08 September 2008

Trendnet: "We support Linux...not really"

Even when the box claims Linux compatibility, beware.

image of side of box claiming Linux compatibility

Seriously, they need to be more specific. When it says Linux is supported, they mean strictly that the hardware supports Linux. The software to configure the hardware does not. Tech support does not. And the hardware defaults to a static IP address that very likely is not accessible with your default route…even though it supports DHCP.

My apartment, at this moment, contains 6 Linux laptops, 1 MacBook Pro (roommate's), and 1 Linux desktop. The installation software doesn't even support OSX. There's actually a note in the booklet saying for Mac users that after it's configured they can go to whatever IP address they've assigned it. So, if you buy the hardware on the basis that it will work fine in your Windows'-free household, you are in for a wonderful surprise.

On the 2nd call to tech support I mentioned there was a Mac, which they do support. He still tried to convince me that a Windows box is absolutely necessary. Ergh. Finally, Daniel Chen asked the guy if it's possible to cut the router out of the picture and using a regular Cat5 (I don't have a crossover) talk to the print server to set it up. He said yes. Why didn't he just say that before? Anyway, to make a Trendnet TE100-P1U work do this:

  1. Connect the TE100-P1U to the computer with an ethernet cable
  2. Assign a 192.168.0.x (I used 192.168.0.100) IP to the wired interface sudo ifconfig eth0 192.168.0.100
  3. Make sure you can ping 192.168.0.1
  4. In your web browser go to 192.168.0.1
  5. Click "Change IP Address" on the left
  6. Either configure it for DHCP or for an IP that is accessible to your route.

For that last step, I told it to use DHCP. Once I saw it get a lease in my router's configuration page, I made it use Static DHCP. Static Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol…sounds funny, but it keeps the assigned IP address tied to that MAC address so that the lease doesn't expire and move your printer to some other IP address, causing you to have to reconfigure all your printer settings. So I recommend doing that.

Go System -> Administration -> Printing. Click on New Printer. Choose "LPD/LPR Host or Printer" and enter the IP address the print server is using. Leave Queue blank and go on. From there, just configure it like a normal USB printer.

Moral of the story: just because the box says the hardware supports Linux doesn't mean it is possible to install or configure the hardware using Linux or that the company is willing to help any further than advising you to change operating systems.


12 comments:

Sup said...

Well, from what you are saying, it does not sound to me like it is not possible to configure from Linux. After all, you managed to do it.

Most wireless routers I have met (that might be like 10 different devices) come with static address, so you have to manually set up an address on your computer and configure the router. I would not say those routers do not work with linux, it is certainly better than if they installed some crapware on my box so one could manage it like I suppose they would do on windows.

And nowadays it seems to me that nothing really cares about crossover cables - I do not have one and I am always able to connect anything to anything (ports have something in then that makes them ignorant of it), but then again I might just be lucky.

Shwan said...

Same here you di need to change ip even on windows , I think the support could just say to you write sudo blah balh and then it works of course! There is a problem I see with all support personal, they just get scared when you say you have linux!

Nikolas Coukouma said...

It's not luck. Crossover cables usually aren't needed due to automatic MDI/MDI-X detection. There's an optional protocol specified by the 1000baseT spec that's generally implemented, and most newer 100baseT hardware implement it as well (or have vendor-specific protocols that may or may not work).

Mackenzie said...

@sup:
* By documented methods, it is impossible.
* When you connect to the router by default, it is auto-configured for DHCP, so you automatically get an IP address that can talk to it. This device should use DHCP by default so it has a valid address, but instead they set a static IP that's not valid with most routers' default subnets (most default to 192.168.1.x, but this uses 192.168.0.1).

My issue is with the box saying they support Linux but then the documentation and the tech support not actually doing so. "Yes, we support Linux, but you must have Windows"...what?

Given that they are just reading off a prompt anyway, why can't tech support have a little thing that says "If they use Linux or Mac, click here" and then that takes them to a screen telling them to connect it with an ethernet cable, assign a 192.168.0.x address to the computer, and navigate in the browser to 192.168.0.1, since that's all that's needed? It seems stupid to me that they only have Windows instructions when Linux ones require...what? 1KB of overhead? Why assume that everyone has a Windows computer stashed somewhere? Mac-only households aren't uncommon.

Sup said...

mackenzie: well, they probably have crap tech support, which I am afraid can be said about many companies. But quick Googling (fourth hit on Trendnet TE100-P1U manual) revealed this page: http://downloads.trendnet.com/TE100-P1U/Manual/

There you have it, a manual (http://downloads.trendnet.com/TE100-P1U/Manual/QIG_TE100-P1U(English).pdf) - which I am sure you must have gotten with the device - that mentions what you need to do with your mac (I love how there is a 12-step-inctructions for windows and a small box for mac:-)) - the same actually applies to any unix.

But whoops, there is also UNIX manual ( http://downloads.trendnet.com/TE100-P1U/Manual/UnixUG_TE100-P1P_P1U.pdf), which is packed with info. Are you sure you have not gotten any of these?
I would actually say their unix support is quite good, at least judging by the manuals.

Mackenzie said...

@sup:

Both the paper booklet and the manual that was on the cd that came wit it had only screenshots of the Windows program for the setup instructions.

If you look at the Unix manual you linked, it says, "Both of these methods require that the Print Server device have a valid IP Address before you can connect to the Print Server and complete the configuration." Since it had an IP address outside the range of what the router would talk to, that's not exactly what I'd call "valid." It also suggests that you try pinging it, which, due to its out-of-range IP address, I couldn't do to complete any of the subsequent steps.

Sup said...

Yes it says so, but just under it is explained how to configure the static connection.

"Both of these methods require that the Print Server device have a valid IP Address before you
can connect to the Print Server and complete the configuration.
So the first step is to assign a valid IP Address to the Print Server, as explained below."

And the explanation follows. Well, it is actually rather obscure, but I guess it is generic for about any unix box. That for the unix manual (I am surprised they did not put it on the CD when they made it - and they are to be blamed for this)

As for the booklet, it clearly says that you can access it with static address (page 4, the top) (the instructions are targeted at mac, but what does it matter). They could say "for non windows users", though.

Mackenzie said...

The Mac instructions in the booklet say it can be configured in the web browser *after* the installation utility on the CD has been run on another computer.

Sup said...

Oh sorry, I meant the manual that come along on the CD.

Yuriko said...

Random footnote that might be of interest re: "Static Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol". These are usually called reservations, the idea being that while the device and subnet are both configured for DHCP, this device should always be handed the same IP.

Leonid said...

Thanks much for the post. A very similar technique worked for my Trendnet "Easy-N-Updated". You saved me a bunch of time.

musicBoxVT said...

Hey. Thank you so much. Your post really sorted out my problems. I just got this print server on sale and was struggling to get Ubuntu talking to it. Thanks for your help.