March 24, 2019

.comment: Happily In My CUPS

Getting Serious About Printing

  • January 17, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

It came to pass that yesterday I absolutely had to print a document.

Setting up printing under Linux is not a pleasant pastime. The semi-automatic printer configurators shipped with Linux distributions are unreliable, especially if you get a different printer -- Heaven help you if it's a brand new one (most of which are Winprinters, kind of like a toaster that prints, anyway) for which there is no driver support yet -- but the big problem is that the printing mechanism in Linux has always been a kind of afterthought. And it shows.

Linux distributions for the longest time used a BSD-style print queue, which was a combination filter/spooler that through the kindly offices of GhostScript would take the PostScript output of most applications and convert it into something easily digested by whatever was attached to the parallel port. It worked reliably once it was set up, but setting it up was often maddening.

Then some distributions branched off into LPRng, which is in my view an encoded acronym for "You Don't Need a printer." The BSD print arrangement could be understood with sufficient study, but with LPRng you're better off on a North Carolina beach with a metal detector, looking for treasure. Where configuring the BSD-style stuff would impart neurosis, LPRng can get you a new garment, one whose arms buckle in the back.

Then there are the various print engines that come with applications. WordPerfect has one, as does StarOffice, as do some others. KDE2 apparently does, also, in that there's a good big selection of .ppd files for various printers in the kdesupport package, though KDE2 might as well point its applications' printing efforts to /dev/null, for all the printing from KDE2 apps that has succeeded here.

And it was therefore early yesterday morning that I realized that I hadn't printed a thing since I upgraded my distribution many months ago. I set about making LPRng work with my LaserJet III-D with PostScript cartridge. Two hours later, it was time to consider other options.

I'm glad I did.

Email arrived a couple of weeks ago suggesting that I give CUPS a try. CUPS is the Common Unix Printing System, and it solves a multitude of problems. My guess is that it will become the Linux standard before long. (Yes, I said standard. And I expect a few dozen emails the gist of which are, "we don't need no steenkin' standards," to which I respond in advance: You may avoid growing up, but that doesn't mean Linux can't.)

Mostly, CUPS works.

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