Wednesday 4 January 2012

Working on the railway, and Airprint

One of my geocaches starts off with you controlling a railway over the internet, with a webcam so that you can see what you're doing. That information gets you to the start of a night cache firetack trail ...

Well, when the power cut happened, the ancient computer (it's a 600 mhz Pentium, which gives you some idea of how old it is) went off, and when power came back, the old computer wouldn't restart. Or rather, it would restart, but went into a kernel panic on the way, so no dice. After trying it a few times, optimistically, I decided that I'd need to use another computer. I have one that wasn't doing very much, so I hauled it up from the Data Center (my garage) to the top room (where the railway runs).

Happiness was finding a backup of the software that controls all this. But I needed to install vidcat (to do the video captures), and the version of Linux on this computer is different, and ... well, you know how it goes. The serial port controls the power on and power off, and the train stop and start, and that worked straight off, because it uses minicom, and I already had minicom installed. Eventually, I crowbarred vidcat in, and got everything working. And just for lols, I added a Chrstmas present that Ann gave me; a railway station. So you can see it all now.

Also, ladysolly's new printer arrived. She wanted to be able to use Airprint, so I got an HP 3050A, which is very cheap (I suspect they make it up on the ink sales). The delivery man rang the bell, and by the time I got my slippers on, he'd chucked the box over the entrance gate and scarpered. So I brought the somewhat wet box in (it was raining) and started to set it up. Things went well until I tried to introduce it to my network.

To install the printer, you connect it to a computer and run a CD. The problem here was, that computer is on my main home network (address 10.x.x.x) and my wifi is using 192.168.x.x. Why? Well, it just is, OK? And the installation program didn't like that. I spent ages going round in circles on this, the troubleshooter is as useful as a broken elastic band, until eventually I came up with the brilliant idea of unwiring the computer from the wired network and letting it get itself on to the wifi addresses. Then the printer was happy to install, and there's a neat thing that means that by emailing to a certain email address (which I'm not going to tell you), it prints on the printer.

But that isn't what Susan wanted, she wanted Airprint. OK, I said, let's try it. So she did. And her iPhone couldn't find a printer. Hmmm. Nothing in the documentation about Airprint, no help in Google, hmmm. What else do I need to set up?

And then she tried it again, and this time it found the printer, and printed a document that she wanted, in colour, all crisp and lovely.

Some people define insanity as trying the same thing again and expecting a different outcome. Those people obviously aren't familiar with computers.


  1. Having operated the train set this afternoon the new station looks really good.

    p.s. the whole set up of that is really good, just need to find the final part now.

  2. Night Mail is one of my favourites, I'll have to go back and have a look at the new station!