Archive for the ‘Tutorials’ Category

I have a Brother HL-L2340DW, which has consistently been Lifehacker’s user-selected best printer. I love it, but today ran into a major issue. After realizing that it is advertised as being a Google Cloud-Print Enabled device, I decided to link it directly with my Google account. The advantage to doing this instead of setting it up in the traditional way that Google Cloud Print uses is that it does not require a connected computer to be on, with Chrome’s background service running, in in order to print to the device remotely.

The issue I ran into was that, whenever I attempted to link my Google account, I would receive the error “Unable to connect. Please check your network settings.” After playing around in the devices other settings, I realized that I would receive the same error when attempting to check for firmware updates. Since I was accessing the device via its HTTP interface, and have had no issues printing to it over wi-fi, I knew that it was not having problems connecting to the internet. This told me that the device was simply failing to connect to outside servers, despite a successful network connection, and that threw up a flag for me, based on experience with computers that have given similar errors. I guessed that the date and time on the printer were not correct, causing it to reject valid security certificates from outside servers due to the disparity.

So, simple fix, right? Well, not quite. After failing to find a setting on the devices web interface on onscreen LCD panel that would allow me to edit, or indeed even view the time settings, I was puzzled. Many Google searches brought me to solutions, both from official Brother troubleshooting and elsewhere, with step-by-step guides on how to set the device’s date and time. All of these supposed that my printer had an LCD color touchscreen on-board, but it does not. The official Brother guides all gave a list of applicable models, inclusive of mine. I found one Google Help page with a discussion going on for two years, with dozens of individuals chiming in with the problem, but the “best answer” which was locked in from an administrator amounted to nothing more than “call Brother support.” The thread was locked, so I couldn’t chime in with the solution I found (D’oh!). Hence, I bring my insights here, to my own humble corner of the internet, in the hopes that Google will index it for the benefit of others struggling with this same predicament.

So, what’s the fix?

Well, I was right, it’s a certificate issue caused by the device clock. And to my knowledge, if you have this model or a similar Brother model with a single-line, monochrome LCD interface, you cannot set the clock manually. It appears to pull its clock settings from the DNS server. If you’re like me, you probably know where this is going now.

DNS is, by default, provided by your ISP. It may or may not provide an accurate timestamp. And particularly lately, DNS has been a bit, well, unstable. But fear not, Google can save you! As you may already be aware, Google offers their own free public DNS service.  I recommend anyone who is adept enough to do so, to set all of your computers to use these DNS servers over the ones provided by your ISP. Anytime you can reduce the control your ISP has over you, I’m all for it. Changing the printer’s DNS settings to use Google’s Public DNS solves this problem, allowing for firmware updates and other outside connections to third-party servers.

To do this, go to your printer’s HTTP interface, by typing the device’s IP address into your browser’s address bar, on a computer connected to the same network. You can find your printer’s IP address on the third page of the settings printout accessible from the LCD menu controls, or via “ipconfig /all”. If you need help on this, hit me up in the comments.

  • You should initially land on a page similar to this:

 

  • From here, click on the “Network” tab, then the “Wireless” sub-menu.

 

  • Then click on “Advanced Settings>>”. Notice that the primary and secondary DNS servers are both set to “0.0.0.0”.

 

  • Change those to “8.8.8.8” and “8.8.4.4” respectively (these are Google’s Public DNS servers).

 

  • Click “Submit”. After a moment, you should see “Submit OK” appear in green near the top of the page.

 

  • That’s it. You should now be able to update firmware and connect to outside services such as Google Cloud Print.

Some have come up against an aesthetic challenge to embracing Google Chrome’s fantastic “Create Application Shortcuts” feature.  The trouble is that when you create an application shortcut for a website using Chrome, the program assigns it the “favicon” of the linked website for the Windows icon—and favicons don’t tend to come in any pretty high-resolution varieties, as they are intended to be displayed next to the web address in the browser, inside of a very small space.  These icons are fine in the Start menu, where small icons are used anyway, but for the desktop or the Windows 7 taskbar, they can be pretty ugly.  When I set out for a solution, I found mostly confused discussion.  So, I worked out my own solution, a workaround, which I’m going to share with you now.

You will need to find an icon that you would like to use.  I great resource that I’ve found for high resolution, quality icons is IconArchive.  I always go there first for icons.  The icon I will use in this tutorial is from the Delikate icon set, by artist Kyo-Tux.  It is located here.  Wherever your icon comes from, it will need to be a file with the extension “.ICO”.

The first thing, of course, is to create the application shortcut you want.  Browse to the website you want to use as an application using Chrome, and then click the wrench icon in the top left.  Hover over “Tools”  and click “Create Application Shortcuts…”  Choose where you want the shortcuts to go, and press “Create.”

Now, locate the shortcuts you want to edit the icon for.  I usually don’t bother changing the icons in the Start Menu, but you can if you want to, using the same method described here.

Right-click on the shortcut.  If it is in the taskbar (as shown), you will need to right-click again on the title of the shortcut in the menu that pops up.  In the resulting menu, click on “Properties.”

01

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I just had to troubleshoot a small problem in my Windows 7 installation, one that had been driving me bonkers.  You see, for some reason, Whenever I pinned iTunes to my Start menu, it would show up on the list as “iTunes (2).”  This would make sense if there were another iTunes shortcut (or any file named “iTunes”) pinned to the Start menu, but there wasn’t.  I tried simply renaming the file, and while it would “let” me do it, it just changed the filename back to “iTunes (2)” when I hit Return.  The obvious answer was that there was another file with the same name in the folder where this link was stored.  But, where was this file stored?

The exciting conclusion follows, after a word from our sponsors…

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furball Have you ever seen those really cool pumpkin carvings that look like photographs?  Yeah, me too.  I wondered to myself, aloud, while alone in my office, “How do they do that?”  It came to me that, of course, they must first start with a photograph.  I reasoned from there that, naturally, they must convert the photo into a two tone image, as the pumpkin carving will be composed of only two “colors” (either pumpkin or not pumpkin).  Well, from there, I knew just what to do.  Read on, and so will you!

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