The last posting described how a VPN connection blocks the ability to print to a local network printer. Sadly, the only way to restore the ability to print over the local network connection is to just end the VPN session. There is no way to expose a network printer to a PC running a VPN connection that is hiding the local network. If anyone were to try to do something that might expose the printer, they would actually be creating a security issue by exposing something on the local network, which is what the VPN is trying to prevent. So the VPN printing issue can’t be fixed without creating a security hole (which clearly is a bad thing to do).
Well that’s not a very good answer. I work from home occasionally and use a VPN connection. There are lots of things I want to print – long emails, technical documents, etc. There are some things that I just don’t want read or study on a small laptop screen.
The simplest approach is to connect with a USB cable to the printer. This isn’t a bad solution using a laptop. I can sit on my patio doing email from my wireless laptop, and when I want to print an email I can walk inside to a printer and plug in to print. This low tech solution works with any USB printer, but clearly isn’t very convenient.
Another approach I have used is to “print” to a flash card or a USB “thumb drive”. By “print”, I mean that I create JPEG images of each page of the document I want to print. The reason for creating JPEG images for each page is that photo capable printers allow a flash card or thumb drive of JPEG images from a digital camera to be printed without using a PC. I can plug in my thumb drive and select “print all images” on the front panel to print my document. You are probably wondering how I create JPEG images for each page of the document. There are several “print to JPEG” products on the market. Each involves installing a printer driver that “prints” your document to a series of JPEG images, one per file. You can find several of these by searching on “jpeg printer driver” in your favorite search engine. I have to admit that although this solution works, I think most people would find it too much work to set up just to print their email when VPN connected.
Another way to print using a flash card or thumb drive is described in the following posting on Printing via Sneakernet. Be sure to note that this approach is a bit tricky to do when your printer is USB connected instead of using a parallel port connection.
I saved the best approach for last. Another approach I have used and one that my friends find the most convenient is to use Bluetooth, which is another wireless technology that some HP inkjet printers support, often through an optional accessory that plugs into a front host port. Even though Bluetooth is a wireless technology, it does not use network protocols for communication and therefore is not blocked by VPN connections. Bluetooth has shorter range and is slower than wireless networking (802.11), but it is a way to print wirelessly to a local printer while connected to a VPN network. For more information on Bluetooth printing, check out the following:
Bluetooth Printing - How to Print from a Bluetooth Notebook to a Bluetooth Enabled Printer Using Bl...
The following product specification lists printer models supported:
Next time, I’ll continue discussing the Print Spooler Unable to Connect issue.