Let’s say that your significant other flashed his brand-new student ID at the Apple store last fall and got a free HP printer when he purchased his MacBook. And let’s say you’re tech-savvy enough to cringe at the very inelegance every time one of you has to unplug the printer’s USB cable from one computer and plug it into another. But you’re also environmentally savvy enough to not want to leave your old beater desktop PC running all the time in order to use it as a print server.
You might, might, start looking into hardware solutions and dedicated print servers. At which point you might look to Apple’s Airport Express, which is a compact wireless router with streaming music capabilities and a built-in print server to boot. Being no fool, you might Google every combination of your printer model and “Airport Express” to be sure there are no hidden compatibility problems. After finding no known issues, you might be tempted to use your SO’s student discount to pick one up for the same price as a single-function print server device.
Well, Reader, I’m here to tell you: DO NOT DO IT. Or else you might (and by “might”, I mean “will”) spend many hours trying to set up the print server so that it will actually, um, print. And in the course of working on the issue, you might (and I mean will) get an error message that, when Googled, brings up all the many ways in which that little white piece of plastic will fuck your specific printer. You might eventually find the Airport workaround, then the workaround for the Mac to print, then the workaround for the PC to print, each of which slightly hobble both your printer’s capabilities and the ease of printing to the extent that passing a USB cable back and forth starts to look blisfully elegant.
And, as you box up the cursed Airport Express and get ready to take it back to the Apple Store (less your time and the sales tax), you might have have to mourn the naivete that got you into this mess, your simple belief that you could add a plain-old printer to your wireless network and move it somewhere else besides the top of your desk.