Journey into Windows Hell

OK, I admit it. I’m biased. I’ve been using Macs since 1985. I’ve been on OS X since it was a beta but nothing compares to the sheer frustration of trying to configure a Windows system.
I have a passing ability to figure stuff out in Windows and I’ve setup our office network, WiFi and hardwired. The task was seemingly simple enough. Add a WiFi PC card to my Mom’s Dell Inspirion 8000. I bought an Orinoco Gold card to add to the laptop so I could connect the laptop to our network, laser printer, DSL, etc.
The Dell is running Windows ME. I get the WiFi card and go through the install procedure. No problems, except my network requires a password to access. I’m only seeing this part about encryption on the Wireless Configuration app and it won’t accept my password. I type this password in plain ASCII for all the Macs. It only takes me an hour to find some document, via Google, that says to open the Airport Base Station app and look to see what the hex is for the password and use that. Terrific.
Now to connect to my networked printer, an HP LaserJet 4100 Series. I try adding a printer, hell it works on the Mac. Wrong, it seems that a “networked” printer on Windows is some printer that is connected to another PC and is shared. This one is plugged into an RJ45 into my switch. No joy. I must have tried everything. I did have the benefit that at least I now had a net connection on the Dell.
Finally after searching HP’s site for about 2 hours I found an HP Download app. Something in the site made me think that this might help. It did but not quite. It downloads the latest firmware for the printer. The plus was that the app recognized that I did have a correctly configured laser printer with an IP assigned and everything. (I did manage to do something correctly before I started this.) After some more searching I found something called “HP Network Printer Installation Wizard”. This was the magic beast. I ran the app and it correctly configured a printer on the Dell laptop for me.
Naturally, I have a couple of questions. Why was HP’s site so obtuse and difficult to identify this piece of software? Why is it so hard to do this on a Windows box? D’oh.

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