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18 December 2005

Adventures with Linux, vol 23:

The trouble is, you see, you get overconfident with Linux, you start thinking "hey, I know how to do that," and that way madness lies.

Todayís madness? This is the Printer Winter; for months now, my five-year-old printer has been giving me gyp. Specifically, it's been streaking every page it prints with blackness, sometimes just in dots and scatters, sometimes in impenetrable bars. I have tried everything I know by way of fixing this, and nothing works. My suspicion is that the problem began with a re-engineered cartridge (False Economy, we call this) and has progressed now to the drum. Unhappily, replacing the drum is as expensive as buying a new printer. Ah, how the world has changed; I hate this built-in redundancy, and pause only to point out that my fifteen-year-old previous printer is still working completely happily, in a friend's house. But that is no help to me.

I have of course been dithering for a long time, what to do; but so happens I need clean printing facilities this weekend, in order to produce contracts for my fellow writers for tomorrow's ghost story event at the Lit & Phil. I also need a clean copy of my own story to read from (I haven't yet worked out - and this is the second year! - how to produce a contract for myself; Iím not sure it's actually legal for Chaz Brenchley to commission Chaz Brenchley, and countersign his own contracts). So this morning, despairing, I streaked off into town and just bought a new machine.

My choice was dictated by the limits of what was available off the shelf, obviously; also by price, as I really did want to bring it in cheaper than a new drum for my old printer, just to reassure myself; also by system demands, as the computer is also five years old and doesn't run to anything as sophisticated as USB 2 ports; and then in the end by my finding the one machine that acknowledged Linux on its box, and claimed to run under numerous different distributions.

In cold fact, any of the other machines I could have bought would probably also have run under Suse (my distribution of choice), because almost everything does, but I liked to see that published acknowledgement. So I bore it home and unpacked it, plugged it in and set it up, got it working - and then tried to configure my system to recognise it. Harrumph...

First I tried the quick-and-dirty way, copy the PPD file onto my system and work from that. Uh-uh. Something wrong with it, not acceptable, no way. So I bowed to the inevitable, and ran its own proprietary installation software. Which was fine and dandy, all the way through to the rather important moment where the new machine is actually added to the current list of printers. Not wanting to get technical, but to make changes of this nature to a Linux system, you have to be logged in as the Person of Authority, which demands a special password. This is my own password, and I cannot run my own system without it; and this bloody interloper software simply refused to recognise it. I sobbed, I snarled, I could not get it to acknowledge that I do know my own bloody passwords.

So in the end we fell back on bluff and deception; the printer is now working fine, by dint of my persuading the system that it was in fact another printer altogether. Sigh. That makes yet another aspect that is held together with chewing-gum and spit. I do sooo need everything upgraded, shaved & showered and cleanly reinstalled. But it's not going to happen yet.

What's actually going to happen now is that Iím going to go online and set up a PayPal account for Northern Gothic, to allow for easy purchase of the Phantoms at the Phil anthology. Hint, hint. E-mail ...

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© Chaz Brenchley 2005
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.