CUPS: more than a scoop of printing goodness (Day 11 of 20 days of SCALE)

In today’s post in my prep for my yearly weekend at the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) I’m going to cover the subject of one of open source unsung superhero’s. Common Unix Printing System a.k.a CUPS.

Today’s blog post is covering one of the unsung heroes of open source software that people may not think about. CUPS is the backbone for printing in almost all Linux, Unix and Mac computers. This might shock most people but CUPS is actually owned by Apple but here’s the reason why. Development started for it in 1997. If you were using Linux back then like I was making a Linux computer print was a little bit of a thing to do and make it look really nice. Linux Printer Daemon (LPD) was the best way to get things to print and it didn’t recognize a whole lot of printers or may have taken a little tweaking. I definitely remember when CUPS came along because of that. In 2002 Apple went over to CUPS for all its printing services and in 2007 the hired the chief developer and purchased the source code from Michael Sweet. So, like it or not, if you’re running a Mac computer you’re running CUPS in the background. Want to see? On any Mac or Linux computer go to the following link and see if the CUPS screen comes up and tells you about your printers (http://localhost:631).

The reason that today’s blog post jumped to the front of my list is because of having to use CUPS tonight. I bought a new printer for my kids??? room and set it up on wireless. Thus, I went to all the computers in the house to tell them that the new printer was there. We have a couple Windows machines here and for those selecting a network printer meant going through the printer wizard which sets up things in the Windows Print Spooler. However, going over to the Linux and Mac computers meant going to CUPS and setting it up. There in lies a little bit of a hiccup but it was easily solved. The Mac saw the network printer right away and went out and grabbed the drivers for it like the Windows machine did. However, on my Linux Mint laptop it saw the printer but gave me a list of drivers and the specific driver I needed wasn’t there. Hmmm. What to do?

CUPS prints through many protocols to printers like IPP and has a nice web based screen to walk you through managing the printer, protocols, trays on the printer, resolutions and all kinds of crazy settings. Well this time none of that would help had it not been for the manufacturer of the printer (Lexmark) supplying drivers for Linux, Mac and UNIX by the use of PPD files. These files store all the relevant information about the printer so you can use it to it’s fullest capabilities. THANK YOU LEXMARK. I will consider buying printers from them again.

Printing isn’t the coolest subject until you delve into all the settings and ways to share it with other computers even over the internet. Get that up and going by playing around with the coolest thing going on in the background CUPS.

Come out to SCALE Feb. 22-24 and find me (Phillip Banks) and I’ll give you a couple other ideas from what you do everyday.