HP DeskJet 3050A — The Missing Manual

Printers used to be a simple peripheral: connect it to your computer and hope that it will automatically configure the correct driver. If your printer was newer than your OS you accepted that you had no choice but to insert the supplied CD and install the driver along with whatever useless software the manufacturer decided would “enrich your experience”.

In an ideal world a networked printer would be similarly simple: connect it to your network and proceed as before but without the USB cable. Entering a non-trivial wireless password into device with just 6 buttons would be a tedious but infrequent task. Sadly not that simple.

After failing to work out how to instruct my new HP printer which wireless network it should join I was forced to turn to the manual. Or I should say manuals since it came with two 77 page tomes along with a pictorial “setup poster” and little addendum about OS X Lion. Unfortunately only seven of those 154 pages are in English, and the grand sum of the installation advice is insert the CD into your computer and “follow the prompts to automatically configure your printer.” That instruction is actually superseded by the additional piece of paper in the box that informed me the CD was not compatible with OS X Lion and it was necessary to download the software from the Internet. Even the USB port is covered by a little sticker that makes it clear you should insert the CD before attempting to connect it to your computer using such old fashioned technology.

Somewhat stumped by the lack of prompt for a network and password, I duly downloaded and ran the software but the application was unable to locate my printer. Unsurprising given that it was not connected the network but I noticed in the Wifi menu that there was a new network called HP-Setup-[random-string] so I had my laptop connect to that. The printer was then found and the installer completed, still without any sort of wireless configuration. More inspiration followed as I used Apple’s Bonjour technology to connect to the printer’s embedded web server. Unfortunately the network settings page wanted to have me reconnect to a secure version of the webpage and that timed out.

A tea break followed and when I returned the printer was no longer broadcasting the temporary network that I had used earlier. 1 Some reading of the HP website revealed that the printer has a technology called Wi-Fi Protected Setup, but also known as WPS and by various vendor specific names. On an Apple router it is buried in a sub-menu labelled “Add Wireless Clients” 2 and on my O2 router it is disabled by default, possibly because of a known security vulnerability in the protocol. After some fruitless attempts to make it connect to the Apple router I checked the spec and discovered that its 802.11n compatibility is only for the overcrowded 2.4GHz band so would not be able to see my network.

The house 802.11g network runs on an O2 router which has a limited web interface but permits advanced configuration via telnet. The command to enable the WPS button on the front of the box is: > wireless wps config state=enabled

Success! Printing worked immediately although I was still perplexed why I could not access any settings via the printer’s built-in web server. In each web browser I tried, whenever I clicked on a settings page the current webpage told me it was now going to redirect me to a https:// link and then the web browser sat twiddling its thumbs forever more. Google was unable to help so I tried to connect to the https port directly using the current IP address. However I could not get the printer’s name to resolve when given to the usual tools of name resolution, host and dig. Not entirely unsurprising given that this is Bonjour not real DNS, but OS X does not have the UNIX getent command so I was stumped. Then I tried to ping the name and that did not work either, which made me realise that that Bonjour is about service advertisement not name resolution so simply taking the Bonjour name and trying a different protocol was not supposed to work. There are a number of apps which allow you to browse all advertised Bonjour services and from there I could see that no https:// service was advertised by the printer—connecting to https://printer.local could not work. Connecting to the printer’s actual IP address was successful for both secure and in-secure connections. Simple, really?

  1. It turns out that it will only do this for the first hour after it is turned on for the first time. After that you must use “Reset to Network Defaults” to put it back into that mode.[]
  2. and not available in Airport Utility 6.0, you must install the older version[]