Practical Technology

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A Print Server to Avoid: the Linksys WPS54GU2

Generally speaking for consumer/SMB grade network equipment, I swear by Linksys hardware. I’ve been using he Linksys WRT54G family of access points since 2002 ever since Linksys open-sourced the firmware for many WRT54G models and they’ve never let me down. But, then there’s the Linksys print servers. If I had met these devices first, I’d be swearing at Linksys and using D-Link, Netgear, heck, anyone’s else equipment.

What’s really ticked me off is the Linksys WPS54GU2 Wireless-G Print Server for USB 2.0. All I wanted was a simple print -server for my wife’s upstairs studio. What I got was one of the most annoying network devices I’d ever worked with.

I had been using an older Pentium system, running openSUSE 10 with Samba to address her USB printers. But, it was getting a little long in the tooth and developing some power system glitches, so I decided to retire it. I could have dragged out another older PC from storage to take over its work.

I even had my eye on an old, but still functional Compaq with a 350MHz Pentium processor for the job. One of the great things about Linux, especially as a server, is that you can get useful work out of almost any computer that can rub two bits together to start a byte.

But, then I thought again. Any PCs, but especially older ones, are always eating up power even when all they’re doing is spinning their hard disks and fans. Besides, the mini-tower Compaq took up a lot space. Why not, thought I, just get a tiny dedicated print server and put it in there. It would save a tiny bit on the electric bill and my wife, who’s a book artist, could hide the trade paperback book sized print server behind her printers.

It all sounded so easy. Buy it, plug in the cables, hook it into the Wi-Fi LAN and print. Twenty minutes top I thought. Then I actually started trying to install the WPS54GU2.

Now, a print server’s job can be complicated if you get deep enough into it. Anyone who wrestled with getting an all-in-one fax/scanner/print device to work with a third-party print server knows each set up is a one-off. I wasn’t do that. I just wanted to ye old basic print serving.

It wasn’t going to happen with this Linksys device. I could not get its automated network routine to work. OK, let’s try using the Linksys utilities on it. Nope. Setting it up manually, Not happening.

I’ll make a long story short. I tried every trick I know to make embedded operating system network devices wake up and talk to the world. I may not know all the tricks, but I do know a lot of them, I think I would have had more success getting a brick—no, not a fried electronic device, that red rocky thing you use to make houses with it—to network than I did with the WPS54GU2.

Then, I did what I should have done before I drove to my local Best Buy. I checked out the WPS54GU2’s reputation on the Web. I’m such an idiot some days.

I was not the1st, nor possibly the 10,001st, to discover that the WPS54GU2 is a waste of money. I don’t know if it’s incredibly lousy quality control at the factory or if something is fundamentally with the design, but sometimes these devices work, sometimes they don’t, and no one has any handle on why this is.

Frankly, I don’t care. I returned mine, and I won’t be buying another one. In fact, until someone else I trust takes their network into their hand and tries whatever the next print server is that comes out of Linksys and reports that it works great, I’m not bothering to look at Linksys print servers.

Oh, and my wife’s studio printers? I dragged out an old Koobox mini-PC that had arrived at my door some time back with Linspire 5 on it. Since it arrived I had upgraded it to Freespire 2. While not an ideal server, heck, it was 1) small and 2) could do the job.

So, after a few minutes of tinkering, most of that spent setting up the Samba server and hooking the new server into my network infrastructure, the new print server was working, the photos were printing, and all was right with the world. My only regret is that I had so much my time with the WPS54GU2 in the first place. My only hope is that I can stop one of you from making the same mistake I did in getting one.

One Comment

  1. My experience with the Linksys WPS54GU2 could not have been more different. But based on your story, I would done the same as you. Sometimes it’s not worth the hassel.

    I’ve had my WPS54GU2 about 5 years. It has worked perfectly from the day I installed it. It services 2 printers — a bonus compared to most non-commercial print servers. One of the printers it services has both a USB and parallel port. This setup allows me to connect the printer to the WPS54GU2 parallel port, freeing the printer’s USB port for use as a local connection for maintenance or for a guest computer connection without connecting to my secure network.

    My system is not large — about 4-5 computers depending on who is on at any given time. Having the WPS54GU2 print server allows all users access to 2 different printers from anywhere. Typcially I’ll set one printer with standard 8×11 white paper and the other with photo paper. Laptop users select the printer based on what paper they want.

    I will admit it’s been 5 years since I read the installation instructions, but I don’t recall any particular difficultly in the initial install or setup. Using both the USB and parallel ports might be a bit confusing, but the setup for the server performed the necessary port assignments without any issues. Every device on the network that will use the print server needs to have this setup performed on it, along with the drivers for each of the printers attached to the server.

    My backbone network uses a 108 super G router with 4 wired ports. I recommend connecting both the router and the print server to a small UPS. Prior to using a UPS, I would have to reset both the router and print server after a power failure – even one for just a second or two. Apparently the sequence of which device comes on line first can confuse the secure communications between them. I installed a UPS 3 years ago and have had no issues since. If fact, I believe I’ve not reset either since installing the UPS.

    For my system and how we use it, the Linksys WPS54GU2 seems to be a good fit. Unlike your experience, installation was simple and quick, and the unit has performed flawlessly for about 5 years with practically no attention. I’m curious what others have experienced — was I one of the lucky ones to get a good one from the factory?