This space holds helpful information about software and hardware and vendors
that Dr. Hain has discovered by trial and error.
Brother MFC- multifunction printers
The Brother MFC printers are impressive technological feat, and the older ones are built like a battleship. I have many different models in my office.
- 9970 -- Color
- We suggest don't even think about buying this printer. I tossed mine out at the office (that's about $600 down the drain). It is nothing but trouble. It is complicated, it is huge, it is expensive.
- See also: HPr MFP -- similar to the printers above, but doesn't work.
The black/white printers all share the same general good points and bad points.
Good points -- mostly hardware.
- Decent sheet feeder. This is a very big deal in a business environment. The sheet feeder doesn't stop scanning after the first 100 sheets. It even works pretty well after someone scans a paperclip or a staple.
- Fairly cheap for a business environment. This is the "IKEA" of printers.
- Capable of amazing things. In particular, you can scan to FTP or to a network address (given you can figure it out -- see below).
- Newer models have wireless ports -- it is always good to have a backup. That being said, setting up wireless is a huge headache, and best avoided if you can.
- Reasonable support site that has drivers. In recent years, not much seems to be changing. Looks like Brother sees their printers as "cash cows".
- Brother machines just never seem to quit.
Bad points about Brother printers-- mostly software
- Brother didn't
get it together with their scanning software. The bundled Paperport software is awful. We suggest uninstalling it, if you were foolish enough to install the entire Brother package. You really don't need anything but the printer driver, and these are available from Microsoft.
- Brother has many strange printer utilities that load up automatically. Most of them are useless.
- Each device has a very crude home page (This is good).
- There is a "br_admin" professional program. This is occasionally helpful. The most useful part is finding your printer's home page.
- Another br_admin lite -- takes up more space.
- Installation takes hours. You load this, you load that, you tweak this, you tweak that. You try this out -- very painful. This is why Brother printers are strong/cheap -- they are the IKEA of printers. My instructions below make it possible to set them up in an hour or so.
- Newer models are made out of more plastic. Not much to do about this. Older models rarely break.
- There is an amazing array of different models (see above), without much to differentiate them. In other words, it doesn't really get easier when you spend more money on the printer.
- The printer is not easy to maintain by yourself -- millions of tiny plastic sprockets. I guess the idea is that they are disposable.
- Toner for the color printer (9970) is extremely expensive. Suggest avoiding this guy.
Brother MFC-8890DW printer setup for scan to FTP or Network
The Brother MFC device is an awesome tool, but getting it to work is so challenging that it makes one wonder if the intent was to employ IT consultants.
Here is how you set it up for scan to FTP. I have no idea how to get this guy working for scan to email or scan to a directory. It looks very formidable -- perhaps requiring 2 or more days of experimentation. Scanning to FTP is at least possible. With this document to help - -you might get it working in 4 hours. Scanning to the network is a better idea, but again you will probably need to read my instructions below or get professional help.
First, realize that this is very tough, and if you make lots of mistakes, you may need 8 hours to get this working. You have to configure 3 separate devices: 1). Printer 2). Router 3). FTP server or network profile.
Brother did not feel that users needed printed documentation for this highly complex task, and suggest users download the documentation from the web. The documentation is both very long and incomplete. It is beautifully formatted however. The documentation on the CD that comes with the device is harder to use than the PDF that you can download on the web,because it is in HTML format, making it unsearchable. We think it is best to avoid the Brother documentation.
Printer configuration to scan to network or FTP
Brother uses regular html forms to configure its printers. Not very sophisticated ones -- but very plain vanilla html. There is no help, no feedback, and until you try the configuration out, you don't know if it works either. In other words, this is very crude. But it does work if you can make your way through it. Hopefully the instructions below will help.
General configuration common to both FTP and scan to network.
- Find the local address of your printer device (198.168.0.*) and browse to it using whatever browser you favor. The easiest way to do this is to install one of the BR admin (lite is OK) utilities, right-click on your device, and then choose "go to device page". If this takes 30 seconds or so -- just sit tight. That is the way things work with this administration tool. You can also find it by going to the menu on your printer (under internet options), or by using a utility (watch out for these, some have viruses in them).
- Click on the administration tab, and enter in the login name and password (the default is admin/access). In these days of "bots", perhaps it is best to change the password to protect the public, but within your own home, behind your router, it doesn't really matter.
Scan to directory.
- This is much much harder than it should be. It takes 20 minutes to do something that should take 2. It is very possible that you will never get it to work, because of the lack of any useful feedback from the printer. There are a very large number of "tricky points".
- First, locate the FTP/Network scan settings , and click on network (not FTP)
- Next, click on the Profile tab for that particular row and set up as above.
- The trial/error tricky part here is selecting the host address and store directory.
- For host address, either figure out your local target computer's numeric IP address using Ipconfig from command.com, or copy/paste your compute name. For example, 192.168.1.120. No slashes.
- Put either one into the Host address. Your printer will convert whatever you put in to a numeric IP address.
- Of course, This could be bad if it keeps changing .
- Constant changing is common when you let your router auto-assign IP addresses. This is the way most routers come "out of the box"
- If so, you will have to edit your router to use a static IP address.
- You should also set up your printer to have a static IP address for the same reason. This is part of the setup menu for TCPIP on the printer -- it is easiest to do this from the front panel -- it is very hard to do this remotely, for obvious reasons (i.e. you are mucking with the very thing that is allowing you to communicate with the printer). We suggest using something simple and easy to remember (such as 192.168.1.100). Then put this onto a label and stick it onto the printer, so it is hard to lose track of it.
- While we are not going to discuss this here, getting your Brother PC to work on wireless is another 2 hour job. Sort of like assembling a piece of IKEA furniture. Just awful software.
- Next, make sure whatever directory you want your scans to go into is "shared" -- i.e. navigate to it with explorer, right-click, and share. This is not so obvious -- there is NOTHING on the Brother web page (which has no help) that points this out.
- Now, put into the "Store directory" box, the name of the directory you shared (not the whole thing, just the name you "shared") into the "Store directory".
- Don't put in a front slash, and don't use the fully qualified name. It won't work. In other words, you can't use, "\X" as the store directory.
- Similarly, don't use X:\Y, Brother doesn't understand these things either
- You can use slashes after the share name. Such as X\Y\Z
- Finally, set up the authentication with a working username and password. You may have to put in the name of your PC as the domain -- i.e. use a username like myname@myPCname. You can figure out your "domain" when you login to your PC -- it will tell you. This is a trial/error thing. Brother seems to need a Domain name, even if you are not working under a domain at all.
- Submit. It will probably give you no useful feedback, so your next step is just to try it out.
- This page is not using Ajax (i.e. immediate feedback). Ajax may not have even existed when this printer was manu factored.
- Try it out. If you got everything right, it will work without complaint. If you got something wrong, it will just say it didn't work, or didn't authenticate. Then you go back and try again.
To set up FTP:
- Click on the FTP/Network Scan Settings tab, and change one of them to FTP. By the way, after many hours of trying, I finally figured out (by trial and error) how to do the network scanning (see below).
- Create a "user defined name" that is short and pithy. Unfortunately, Brother does not give you names that are dated.
- Now you are back on the Admin settings page. Chose FTP/Network Scan Profile and click.
- Pick a profile name and click on it (first one would be fine)
- Enter in some memorable name that reflects the quality you want (BW 200x100 is a fast one). Maybe "Black-White"
- Put in the host address (i.e. 192.168.0.*) of your FTP server. Note that you may have to set up your router so it always gives the FTP server the same dedicated address.
- For the Username/Password, you can either use anonymous, or an actual login. We suggest anonymous for local networks. Again, make sure your FTP server accepts anonymous logins for this option.
- See if this works. If it doesn't, you probably have a problem with either your router or FTP server.
FTP server configuration.
- I have a QNAP NAS FTP server, which sits on my internal network at a known internal IP address (a 198.168.0.*) type address.
- Many people may want to use a software FTP server however (see below). These tend not to work, and we suggest avoiding them if you can.
- Go into the configuration menu for your server, and make sure that it accepts anonymous FTP. If you are using a software server, you will need to figure out what it is named on your LAN. This could be difficult, as if it is named rather than at a dedicated IP, then your printer will somehow have to access DNS, which could be challenging. It may well be that Brother printers don't do DNS- if they do, we haven't figured it out.
- Since originally writing this, as my NAS started showing signs of age, I switched to using a local computer as a server (Ubuntu). Again, note that Brother printers don't do DNS and thus you have to provide the printer configuration menu with the IP address (probably 192.168.#.*). Windows FTP server programs are generally impossible, and while windows supposedly has a FTP server built in, it is beyond the ability of most to get it to work.
- Another problem that I "worked through" is that Ubuntu wants to be secure, and this makes it difficult to get normal work done. When you create a "ftp" directory in your home directory, by default, it is created with useless permissions (i.e. ones that make your files inaccessible). Once you create the directory, you must change it's permissions to something more friendly, like 777 if your machine is a local one behind your router.
- After a while, I switched to another NAS FTP server, which works
- Make sure your printer and FTP server is assigned a dedicated local IP address by your router.
- The dedicated printer IP address's is not that important, but it makes configuration easier.
- The FTP server address is important because with this you bypass DNS problems.
Brother P-500 Label printer
This little label printer and variants is fairly handy, but supplies cost a fortune. The DK-1201 labels cost about $11/roll. see here. It turns out that the label carrier is pretty hard to open, and thus it is very hard to substitute a "generic" label roll for a "brand" roll. There are two work-arounds. You can buy a reusable label carrier for $8 (from Amazon). With quite a bit of force you can also open up the label carrier. It turns out that there is a plastic tab that holds it in, basically because it is jammed in. You can see it by looking down the "barrel", and get it off by pulling hard enough.
April 11, 2021
, Timothy C. Hain, M.D.
All rights reserved.