Saturday, September 13, 2008

Geeky Repair - Windows to Linux Printing

I finally found time to dig in and setup my Epson R260 printer for remote wireless printing from my Windows laptop. The printer is attached to a Linux machine, and setup was pretty straightforward (I think it was automaticlly detected) with the CUPS (Common Unix Printing System) to handle the print jobs. Everytime I wanted to print someting from my laptop, I had to unplug the USB cable and plug it into the laptop USB port. Just yesterday, I managed to set it up so that I could access the CUPS server from my laptop, so I could send the print job over Wi-Fi. It was easy, once I found this article on the web:,289483,sid39_gci1250451,00.html

Below are the high level steps
  1. Make sure the printer is setup on the linux machine, and is able to print using CUPS.
  2. Open the CUPS service to be accessible from other computers. Here is how to do this: Invoke the browser, and type http://localhost:631. You should see the CUPS service page. Note the printer name, and change settings for that printer to share on other computers, and enable remote configuration (you should see check boxes for this).
  3. Once you share, you should be able to type http://hostname:631 (hostname can be found by typing hostname command in a xterm window) and access the same CUPS service page. Or, in case DNS is not setup, you should be able to type an IP address in lieu of host name (e.g. http://192.1628.1.5:631) and get the CUPS page. (Type hostname -i to get this IP address). Be sure you use the WiFi interface IP address (or the Ethernet interface IP address, as appropriate).
  4. CUPS listens on port 631, so the goal here is to open 631 across all firewalls. Invoke the Firewall on both Linux and Windows computers, and open up port 631. You may also have to do this step on your wireless router. Be sure to open up only to internal network, and not externally to the world.
  5. Now, go to your Windows computer, and try accessing the CUPS printer. You can first try using the browser as in step 3, and then add it as a network printer using the Control Panel, Add Network Printer option. In my case, the network printer URL is something like It is hard coded to the IP address, but it will work as long as the wireless router keeps the linux machine assigned to that IP.
You should now be able to print from your windows computer to this networked printer.

Friday, September 12, 2008

House Painting - Exterior

We got our home exteriors painted this month - something to blog home about! It had been more then 5 years since the house exteriors were painted, and there was quite some flaking in the front, which is what prompted us to look into this. We decided to use the tax stimulus payment for this purpose - spend on an American business and thus helps the economy! Some tips based on our experience below.

Getting Quotes: Though I have painted the inside of my house, I did not want to risk painting the outside. It is a lot of work, and a bad job isn't worth the risk. So, I called and obtained quotes from 3 places for our single story 1300 sq ft home. They did a quick 5 minute visit and give us the estimate and some color brochures and company material. One was a referral from a close friend, and the other two were from the Money Mailer coupons that came in "junk" mail.
  • One of the quotes had a basic rate of $2000, and extras that made it $3000. The extras included a lot of good stuff, and they clearly mentioned they were not the cheapest, but do high quality work.
  • The lowest was close to $1800, and included all the typical stuff like scraping, power wash, priming, and of course painting the body, trim in different color (all part of a 21-point process, as they call it). I picked the lowest quote, since the guy followed up and checked - he just made it easier for me. I talked to him about painting on the brick in front and chimney which added another $120.
  • The referral guy came close at $2100, but forgot to bring color brochures, and asked me to go to the store and check out samples. I figured that isn't going to work.
Picking Colors: All three surprisingly said Kelly Moore paint will be used. I don't know why, but I had no preference anyway, as long as the color and quality was good. However, I did want to pick the right color. I had Malibu Beige in mind, with a dark gray Metro for trim, after breaking my head and discussing with my wife over the color brochures, and checking out some online tools on Kelly Moore website. I also had a chat with the owner, who said that is a popular color, and he would show me samples before they start painting. We agreed he would come in Tuesday 8AM to start work.

Big Mistake not checking out sample color: Well, Tuesday came, and some guys show up at 8AM, but not the owner. One of them introduced himself as the foreman in charge, and he said he had instructions to use Malibu Beige and Swiss White for trim, metro for accent. He explained it was all a great choice, but did not have the samples to show. I wasn't so sure, but he insisted the color choices were good, so I let him go with it. I left for work, and the guys finished the job at the end of the day by the time I came back from work. Guess what? The Malibu Beige wasn't showing as good as I had thought it would be! especially against the Swiss snow-white trim. It was a bummer, and I realized what a big mistake it was to let these guys go with the color without checking out samples on the wall. They got their check, but I called the owner and blasted him for not showing up with color samples as he promised, and going for a different trim color than I had suggested. He offered to change the trim for free, but said he couldn't do anything about the beige body color, but felt the job had come out well, and insisted it was still a popular color.

Volte face changing the trim: A couple of days later, the guys showed up and repainted the trim with Metro (dark grayish purple), and it was a total volte face! Now, it was really showing very well, and reflected what exactly I had in mind when I picked the colors. I now thanked the guys and the owner for a wonderful job!

Bottomline, it matters most to really check out the color samples, how they look on your outside wall, before you start the job. Don't let them do a rush job without insisting on this important step, or you could end up feeling cheated, even if the painter did an excellent job.