Fast personal printing _without_ CUPS

Polytropon freebsd at
Thu Oct 27 19:11:35 UTC 2011

On Thu, 27 Oct 2011 13:39:05 -0400, Jerry wrote:
> Printing under MS Windows is a breeze.

> The *nix community has never
> gotten printing up to that lever.

It _had_, past tense. :-)

> While there are those who continually
> blame the "manufacturers", the truth is that any COO, CFO {or any other
> alphabetic combination that you like} that seriously proposed the
> creation of a department dedicated to the writing of drivers for
> non-windows based systems, a department that would therefore have a zero
> based projected cash flow, would be removed from office posthaste.

Fully agree, but if established standards would have
been truly adopted by the manufactueres for their
products, there would be no need to develop any drivers.
One standard interface could address all printer
functionality, and maybe even more, such as scanning
or faxing functionalities quite common in the "egg-laying
wool-milk-sows" we see on the consumer markets.

Sadly, "the one standard" doesn't seem to exist, and
manufacturers are not willing to discuss one. Of course,
such a standard would have to be free and open, so any
OS could implement it.

There's a reason for that: Companies that develop
printers want money. They need to continuously sell
printers, and there's an ongoing "renewal" of hardware
and software, e. g. new printer requires new OS, new
OS requires new printer. This is done by planned

Just imagine you had a printer that would work with
any OS. First of all, you wouldn't buy a "Windows",
so the deal between the manufacturer and MICROS~1
would break: "We make our devices for your 'Windows',
you tell us about your interfaces, and we make a
driver for your current product." You would be able
to use your printer with a free OS. Furthermore,
if this free OS got updated, you would continue
using your printer because the new OS would also
support it, unlike "Windows" that would not have
support for the printer anymore, encouraging you
to buy a new one.

On the other hand, this business model benefits the
development of new technology (financed by unit
sales), and making technology cheaper to purchase.

Downside here again: The cheaper printers become,
the more paper is wasted for printing. Yes, I know
the "paperless office" is a pure utopia, but I've
seen things... scary things...

Example: In a company I know emailing is quite new.
When office A wants to send a document to office B
per email, A prints the email message and faxes it
to B, where it also gets printed (inkpee and laser
faxes). After that, B checks for new messages and
then prints the message he received.

> Even the few companies that do write a limited set of drivers for the
> exceedingly fragmented *.nix community tend to stick with vanilla Linux
> and perhaps Debian. It took nVidia years (literally) to get FreeBSD to
> update their product to the point when nVidia could supply 64 bit
> drivers.

Right, it simply doesn't pay in the first place to
support that fragmented... can I say "target point"?
It's more like a whole forrest of targets that's 
changing very often. :-)

Really, I agree that the same business logic applies
in driver support. As the success of free systems is
not measured by unit sales, there is no such thing
as "market share" for them. But market share decides
about what manufacturers pay attention to.

In the past, they were forced to support certain
standards in order to get their devices sold. A
printer that could not be addressed by standard
Epson codes just wouldn't sell. Later on, PS was
the only thing you could sell a printer. (The same
applied to graphics cards which needed to support
standardized command sets in order to work properly.)

Today, this is not important anymore as individual
drivers for specific "Windows" versions are the key
to unit sales. This is of course a short-term
decision, but finally most three-letter-superiors
decide by quarterly numbers.

This _may_ turn out to be contraproductive in the
end. The "decision makers" just hope to have moved
to a different position when this happens where they
get a better wage for less responsibility. :-)

> I recently spoke with a representative from Brothers regarding
> securing a driver for one of their laser printers. He himself is a
> Linux man and said that he felt my pain. He also informed me that while
> it had been discussed from time to time, it was always felt that it
> would be a lose-lose situation. They do supply drivers for Linux and
> Debian but that is about it. He stated that it was felt that the cost
> of writing drivers for a widely fragmented community and then having to
> support said drivers would just not be financially feasible.

Interesting. I always thought CUPS (which is common across
the many Linusi, as well as standard in Mac OS X) would have
a PPD plugin (or was it the Foomatic stuff? I can't properly
tell...) that allows printer manufacturers to write
drivers according to that documented interface, so there's
no need to code hardare- or OS-specific things anymore,
which, as you will surely agree, sounds ridiculously
old-fashioned. Sorry, it _is_ like that. Direct control
to hardware is so obsolete in a world where everyone is
keen on using abstraction layers of libraries of interfaces
of abstraction. So why not use that in the first place?
Oh, again we arrive at the point where conforming to
standards is bad for business...

> Printing has come a long way from the "parallel port" configuration.
> Many now use wireless connections for instance. I love wireless
> printers myself.

When you want to get rid of cabling, they are big help.
However, there are settings where the use of any non-cabled
hardware is prohibited due to security reasons. But this
surely does not apply in home settings where security is
traditionally regarded a no-topic.

I have a wireless adapter for parallel, USB and networked
printing myself, still it's not in use due to security
reasons. :-)

> However, here again problems arise. FreeBSD supplies
> virtually no "N" protocol certified drivers which negates the
> effectiveness of an "N" protocol based wireless printer.

Yes, this problem exists.

Magdeburg, Germany
Happy FreeBSD user since 4.0
Andra moi ennepe, Mousa, ...

More information about the freebsd-questions mailing list