I hate printers. In fact, I know a lot of PC owners hate printers. For a long time they were really the bane of many home computer users. Initially every application needed it’s own drivers for every printer type, then we got unified drivers but they were crap, and so on and so forth. It’s gotten better over the years, but windows printer drivers are still bulky and annoying.
I suspected the one big area of Ubuntu I’d have to bleed to get working was printing. I’ve played with CUPS previously and an HP LaserJet 4L (a long time ago), and it worked but it wasn’t always ideal. So I settled down today to spend three hours making Ubuntu drive my HP PhotoSmart C4585.
Holy crap was I wrong.
5 minutes. Literally. Googled for ‘HP PhotoSmart Linux’, found that HP have developed their own open source printer drivers. That looked like a good sign, filled in a few fields on the website and it told me the drivers are already in Ubuntu. That sounded good. Did an apt-cache search hplip and apt-get install hplip only to discover the drivers were already installed. So, opened System, Administration, Printing, told it to search for a printer, it found the PhotoSmart, installed the config, printed a test page.
I am literally gobsmacked.
It even happily drives the scanner as well (using XSane, also already installed). The printer driver is less annoying than the Windows one (just hides away), and the only thing I’m missing is a display of how full the ink cartridges are, but the Windows one estimates that badly anyway.
So, well done HP, well done Ubuntu, and well done open source printing. Now I have to find something else to do for 2 hours 55 minutes.
I’ve had a hate / hate relationship with printers from the day I got a thermal printer for my ZX Spectrum and it has lasted throughout my entire computing career. There have been two highlights in that period, my Panasonic KXP1124i 24 pin dot matrix printer which I purchased around 1991 and my HP LaserJet 4L which I purchased sometime around 1993. Those printers served me well and they just worked (mostly), the LaserJet made it around 10 years. Every other printer I’ve dealt with on a home user level or at work has been painful and annoying. Printers see me coming, they refuse to work, they jam, they eat paper, they randomly drop words, they do everything in their power to make turning electricity into print as painful as possible.
I had the HP LaserJet 4L for an age, and it kept going and going. Eventually we sort of stopped needing a printer and it sat for a very long time unused. Then we got a very cheap Inkjet (I forget why) which was terrible, and refused to print more than a few test pages. We went back to using the LaserJet but it was showing it’s age. We got another one maybe two Inkjets, the last one was a Lexmark all-in-one, which seemed okay, but after only a few weeks the ink in the print heads dried up and caused issues. New cartridges worked for a very short time and then did the same thing, we relegated it to a scanner and then moved it upstairs. The LaserJet came back out – but now it had sat for a long time, and the cartridge was struggling, it gave off a pretty serious burning smell when used and the noise sounded like we were using small cats as paper, flattening them with the rollers.
We gave up on printing. Who needed it anyway? Spengler said print was dead in 1984 and I was beginning to believe him.
Then along came roleplaying and suddenly I need to print stuff again. Character sheets, maps, encounter tracking sheets. I wasn’t about to be thwarted again. I know a friend who’s technical opinion I trust very well likes HP printers and has had one without issue for a little while so I started looking at those. If I was to avoid having a 10 foot USB cable or buying a cabinet then it only made sense to get a wireless one. HP do quite a nice little all-in-one (the C4585) and we just got back with it – very impressed so far, I hope the ink cartridges hold out.
NB: If you own an HP C4585 and they suck, don’t tell me. I don’t care. It’s too late. I bought it already.