Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fixing the Mac VMWare Fusion Windows XP Local printer issue

Last week, I spent what felt like an inordinate amount of time (any time feels like too long when printing should be basic, easy function) trying to finally work out some of my printing issues on my new MacBookPro. I’d actually let the problem fester for about as long as I’ve had the Mac because I had the back up of the network printer and because we’re not supposed to print unless absolutely necessary in our office these days. But it got to the point that I needed to print & didn't want to use the networked printer. I could not!

My computing setup is this:
• MacBook Pro – 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 4 GB 1067 MHz DDR3 – OSX Version 10.5.7
• With a Windows XP virtual machine through VMWare Fusion version 2.0.4
o The default memory allocation had been 512MB, but since the majority of our work (even some old ASP support, lots of Access dbs, Frontpage, remote desktop, etc.) still takes place in the Win environment, I’d almost immediately upped it to 2.26 GB (max recommended = 3.684GB)

The problem was that I could never print to the local (USB-attached) printer from the Windows (VMWare) side. No matter what I tried, making sure that the “Virtual Machine” “Settings” included “Printers” enabled, etc., it seemed like my attempts to print to the HP1320 at most made my printer hang, orange light on and all. At its worst, I got a printout which said simply ERROR: timeout; OFFENDING COMMAND: timeout ; STACK: and the whole issue seemed to make printing impossible from the Mac OS X side, too, from that point on.

Since then, I followed the instructions at http://communities.vmware.com/message/1174729#1174729 to change my virtual machine from NAT networked to Bridged networking, disabled the virtual machine printers setting, made sure I had USB device support enabled in the virtual machines setting , then set up the printer using the Windows add printer (or was it the plug-and-play auto-detect of local devices) function. Either way, it was done natively through Windows, not through the Virtual Machine settings.

I’d tried so many things (that I’ve since forgotten) to try and troubleshoot the issue. I think I had downloaded new HP 1320 (Windows) printer drivers from HP & reinstalled using that.
Initially I'd thought that the "Bridged" networking / Windows installation way of doing things hadn't fixed the issue. But at some point, after I’d actually stopped & relaunched the virtual machine fully, it seemed to work. It’s a little slow, but it’s usable. There may be additional tweaks I could make to speed things along. My spool settings are to spool (vs. to print directly), then under spool settings, to print immediately. I don’t have the “Print spooled documents first” setting checked off and the Printer is Not Shared on Windows. I find it odd (maybe it’s because I don’t actually understand all of the printing “mechanics”, so to speak – it’s been a black box to me in the past) that none of the ports are checked off if you look at the Printer Properties’ listing of ports, not even the USB one.

Whatever, it works… for now! My main bit of advice for dealing with the VMWare Fusion side of things is to totally close out of the virtual machine when attempting to troubleshoot system-level issues, such as the use of peripherals while in your virtual machine… Normally, in the evening, I just suspend the VM, rather than closing out of the VMWare Fusion app completely.

Next time I spend some time messing with the virtual machine to optimize it for Windows use, I’m going to try remapping the keyboard (if possible), so key combos I’ve traditionally relied on – be they the Print Screen button (there is no equivalent on the MacBook, that I can find), the Alt-F11 to get into the Visual Basic editing environment, the Control-click for selecting a single line, or others, (yes, Ctrls C, X, and V work while in Windows VM, thk goodness! I just have to remember to use the Cmmd key combos when moving back into the Mac OS X side).

Maybe the dual OS is kind of a pain, but I think the ability to use and be fluent in working with both is becoming increasingly valuable. More importantly for me, for now, I’m able to test web forms, pages, etc. from perspectives of both a Mac and a PC user! (and yes, it’s important – a local zoo built a web form that I was unable to use on my home machine (a Mac mini) – it was very frustrating and alienating... not a good thing...)

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