Tuesday, June 01, 2010

CUPS and a Wireless Printer

Eric Raymond once wrote a famous essay about the difficulty of using Linux's Common UNIX Printing System (CUPS) to set up a printer over a network. Thus, when we got ChildII's new HP C4780 Wireless Printer/Scanner I was less than optimistic about getting it Hal to access it. I mean, we're talking about a wireless printer which is talking to a Verizon FIOS wireless router, and through that to a Linux computer? No way.

I should note that I wouldn't go out and buy an inkjet printer on its own, anymore, particularly an HP. But we just got ChildII a MacBook Pro (new college uses Macs, and Mac Photoshop, for art projects), and they threw in an iPod Touch (which I get to glance at longingly) and the HP (which it's my duty to set up, operate, and maintain). So we got the thing, we might as well use it. Anyway, having a wireless or networked printer for a MacBook is an essential, given that the thing only has two USB and one Firewire port.

Setting up the HP required that I use the Mac or a PC, connected by USB to the printer, to enter the network login information. Given the connection between open source software and printers this left me a little chagrined, but I'm not RMS so I let it slide. Anyway, I didn't expect the thing to work with Linux, remember?

It took about a half-hour to install the software and drivers onto a Mac, and set up the printer. We tested the printer and scanner via wireless, and it all worked fine, though the scanner was pretty slow, much slower than my USB Canon. It all worked, though.

Then it took another half hour or so to install everything on a Windows PC. Again, it all worked flawlessly.

OK, let's try our luck. I left the printer on, went downstairs to Hal, clicked on System => Administration => Printing and watched the CUPS interface come up. Hit Add, Printer, Find Network Printer. Blinked. There it was, an HP C4700 type printer. Unlike the Canon, all the drivers were already available, I didn't have to play guess-the-correct-version. Within five minutes of clicking that Printing button I was printing a test page from Hal back to the printer.

Now all is not sweetness and light. While CUPS had no problem finding the printer, SANE, the corresponding program for scanners, couldn't find the HP. Not surprising, I guess, but it would have been nice if everything worked out. Of course I'm not particularly sure what good a remote scanner does anyone, especially if, like, me, they use it primarily to scan old pictures onto a disk.

But to summarize, things have much improved since the days of ESR's essay.

And I've got to look into getting a networked color Laser printer.


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