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Just because I can...

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Back in March of 2005 I found myself with the unlikely need to print from a DOS-based program to a USB printer in a stand-alone environment.  At the time, I documented the process, mostly for myself.  That article has now accumulated one hundred and seventy-six thousand, six hundred and two three four hits during the intervening 3 years.

What this means, even to this day, as the hits continue to climb at a steady pace, is that about once every nine minutes (!!) somebody does a search on how to make this happen.  I even get email via my blog asking me to "please me tell how print dos to my usb".  Almost weekly.  Seriously.

You people need to upgrade.  At least give Windows 98 a go.  I guess the old adage still holds: If it ain't broke...

Just because I can...

posted on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 4:14 PM


# re: DOS - By No Means Dead 1/8/2009 11:36 AM Robin
Dave: Haha, I must be the one 9 minutes ago :-) Yes, old habits die hard. Yes, who wants to replace something that is working well, and (finally) yes, who amongst us hasn't replaced something that is still working well, but decided to replace it anyway because, well, gosh darn, it will be obsolete any second, JUST TO FIND that it has created a causal chain reaction of "oh, this doesn't work anymore" and "oh, that will now need to be upgraded" or even better from your local computer guru " oh (barely hidden snicker) there isn't even an adapter cable to make that work any more". This happens to me every year or two and I still never learn.
Here is my story:
Up here in the wild nether regions of Canada, we are a cleaning supplies distributor with a software (yep a DOS'er) package called ABACUS II. It's a grand little package that was cheap, had a pricing matrix that we needed, and we've learned to make it sing for us. Faithful reliable, blah, blah. Anyway, a few of it's detractions are that yes, it can only read LPT1,2 and 3. To it, USB probably stands for Unless Sumtin Bad happens, lol. Anyway, another niggly is that we still need to print out real honest to goodness two part invoices on dot matrix printers. Now, lets set the table for you. We print all our packing slips to laser printers and our Bizhub Workhorse. No problem. Heck, they know what a USB port is, can be fully networked etc. But I am having problems with my faithful Oki 320 Turbo dot matrix printers printing from within Abacus in Vista via USB. These Dot matrix printers were physically attached to windows 98 systems via parallel port. Yep, LPT1 heaven. I have another one in the back printing out invoices to ship out the back door that is an XP, but has a parallel port. No problem, still have an LPT1 port. I can also change from within Abacus the printing port (to LPT2 or LPT3) and have used "net use" to map virtual lpt ports so that we can print out invoices from other networked computers. But my "upgrade" has got me stumped. P.S. Did I tell you I have a local network of 11 computers all connected to a server?
I now have to upgrade my Point of Sale computers (the ones that had the Oki 320 Turbo dot matrix printers physically attached to ) for helping customers walking in through the door. The upgrade is necessary because Abacus software developers are telling me that the next upgrade will not work with Windows 98. Period. Arggh. Anyway, Scotsman that I am, I bought the latest low end Dell (All these POS computers do is run Abacus ) so anything could run it as far as computing power. I think maybe even a Sharp calculator, lol. Anyway back to the story. New dells don't have parallel ports. Bought a "USB to IEEE Universal Printer plug" cord. Plugged it in, recognized the cord, the printer, installed the current Vista driver for that printer. Wouldn't print a test page even in Windows. Ok, that didn't work. Tried a few other things. Then noticed one of my Oki printers also had a USB port on it. Got a USB printer cable. Plugged it in, it recognized the cable, the printer and loaded the driver for vista. Printed out a test page from the dialogue box. It worked!!!! Now, to my problem at hand. Set this printer to "share", so that I could "net use" the "networked" (even though it's physiclly attached to this computer) printer. Did the net use thing, said it was attached successfully. Then tried to print from Abacus. Nothing. Remember, from within Abacus, it just prints out to LPT1. Abacus says that the lpt1 is not ready (in other words the port is not open according to Abacus). The beauty of this is that if there is nothing to print to, Abacus locks up and we have to kick everybody out of the system and reset "network flags" within Abacus. What a pain. Does anybody, and I do mean anybody, have any ideas for me? Anybody, really anybody at all.


# re: DOS - By No Means Dead 1/8/2009 11:48 AM Robin
I should mention that the loopback adapter idea sounds great, but the POS computers still need to be on our work network, not on the "virtual" loopback adapter scheme. Can it be on one network and yet print out to another network?

"Do the questions I ask make me sound inexperienced or just dull"

# re: DOS - By No Means Dead 1/8/2009 1:37 PM Dave
Hey Robin,

Hello to a fellow Canadian. I'm in Kitchener, ON.

The loopback adapter was just to simulate a network. Since you have one, you don't need to do that.

I think your problem is that you don't have an actual physical parallel port. Remember, DOS isn't going to know about any kind of tricks Windows does to simulate one.

Off the top of my head, you could try one of these:

Might just do the trick.


# re: DOS - By No Means Dead 1/8/2009 2:02 PM Dave
BTW, that article is up to 244,042 hits now. As of today at 2pm EST, that's one every 8.25 minutes. It's getting better, but not much...

# re: DOS - By No Means Dead 1/8/2009 2:02 PM Robin
Hey Dave:
Thanks for the quick response. Funny that you would provide that link. I just ordered that exact card from my local supplier, lol. Should come in a day or so. I will let you know. I still haven't figured out why the dos printing won't work when windows recognizes the printer, works in windows, and I "net use" the port so that there is "virtually" an lpt1 port that the computer sees. I mean, as long as the printer is shared it's "on line" and can be seen by the computer. And as long as the net use command is done properly, as far as the computer is concerned it has an lpt1 (at least it did in xp!) and all Abacus cares about is that it can unload it's print job into a port called lpt1. When I need to print to a differnt dot matrix printer from another computer in the network, it works like a charm. I just don't see the difference. Perhaps the cold is eating into my brain. Perhaps I'm too old. Perhaps I should have been born 10 years later, and it would have been a more natural thing for me to be learning. My guy says it could have to do with the port speed settings. Hmm, I smell a big bill for nothing. lol. Take care.


# re: DOS - By No Means Dead 1/8/2009 2:04 PM Dave
Wait a minute. Every 8.25 minutes is WORSE...

I weep for humanity.


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