $100 once and $125 another, yet 20 years later, the thing just keeps chugging along.
My consulting career was somewhat short-lived, or at least it changed direction and form about then and I felt that it had been a bit of a wasted expense, but the printer has handled just about everything I have thrown at it over the last 20 years. Okay, I confess, it cannot handle detailed i.e. large photos, but most other things are fine. My masters work, now Andrea’s masters work. Plans for the wedding, updates for doctors, everything.
But here’s the kicker. It’s 20 years old. It connects not through a USB port like the other two printers, but through a, wait for it, parallel printer port. Yep, they still make them. I had them put one in my latest computer a couple of years ago and the tech wasn’t even sure the motherboard and port would connect properly. But a few tweaks in my setup and it was fine (it’s basically a separate card, and should work with everything, but there were some potential compatibility issues with some other configs).
The fun comes when we do our home network. That printer is directly connected to my PC — it has to be. It needs a parallel port. The others are not wireless, although future ones would be, or at least run off the network hubs, but they at least are relatively full plug and play USB devices. Since it is directly connected to my machine, that means my machine has to be on all the time if we’re going to randomly print, but I run my machine that way anyway. The 4L printer though requires special manual drivers to be downloaded and installed, which I have done for Win95, 98, XP, 7, and 8.
Two months ago, I went ahead with the update for Windows 10. I wanted the latest and greatest version of MS Office 365, and so went ahead and bit the bullet. I also did the laptop, but left Andrea’s computer as Win 7. The update went fine. I only had one real issue, which you can guess — the legacy printer.
The printer driver for the HP LaserJet 4L was not auto-migrated successfully — it was there, but wouldn’t print. No biggie, did a quick search to find out what to do, ran a separate driver install, added it as if it was a “new” printer with latest driver, called it the HP 4L (copy), got it going, no real issues. The laptop and Andrea’s computers couldn’t print at first, and then realized two things. When I installed the new driver and called it “copy”, their setup no longer matched; equally, I hadn’t updated the homegroups so that we were actually able to see each other again. Simple fixes, more or less.
The two hours of frustration bit
Two days ago, my computer ran some sort of auto-update on me, which I know I specifically disabled, and it wouldn’t close out without rebooting and running the update. It looked like the regular run of the mill update, so I said sure, and then waited. And waited. And waited. And finally went away. It took as long as the full upgrade had taken two months ago. It was not a simple update, this was major.
Everything seemed fine, no worries. Andrea says to me today, “By the way, I can’t print for some reason”. I thought it was likely just a reboot issue, i.e. she hadn’t rebooted since my PC was updated, so didn’t have the right permissions, but should have been simple enough. Nope, she couldn’t print from MY computer either. Wait, what? She wasn’t in a giant rush, so she didn’t dump it to the colour printer which would have handled it okay for the small doc she had, but just after the cub went to bed tonight, I started working on the print problem.
By now, she had rebooted, tried a couple of things, no go. I thought, “Okay, well, it probably needs the same update again”, so I searched and the instructions were not as simple this time for some reason — whether I searched better last time, or I was being too specific this time, it didn’t seem quite as obvious. Four methods to choose from, none of them were working.
I tried blowing off the printer entirely, rebooting, reinstalling, tweaking, updating, all the configurations I could think of, but no joy in Mudville. All of the methods looked fine right up until I told the software to print a test page, and then it would give me an error and bail.
So I would then run the troubleshooter program. Some people think that this program is some sort of wizard, but it is exactly what it is called — a program. It can’t magically figure out the problem, it runs through a list of common issues and sees if they are happening. Printer not responding. Printer offline. No printer at the port. No port. Out of paper. Another doc stuck in the queue. A long list of big and small things that could be causing problems trying to print. Each time, the printer would say “Hey, I can’t print, but by the way, I checked everything I know to check, and it’s all good.” I felt like it was the classic joke about the computer-programmer-turned-sharpshooter missing a target, getting in trouble from his sergeant, putting his hand in front of the gun, pulling the trigger and blowing off some fingers, and saying, “it works on this end, the problem must be at the target end”. Everything works, except well, it doesn’t. Oops, sorry.
Two hours of pain in the patootie frustration.
Ten seconds of satisfaction
So I’m scouring tons of posts and forums online seeing if ANYONE has the same problem. Sure, lots did. Six months ago. But all those old techniques which worked before were NOT working anymore. It just wouldn’t print.
I saw an old solution for someone who was using a special cable, basically, one where they had a parallel-to-USB converter cable and instead of saying “LPT1” which they had been doing, or even USB 1, they now had an option for a “virtual USB port” and they made that small change, and people were In Like Flynn. I was happy for them, but I have a direct parallel port connected, no “virtual” option for me.
So I went on to the Microsoft forum to type a plea for help, and I wrote three paragraphs of what I had done and tried with no luck. I started into the fourth paragraph where I was talking about the virtual port when something deliciously devious occurred to me.
What if the problem WASN’T my printer, but my port? What if it wasn’t the printer driver but the PORT driver? Maybe because it was an old thing — parallel printer ports for LPT1: — the setup messed something up in the ports? Didn’t make a lot of sense, but worth checking out. I said, “Hmm” out loud to Andrea, and said, “One small thing I can check.”
I opened the CONTROL PANEL;
I did a quick search for “DEVICE MANAGER” (it’s not as easy to get to as it was under Windows 7 and before) and opened it; and,
I went to PORTS and clicked on LPT1:.
There in the driver setup for LPT1:, I found this little tiny checkbox labelled “Enable Legacy Plug and Play” which sounded good.
Literally, I clicked the checkbox, and my last test print in the queue started to print.
Son of a fig newton. 2 hours of other options, plus 4 paragraphs to type a plea for help, I have a small but completely off the wall brain wave, and 10 seconds later it was fixed.
Which is why I’m blogging about it. Just in case anyone out there goes searching for it and has the same problem. It’s already on the MS forum, I finished the post and changed it from Question to Discussion, and left it there for posterity.
I was ready to give up on the printer and start looking into a new one, something I fully expect to do the next time it dies. But for now, the beast lives.