Setting up my new HP PSC2510

by Matthew Gast

I recently purchased an HP PhotoSmart 2510 multifunction machine because I needed a color printer, copier, and fax for my home office. The big reason I selected this device is that it includes a network interface, and I want the device to be available to all my computers without needing to use one as a print server. The network interface is both wired and wireless, which allows me to position the fax where it's convenient for me, not where my network wires are.

Although I hate the existence of the fax machine as a hoary bolt-on to the telephone system, I need to have one for the one or two occasions per year when I need to receive an incoming fax, and the other one or two occasions per year when I need to send a fax. (I briefly considered a fax/modem card as a substitute, but it was much easier to buy a printer with fax capabilities than to tie a scanner to my computer, buy a fax card, and get the whole software mess configured appropriately, especially since I tend to work on my computer a lot.)

Since I don't use faxes extensively, I didn't want to give the phone company any extra money for it. (Keeping my money out of the hands of the phone company is also a life goal.) There are many devices that will help your fax machine work on a voice line, and this capability is also built into the PSC2510. If you plug an answering machine into the back of the 2510, it will answer the call normally. However, if the caller sends the 1100 Hz fax identification tone, the fax will disconnect the answering machine and begin the fax handshake. I couldn't get this feature working until I shortened the outgoing greeting on my answering machine until it was less than 10 seconds. Apparently, it's common for many voice/fax coexistence products to only listen for the fax identification tone in the first ten seconds after a call is answered, and then assume it's a voice call.

With the fax machine connected to the phone line, I went to work on the network interface. Before purchase, I made sure that the wireless interface supports WPA so that it would be compatible with the security on my home network. HP has obtained Wi-Fi certification for 802.11b, as well as both the Personal and Enterprise flavors of WPA.

When I went to attach the printer to my network, I found that the WPA pre-shared key is passphrase-only. There is no immediately apparent provision for entering a key in hex, only as an ASCII string. Minor annoyance #1: I had to convert my pre-shared key from a 64-byte hex string to a 63-character passphrase on all my wireless network devices.

At the end of the configuration wizard, I was told that I'd be using a preshared key for authentication and that my dynamic encryption protocol was "Robust Encryption". I'm assuming the link layer cipher is TKIP, since Wi-Fi certified products with the WPA checkbox must support TKIP. Minor annoyance #2: I can't quite tell what my settings are, even when printing a test page. Am I using TKIP, or just WEP with dynamic keys?

When I fired up the wireless interface to connect my printer, it did not even attempt to connect. I broke out a packet sniffer, and determined that it was sending 802.11 Probe Requests for my home network, and it was receiving an appropriate Probe Response. I even know that the Probe Response was received, since the printer sent an 802.11 ACK. However, the printer doesn't appear to do anything with that information. It does not start associating with the network.

So far, my only serious complaint is that it does not have a document feeder. Multi-page faxes or copies must be done by putting one page on the glass at a time. I don't expect to fax or copy all that much, so I'm hoping the annoyance at leaving out such a standard feature doesn't grate on me. I'm a bit surprised that HP doesn't offer a document feeder as an extra-cost add-on option, though.