FreeBSD and the CUPS Server Part I subject logo: UNIX
2009-09-08
Posted by: badanov

Back when I worked as a tech person for a family company, one of the most vexing tasks I had was installing printers. At the time the computers were mostly Win95 and Win 98, all connected together with a central Red Hat Linux server.

The task was vexing because the state of printer drivers was awful. It seemed some printer manufacturers were more interested in protecting their technology claims than they were ensuring their products actually worked. And backwards compatibility? Sh*t! Just get a new PC. Screw you if you won't!

Whenever I was confronted with the process of installing a new or replacement printer, the norm was about six to eight hours to install and test the printer for general use, longer if the printer carried a specialized function.

When I was moved to accounting, the situation was potentially grim because invoices and checks had to be printed and delays were unacceptable. Since technology usually ran ahead of the existing computers installing a new printer on an older PC and then making that printer available ( not making it available to the network ) to the network was an adventure in itself.

One solution turned out to be the CUPS printer server. Aboard a Linux platform potentially, you could have as many printers attached to a network as you could possibly stuff aboard one PC platform and control their access, something you could not do with a Windows machine, all without causing the Linux box to so much as hiccup.

In the accounting office, when the check printer crapped the bed, it became a problem to attach a new parallel port card to a Win98 machine in addition to it original because often Windows would not even recognize the the card, a situation I think which has not even been resolved by Microsoft that I know. And nobody made parallel port drivers.

With a CUPS printer server I could run two or more printers from parallel ports and control their access over the local net. The server which also served as a backup file server had zero problems serving files in addition to its other tasks.

Why not use a hardware printer server? Read on:

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FreeBSD and the CUPS Server Part II subject logo: UNIX
2009-09-08
Posted by: badanov

When you work in a tiny business, costs are everything. You can't always just throw money at a problem and hope whatever you are trying to resolve will go away.

A printer server would have been a solution though not a very good one because of the problem of access control and security. I couldn't print an invoice worrying about someone sending some document through as well.

Fast forward four years to a home/office network: I took the most advanced PC i had at the time and converted it over to a FreeBSD development platform running FreeBSD 7.0. Previously this platform was running FreeBSD 5.4, the most advanced iteration of FreeBSD available for that particular platform. I needed something more advanced.

The new Windows PC, I failed to notice, did not have a parallel port and the extra port I did have the PC wouldn't even recognize. The spouse's PC was a solution except that she doesn't like to run it too much and she doesn't have any room at her desk as it is.

The network has two FreeBSD servers running fulltime, one 5.4 and the newer one running 7.0. The older box is a backup server,which backs up remote websites for my business and for customer websites. Two other PCs also run FreeBSD, one 6.0 and one Open BSD 4.4, both backups, both normally idle.

The development server probably would have been a better choice except that on the older box I was also running Samba 2.2,which made that PC the clear candidate for a CUPS printer server.

The printer to be used is a Hewlett Packard Deskjet 932C, a choice which will be shown to be necessary for the printer server.

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