January 13, 2011

How to set up a LaserWriter 8500 for Mac OS X Snow Leopard

The LaserWriter 8500 was a hell of a workhorse printer for desktop publishing about 12 years ago. Ours cost a couple of grand or so, and even generic toner isn't cheap, but one cartridge will print 14,000 pages. And it prints up to A3 paper (11.7 in x 16.5 in). Ours has well over 50,000 pages on it, and it's in fine shape despite the cat hair and fur balls inside every nook and cranny.

But it no longer functions in the latest version of OS X, as they've finally got rid of AppleTalk. So it will require a bit of elbow grease to get it up and running.

What I did to get it going worked for me, but it was enough trouble that it seemed that it might be helpful to document the process. Several parts of this ordeal worked unexpectedly, and the manual is both extremely out of date and some of the wording is ambiguous.

One word of warning is that you won't be able to set some of the less critical defaults (like turning off the rather useless startup page) unless you're able to connect an OS 9 computer to the printer and run the printer setup utility. Yes, you heard right. OS freaking 9. If you have an old G4 and an OS 9 install CD that came with it, you can just boot off the CD and do what you need without installing the OS. It's hard to believe how quaint and fugly the Mac world was back then. Remember Conflict Catcher?

Anyway, here's what worked for me.

To make this work, you'll need 3 bits of information to start. The MAC (machine) address, the IP address, and the printer name that was assigned when it was set up a long time ago. If you don't remember (like me) and you turned off the startup page, you'll have to return it to its default state. You do this by popping out the communication switch, turning printer off, turning it back on (wait for it to print the page) and then pop the switch back in. Unless you want to do this all again.

On the printed page, you'll see the MAC address (mine is 00:0E:3B:00:2A:1B). The IP address will be which doesn't do anyone any good, so it will have to be changed. And the name still needs to be set to get it to work under Snow Leopard.

Now you need to determine a permanent IP address for the printer; one that's accessible on your network, but one that won't be overwritten by your router or server or whatever that controls DHCP for your network. I chose because it's far enough away (on this home network) from everything else that there's no chance it will conflict with another IP.

Make up a name for your printer. Don't use spaces or funky characters to play it safe. I thought lw_8500 was a nice plain vanilla printer name.

Add these two items to your /etc/hosts file in the form of

IP_address (space) printer_name
like this: lw_8500

hosts is owned by root, so edit it something like this in a terminal window:

sudo nano /etc/hosts

and then enter your password when it asks for it.

Nano is a little funky if you're not used to terminal appications, but take your time and it will be fine.

Scroll down to the bottom of the text.
Enter lw_8500

(or whatever you've come up with) on a new line.
Press ctrl-o to write write the file.
Enter to save.
ctrl-x to quit.

The next step is to type this into a terminal window to force an entry into your systemís arp table (whatever the hell that means):

arp -s hostname printer_Ethernet_address

such as:

sudo arp -s 08:00:07:64:d1:a4

(enter Mac user password)
Then, to assign the IP address to the printer, you simply ping the printer name:

ping printer_IP_name
like this:

ping lw_8500

(after it successfully pings the printer, press ctrl-c to end)

You can set a few preferences by telnetting in to the printer like this:

telnet lw_8500

and then enter your password (or set one).

That's it for the terminal stuff. Of course, the printer won't be recognized like a normal modern device. That would be too damn easy! So try this:

Go to the Print & Fax preference pane, and click the plus button.
Go to the IP tab.
Select Line Printer Deamon - LPD.
Enter in the address field.
Enter lpd://lw_8500/ in the location field.
For driver, select Apple LaserWriter 8500 v3010.103
And add.

Happy Printing!

* Postscript:
The 8500 is still working, but there seems to be a battery somewhere that's dead or a loose connection, so it keeps losing the configuration data and has to be reprogrammed every week or two. This means that I have to run through all the steps from pinging the printer and down. I'll update this if I figure that out.

Posted by Hal Eckhart at January 13, 2011 05:52 PM
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