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Troubleshooting Q&A - February 22, 2005

When Wireless Print Servers Meet Multifunction Devices

Can a wireless print server support nonprinting functions such as scanning and faxing? Plus, unscrambling WiFi encryption ... and where is Microsoft's NetMeeting hiding in Windows XP?

By Ron Pacchiano

Q. I found your article helpful in understanding some of the nuances involved in configuring a wireless print server. I've often thought about purchasing one, but have held off due to my lack of technical expertise. After reading your article, however, I think I should be able to get it configured without too much of a problem. However, before I purchase one I had a question I was hoping you could answer for me. I have a Lexmark X5150 All-In-One Multifunction printer. Can a wireless print server support all of the nonprinting functions of my multifunction printer? I use the scanning features quite a bit and if that didn't work, there would be no point for me to invest the time and money into a wireless print server. Thanks for your help.

A. Unfortunately, no print server that I know of would allow you to share the other features (copy, scanning, faxing) of your multifunction printer. In most cases, not even the software used to tell some of the basic information about your printer (like the ink levels) will function once you attach the printer to the print server. That doesn't mean that one doesn't exist somewhere, but it has yet to be brought to my attention.

So at this point, the only suggestion I can offer you would be that if this type of functionality is really important to you, then you might want to consider upgrading your printer to one designed specifically for this purpose. For example, the HP Officejet 7400 All-in-One Printer, Fax, Scanner, Copier series has a built-in wireless print server and allows up to five individuals to access all of the printers features over the wireless connection. Users will be able to fax, copy, print and yes, scan right from their PCs. I know this isn't an ideal solution because, if nothing else, the OfficeJet is not cheap at almost $500. However, it is a high-end printer and is capable of scanning resolutions up to 4800dpi, so you should be very happy with the results.

If anyone happens to come across another solution to this problem, please use our feedback forum to let me know.

Q. I'm bit confused about wireless encryption levels and was wondering if you could explain them to me. Some of the wireless devices I've come across say that they are using 40-bit encryption, while others say they are using 128-bit and/or 64-bit. Are these encryption levels compatible with each other?

A. Yes, 128-bit Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) devices can be used with both 40- and 64-bit WEP devices as long as the device driver has a way to set the lower encryption level. The encryption level is determined by the encryption key length. If a device is capable of 128-bit encryption, it is inherently capable of 40-bit, unless the vendor decides for some reason not to allow the lower encryption level.

In regards to 64-bit and 40-bit encryption, these are also compatible. The reason for this is that 64-bit WEP is really the same as 40-bit WEP.

The lower level of WEP encryption uses a 40-bit, 10-hex character secret key set by the user and a 24-bit Initialization Vector, which is not under user control. Some vendors refer to this level of WEP as 40-bit, others as 64-bit. Either way, they're the same encryption level and can interoperate.

The higher level of WEP encryption, commonly referred to as 128-bit WEP, actually uses a 104-bit, 26-hex characters, secret key, set by the user and a 24-bit Initialization Vector, which is not under user control. I hope this helps to alleviate your confusion.

Q. I just replaced my old Windows 2000 notebook computer with a new Windows XP Professional laptop. I love my new system, particularly Windows XP. It's just so much easier to use than Windows 2000 and it seems to crash far less. I do have one problem with it, though. Back on my Windows 2000 PC, I used to spend a lot of time using an application called NetMeeting. This was an important program for me, but for some reason Microsoft seems to have removed it from Windows XP. Can you tell me if it's possible for me to transfer my old version of NetMeeting onto my new PC? I really need access to this program. Thanks!

A. For those of you not familiar with it, NetMeeting is a Microsoft application shipped with Windows that allows users to participate in virtual meetings, work in shared applications and share data over the Internet or your company intranet.

When Windows XP was introduced, Microsoft for some reason removed NetMeeting from the communication group where it previously resided. As a matter of fact, they took it out of the menu completely. However, it hasn't been removed from the operating system. NetMeeting was actually already installed on your system after you perform a full install of Windows XP. It just won't appear on the Start menu until it's activated.

To activate NetMeeting just go to the Start button and click Run. Now enter CONF on the run line and click OK. This will launch the NetMeeting Wizard. Supply the wizard with the necessary information, and then select the Put a shortcut to NetMeeting on my desktop (and/or on my Quick Launch bar) check box. NetMeeting should start and is now listed in the most frequently used programs list on the Start menu. Enjoy!

Use our feedback form to submit your questions on home or SOHO networking issues. We cannot guarantee to answer every question we get, but we’ll consider them all.



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