To connect a printer to a network without a host PC or file server, you need a dedicated print server. To connect it wirelessly, you need a print server with a wireless networking interface – which is exactly what you get with the Troy PocketPro USB Wireless. Plus, as you can tell from the name, the PocketPro is unusual in that it works with the latest USB printers, rather than just parallel ones as with other servers, and you can share these on mixed Windows, Apple Mac, Unix/Linux and Novell networks.
Also given away somewhat by the name, the PocketPro USB is a small, pocket-sized device drawing power from a separate external AC adapter. In addition to the built-in wireless interface with its typical rubber stub antennae, a fixed 10/100Mbps Ethernet interface is also provided. However, the two can’t be used together, with the fixed interface included for setup and for use as a backup should the wireless LAN have a problem. Another limitation is the single USB port, which is only 1.1 compatible, with a small test button which, when pressed, generates a text-based test page to check the connection to the printer.
Supporting software comes on CD-ROM with a choice of either a custom setup utility or Web-based configuration. The Web interface is the most intuitive of the two and using this we were able to set up the PocketPro to work on 802.11b and 802.11g networks although, as the actual interface is only 802.11b, it can’t take advantage of the higher data rates available on a “g” network. It is, though, possible to configure the server to work both on peer-to-peer (ad-hoc) wireless networks and in infrastructure mode, connecting to the wireless LAN via a central wireless access point.
In terms of security there’s the expected support for WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) but not the latest WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) technology, which is more secure. However, the WEP encryption worked well enough apart from a small problem when trying to enter the shared keys. But this only applied to the custom setup utility and was easily resolved, simply by using the Web interface. The latest firmware also adds support for 802.1x authentication, to further enhance security on networks with RADIUS authentication servers, with WPA extensions also planned for the future.
Any PCL or PostScript printer can be attached to the Troy print server, with no special setup required. However, suitable drivers need to be installed at the client end and there are no facilities to automatically download these on demand (unless you’re printing via a Windows server in which case the host server can provide clients with drivers). It’s also worth pointing out that you can only share printers via this type of device, even if the hardware involved has other capabilities. So although you can attach multi-function printers with built in scanners, copiers and fax modems, the extra facilities can’t be accessed.
It proved very easy to configure the PocketPro USB Wireless print server to share a printer on a Windows network with similarly straightforward configuration for Apple, UNIX/Linux and NetWare environments. Plenty of supporting documentation is included, plus there’s support for a wide range of popular SNMP network management tools, including HP’s JetAdmin used to manage LaserJet and other HP printers.
Print quality and speed are down to the printer involved but the print server does have a part to play and the USB 1.1 printer port and 11Mbps 802.11b wireless interface both limit throughput. However, in practice few users will notice a difference compared to the same printer connected to a wired server. Added to which you get the benefit of being able to put printers exactly where you need them without having to cable in extra network connections.
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