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Fri Jan 21, 2011 2:28 pm

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Not sure if this is the proper place to post this but I couldn't find a forum that quite fit the question at hand.

I'm a tech for a mid-sized school district in Arkansas (cue banjoes) and we are having a very strange problem with our Mac Lab and shared printers. At random times when a student attempts to print a document (from any one of a number of programs) the job will behave as though it is sent to the printer (the local print spooler will accept the job and then successfully send it off to the shared printer), but the remote printer behaves as though it didn't receive the job...

At least, and here is where it gets really weird, until several hours later when the printer mysteriously springs to life and starts spewing all the print jobs it has accumulated. Before the printer starts it's best exorcist impression, all print spools appear to be empty (no waiting print jobs on either the local machines or the print server.) This has been going on for a month or two now and though I have yet to try holy water, it may be my next resort.

Now, some of the stuff I have already ruled out and why:

1. This has happened to two separate printers of different manufacture in different locations, so I doubt it is a hardware failure on the part of the printer, or a driver issue (different drivers being used.)

2. This lab is only about six months old, and the switches that connect it to the rest of the network (gigabit all the way back to the servers) are fairly new and totally healthy as far as I can ascertain. So, this is probably not caused by a network issue or old machines.

3. The odd behavior hasn't occurred on the PC side, even when using the same machines (Bootcamp/Parallels Windows 7) Because of this it doesn't seem to be an issue with the server or local hardware, but rather something in OS X.

4. I've checked the load on the server hosting the printers and it's minimal. No excessive HDD, CPU, or network activity to explain the phenomenon.

5. The documents aren't excessively large by any stretch of the imagination, so that's not the cause of the issue.

Here's some info on our setup:

    The Macs:
  • Mid 2010 21.5" iMacs
    4GB Memory
    OS 10.6

    The Infrastructure:
  • Gigabit switches all the way back to the server, traveling a maximum of four hops, (From the Mac to the switch, from the switch across the campus via fiber, from the fiber switch to the server rack switch, from the server rack switch to the server itself)
  • All Macs are in a "Magic Triangle" configuration, joined to the existing Windows domain with a Snow Leopard Mac Mini currently just handling software update services (configured as a "magic triangle" directory server, but no computers managed or policies applied as of yet.) The printer issue has exhibited itself before and after the Mac Mini was installed.
  • We had some problems joining the Macs at first because we use a .local domain. After discovering this life-saving site we fixed it by altering the mDNS timeout in a .plist on the Macs. Figured this might be pertinent information.

    The Print Server:
  • Microsoft Server 2003
  • Server is also the DC

    The Printers:
  • HP Laserjet 1300 (B/W laser)
  • Samsung CLX-6200 (Color laser)

I'm really dumbfounded by this one, and so far Google has not revealed it's usual "gentlemen, thaw your chickens" kind of answer that would cause me to slap my forehead in illumination. Also, some of the information has been relayed to me by a teacher (a very bright one, but still, not all the information is first-hand) so if you have a hunch that one piece of the puzzle seems to disprove, state your thoughts anyway. I may have to revise sections later as I try to catch the possessed printer in the act.

So what of it fellow technocrats? Where have I left the golden path?



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