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Why You Should Not Utilize Your ISP’s Router

AT& Gateway

This issue is one that began long ago, when ISPs realized customers were asking for ways to connect multiple computers and have WiFi.  You see, years ago, companies such as Comcast, Brighthouse, AT&T, etc. would bring out a modem and that’s it.  With a modem, you’re unable to share the Internet connection with multiple computers/devices and you don’t have a firewall, WiFi, etc.  This meant you had to go and purchase your own router.

This is when more “all-in-one” devices started showing  up, instead of installing a modem-only device.  On paper, this seems great!  It’s your modem, firewall, and WiFi, all in one *convenient* box.  The problems though, are many:

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  • These tend to utilize lower-end hardware which results in poor performance and early failure.
  • ISP’s tend to have their “hands” in these devices, which results in low-level networking issues and anomalies that would not ordinarily exist in even consumer-grade routers.
  • Interruptions to Internet service, can impact the device’s ability to function, which brings down the internal network.

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On a daily basis, we receive calls from clients whose AT&T all-in-one gateway is “down,” yet is powered-on, and for all intents and purposes, is functional.  If their Internet service went out the night before or if the AT&T device just stops responding, their internal network is now down and their consignment software dead in the water.  Power-off and power-on the device and things are back to normal.

With Comcast devices, in addition to the majority of them being left wide open @ default passwords and open WiFi networks, we’ve seen multiple instances where network traffic that functions as expected through a ‘standard’ router, is blocked when routed through a Comcast gateway.  I don’t know how many times store owners have been unable to access their consignment software vendor’s servers, only when they’re connecting from a Comcast connection.

If your local ISP offers a modem-only device, always choose that option.  In addition, if they offer a modem-only device, then you might be able to utilize your own modem and not have to pay a fee for the same device.  After the modem, should be a reliable, capable router.  We are very picky about which devices we recommend and we’re not keen on advertising which routers to utilize, so if you have any questions about which hardware to utilize, feel free to contact The Computer Peeps – there is no charge for consultations.

The Computer Peeps Do Not Recommend TSC Tag Printers

TSC Printer Bug

If you’re utilizing consignment software and a thermal tag printer, stick with the Zebra tag printers.  TSC printers are sold by some of the vendors and while on paper, they can appear to have better specs, plain and simply-put, they are too buggy.  Here’s one of our favorite TSC printer installations…

TSC Tag Printer No Printer Attached Ready To Use
Ready to use! Wait, what?

There’s a reason UPS utilizes Zebra printers – i.e. when you have millions of something in place, it has to be fully-vetted and predictable.

After having our seventh client this year run into the fully-reproducible Unknown Device issue with certain TSC tag printers, we have to officially state that we simply cannot recommend these printers to consignment and resale store owners.

For someone who isn’t personally responsible for their clients’ systems and for keeping things running smoothly, sure, they might recommend the TSC.  It’s not always about “prints faster” though – there is something to be said about stability and predictability.

If you’re purchasing a tag printer from a 3rd party vendor and they offer a TSC tag printer, ask for demand the industry-standard Zebra printer instead.  It’s about your convenience and your money, not theirs.

We’ve included some of the details and screenshots of this issue below.

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When connecting a USB printer to a computer, it can ‘send’ through a variety of pieces of information.  It’s typically the model/manufacturer information, as well as the serial number.  This is what triggers the operating system to detect and identify this hardware when the Found New Hardware Wizard appears.

With the TSC printers specifically, we have seen a track record of failure.  Unique to the TSC, it is detected as an Unknown Device, which gets successfully installed.

TSC Unknown Device

This isn’t simply a matter of the Windows Device Installation settings (e.g. Do nothing, search my PC, download from Microsoft).  This is unique to the TSC thermal tag printers.  Once it gets successfully installed as an Unknown Device, you’re stuck in a loop.  This is with Seagull (recommended) driver for TSC present as well.

You then have to head to the Windows Registry to delete the appropriate VID key:

Just delete the VID key! Easy, right? 😐

But wait, if you try and delete that key, you’re going to get an Access Denied message.  Hopefully your vendor outlined how to remove this key, which is as simple as copying over SysInternals (specifically, psexec) and running it with the following arguments:

psexec -i -d -s c:\windows\regedit.exe

Easy, right?  😐

This isn’t always going to work though, which is when moving to a completely different USB port can sometimes help.  For clients that have had these devices in place for an extended period of time, they’ve seen how the TSC tag printer can go from working just fine, to being detected as an Unknown Device, out of the blue.  We’ve seen the same printer go from showing as a TSC TDP-247 to an Unknown Device and then back to a TSC TDP-247, all by simply unplugging the USB cable and reconnecting it again to the same port.

The bottom-line is, there is more than just selling printers that should be involved, especially if you’re looking to someone for their experience and recommendations.  It’s unfair to not disclose these details to a store owner.  This isn’t just, “Oh, sometimes printers do that” or, “Well, you just have to do this, this, and this”.  If you support these devices on a daily basis and more-so, when you have seven clients which you have fully documented this issue with, then you’ll agree that sticking with the predictable Zebra printers will result in the best performance from your consignment software.

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