[buug] printers [Was: Best XP emulator?]

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Mar 19 01:02:03 PDT 2009

Quoting Ian Zimmerman (itz at buug.org):

> First, an anecdote: we have a Brother model similar to this in the
> office and gives us much trouble.  Mostly we prefer to wait for the HP
> even if it's printing page 1 of someone else's 100 page document :)

$80 laser printers are in general pretty slow and have not a huge amount
of buffer RAM.  This is not a big surprise, I hope.  I'll note that the 
inkjet printers of similar acquisition cost are probably slower.  And
yet, there's a good point to make:

> For black & white quality and reliability at moderate price nothing
> beats a gently used HP laser.

True.  For example, I kept my HP LaserJet III around for ages, even
though, unlike all LaserJets after the III, it lacked power management
and was huge and heavy.  I kept it on tap for decades despite that,
because it and printers like it were ultra-dependable workhorses.

> Yet I've just let one go and got an inkjet, hoping that the "cruddy"
> adjective won't apply.  It's multifunction --- one box houses a
> printer, a scanner and a copier --- and with my currently limited
> quarters I can't justify 2 or 3 relatively bulky boxes when 1 will do
> the job.

Well, you see, those are compelling advantages in an office environment
that will actually use those functions and needs to save on space.  Most
people seeking a printer are looking for just a printer.

> The inkjet is USB where the laser was still parallel; this wasn't a
> showstopper with good old lpr because I could just connect it with a
> centronix-to-USB adapter cable, but cups detected the USB attributes
> of the adapter, not the printer, and refused to go along.  The
> computer doesn't even have a parallel port.

Indeed, you're talking about an awfully ancient HP model, there -- and
moreover one for which nobody bothered to scrounge a JetDirect card on
the used market, which is always the first thing I did with those.

> I could get another laser like the Brother for much less than a new HP
> laser, and of course that would address at least the USB part.  But it
> turns out that pretty much _all_ non-HP lasers require
> manufacturer-maintained, cruddy drivers (not just PPD files: see the
> openprinting entry for the model you recommended)....

Well, I can _now_.  At the time I posted, the Web site was offline, and
so I couldn't.  So, I went by the recommendations of a third-party site
that claimed to recommend good printers for Linux use, but that said 
nothing about dependency on secret-sauce code.

However, now that I am able to look at
http://openprinting.org/show_printer.cgi?recnum=Brother-HL-2140, I'm not
sure you're correct:  Notice the notedated  09-03-2008, where a user 
reports immediate success with _stock_ Kubuntu 8.04.1 LTS.  That report
could be wrong.  I just mention it for what it's worth.

Back when linuxprinting.org was a one-man operation run by Grant Taylor
(author of Foomatic), he had a _highly_ useful page on the front of the
site giving his opinions about which printers and manufacturers were
worth considering.  Now that it's been emborged by Linux Foundation, I'm
gathering that they found that page too much of a liability with printer
manufacturers to whom they wished to curry favour (just a guess).
Anyway, it's not there, any more.

Searching on the Web for Brother HL-1240/HL-1250 brings up a bunch of
posts claiming that both speak a slight variation on PCL, and viewing
the Openprinting.org page reveals that the 1250 is even less of a
challenge than the 1240:  It works "perfectly", and is supported by
three PPDs (without any proprietary assist), all of them open source:
gutenprint, gimp-print, and lh1250.

You know, if fact, browsing the printer listings by manufacturer, I 
see an awful lot of cheap lasers that work with generic PCL drivers of
one kind or another -- again, avoiding any need whatsoever for
proprietary code:  Okidata, Panasonic, Ricoh, Epson, Canon.  I stopped
there, but suspect I'd find the same with a bunch of the other
manufacturers' lasers.  Also, a bunch of them offer PostScript laser
printers, and those haven't added much expense since dinosaur days of
the HP LaserJet II and III, and are fine choices.

So, no, what you say doesn't appear to pan out.

> And then there are the power considerations.  Lasers are notorious power
> hogs, to the point that it's recommended (with good reason, as I found)
> not to plug them into the same circuit as your other equipment.  I looked
> up the specs for the old HP laser, it said it drew over 200W while printing.
> Meanwhile the inkjet spec says average 20W when printing.

Yes, and that is a significant difference _while printing_.  Fortnately, 
most places aren't so busy with printing that they have to keep the
print engine powered up a significant fraction of the time:  The power
management has been good ever since the era of the HP LaserJet IV, and
that was _ages_ ago.

And if an office _is_ so busy with printing as to keep the print engine
warmed up, it's going to be driven stark raving crazy by the intolerably
slow printing of inkjets, and rule them out of consideration.

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