Lexmark stubbornly refuses to make any effort toward providing, or at least letting other people provide, printer drivers for their devices – don’t buy from them if you need support for anything other than their operating system of choice.
After repeatedly acquiring throwaway inkjet printers from Lexmark and repeatedly wondering why my mother’s Ubuntu laptop can’t use them, my father finally accepted my suggestion of studying compatibility beforehand instead of buying on impulse – years of pedagogy finally paid off !
My parents required a compact wireless device supporting printing and scanning from their operating systems – preferably fast and silent, if possible robust and not too unsightly. No need for color, black and white was fine – though I would have pushed them toward color if multifunction laser printing devices capable of putting out colors were not so bulky. Those requirements led us toward the Samsung SCX-4500W.
I connected the Samsung SCX-4500W on one of the Ethernet ports of my parent’s router and went through the HTTP administration interface. The printing controls are extremely basic – but the networking configuration surprised me with a wealth of supported protocols : raw TCP/IP printing, LPR/LPD, IPP, SLP, UPnP, SNMP including SNMP v3, Telnet, email alert on any event you want – including levels of consumables… Anything I can think about printing on top of my mind is there. The funniest thing is that neither the product presentation, nor the specification sheet or the various reviews advertise that this device boasts such a rich set of networking features… Demure advertising – now that’s a novel concept !
I set-up wireless the printer’s 802.11 networking features, unplugged the Ethernet cable, rebooted the device… And nothing happened. No wireless networking, no error and, when I reconnected the Ethernet cable and got back to the administration interface, the radio networking menu was not even available anymore. After careful verification I could reliably reproduce that behaviour. At that stage, my parents were already lamenting the sorry state of the ever-unreliable modern technology – and most users would have been equally lost.
I pressed on and found that I was not alone in my predicament. User experiences soon led me to the solution : I had configured my parent’s radio network to use WPA with TKIP+AES encryption (the best option available on their access point) but the Samsung SCX-4500W was unable to support that properly. The administration interface’s radio networking menu proposed TKIP+AES but silently failed to establish a connection and seemed to screw the whole radio networking stack. Only setting my parent’s Freebox and all other devices on the network, to use TKIP only instead of TKIP+AES yielded a working setup with a reachable printer, at the cost of using trivially circumventable security to protect the network’s traffic from intrusion.
Now that is seriously bad engineering : not supporting a desirable protocol is entirely forgivable – but advertising it in a menu, then failing to connect without generating the slightest hint of an error message, and as a bonus wedging the user into an irrecoverable configuration is a grievous sin. I managed to overcome the obstacle, but this is a device aimed at the mass market and I can perfectly understand its target audience’s desire to throw it out of the window.
On that problem was solved, configuring the clients over the network was a breeze and pages of nice print were soon flying out quickly and silently. In summary, the Samsung SCX-4500W is a stylish printing and scanning device that lives up to its promises – apart from that nasty bug that makes me doubt Samsung’s quality control over its networking features.
Scanning with the Samsung SCX-4500W is another story entirely – it should work with the xerox_mfp SANE backend, but only through USB. For now I have found no hope of having it scan for a Linux host across the network.