Network Your Printer with the Hawking PN7127P

by Don Marti

Like many home office users, I have a network-capable laser printer, and I appreciate being able to print conveniently from anywhere on the network. Until I needed color.

A network-capable color printer would have broken the money and space budgets, besides being total overkill for occasional color use. Unfortunately, inexpensive inkjets, such as the HP DeskJet 5550 that we chose for its print quality and free software driver, tend to have only USB and parallel ports.

Hawking PN7127P 1-Port Mini-Internet Print Server to the rescue. This tiny printer server mentioned Linux on the box, an encouraging sign. The price, around $60 at an electronics mega-store, was reasonable too. Besides Linux, it supports Novell NetWare, Microsoft Windows, UNIX and Apple Mac OS.

The Hawking unit connects easily to HP's parallel port, without a cable. Besides the printer connection, there is a connector for the +5V wall wart and an RJ45 for Ethernet. A green “link” LED comes on when the network is connected, and a yellow “status” LED flashes for power-on self tests and error conditions.

A FAQ item on Hawking's site explains how to assign the unit an IP address. Go to any Linux system on the LAN and do this as root:

arp -s 00:40:01:20:70:ad

where is the IP address we want to assign, and 00:40:01:20:70:ad is the MAC address. Hawking conveniently prints the MAC address on a label placed on the unit. After the unit sets its address as given in the arp command, you can ping it. Better yet, you can point your web browser at it and set up such features as SNMP and DHCP. I chose to put it on DHCP so it is consistent with all the other computers and devices on the network.

A later look at the manual revealed that although most of the manual is devoted to cumbersome point-and-click navigation through proprietary OS dialogs, the arp command also is documented. Because of the PN7127's clean design, nothing about setting it up requires any software installation on your Linux hosts nor the use of any other OS.

The web interface is thorough and well-designed. You should certainly, however, check to make sure the unit is installed in private address space and not where it is reachable from the outside.

Ready to Print

The only hard part about setting up this box was finding the space to fit its wall wart into an overcrowded power strip. I use Ghostscript with hpijs to convert PostScript files to the format used by the HP printer and the handy rplr utility to test print them over the net without having to change the lpd setup. You can try this or, if you want to do it the easy way, simply set up another network printer in your distribution's printer setup tool.

Depending on your printer and distribution version, you may need to get a more recent version of hpijs. I had to do an upgrade to get the version that supports the HP DeskJet 5550. If you're already using the printer when it's directly attached to a Linux system's parallel or USB port, however, you shouldn't have to change anything in the Ghostscript or hpijs department.

The Hawking PN7127P solves an important problem—connecting multiple systems to one printer—in a refreshingly straightforward and platform-neutral way. By thinking ahead and building a unit based on standards, Hawking has done home Linux users, and those with a diversity of systems, a useful service.

Don Marti is editor in chief of Linux Journal.

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