Problem #2: Getting Printers and such to work

Started by Donald Darden, March 04, 2008, 08:42:20 AM

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Donald Darden

Based on my own observations and readings, I think the second most serious problem when moving to Linux (or other OS) is getting your non-generic printer or All-in-One (AIO) to work properly.  As I found before, what we call Device Drivers in windows are actually more than that in many cases when it comes to printers.
They may contain many functions, such as status monitoring, management of print  jobs, the ability to print test pages, ability to adjust output, and so on.  These utilitarian functions may depend heavily on the services provided by the particular OS involved, meaning that unless the manufacturer commissioned similar functionality for an alternate OS, you may have to do without many features that you expect with your printer.

Scanners are a different story, if they conform to the TWAIN protocol, since that does provide generic functionality.  Webcams, keyboards, mice, monitors, and many other devices also fit certain functional profiles, meaning they may work quite well, although some advance features may be lost in translation.  Graphics cards are known for needing specific drivers to maximize their performance, but incremental improvements in card design over time has resulted in the availability of a range of drivers, some working quite well for the purpose.

There is a pay solution for printer issues, in that an outfit called TurboPrint has specialized in providing driver support for many popular printers.  So you can buy a solution if you need to, but you can also search the internet to see how other people have tried to solve the same problem with the same version of the printer that you have.  And some people either do without, or just go and buy a new printer that has the necessary driver available.

Sometimes a manufacturer relies on a family of products that all tend to support the same overall functionality, and which will work fine with a driver meant for a different printer.  Trial and error is the rule here, but your job is made simpler if you read what other people have tried and their degree of success.  In my case, a PIXMA IP8200 driver for Linux was found to work pretty well with my PIXMA IP6000D printer, much better than a PIXMA IP4000 driver did.  But it is almost certain that you will have to limit yourself to drivers supplied by the same printer manufacturer, as they do not share this technology with each other.

Depending upon how aggressive you want to get in your computing, there are other options.  For instance, in a networked environment, printers are often one of the most common resources to be shared between PCs, and you can even network between a virtual OS and a host OS if you commit to the use of virtual machine software.  I should mention that the VM world also offers a workable solution for the IncrediMail and general email issues I raised in posting Problem #1.  But it is a lot of time and effort to set up a host system, install a virtual machine environment, then install one or more virtual systems and applications on top of that.  You can end up with a very powerful and flexible system, but it takes real work to get there.  Even after getting there, think of all the time you have to spend booting up different OSes just to do periodic updates.  I would not call that productive time.