Saturday Dec 30, 2006

Solaris 10 Printer Setup

Last time that I had to setup a printer in Solaris, it was an experience straight out of hell. It was 2-3 years ago, on a system running Solaris 9, and I finally got it working, using the Common Unix Printing System (CUPS), but my experience was bad enough that since then I avoided, as well as I could, to get ever involved with printer setup again.

But setting up a Solaris 10 based system recently, to be used as a home PC, I faced the topic again. I read some man-pages and did some Googling. After some erroneous first attempts, I checked out docs.sun.com and was pointed to "printmgr". Which has improved hugely since two years ago.

The printer I had to setup was a cheap HP Deskjet 812C. And to my surprise, the list of printers preconfigured in printmgr is biiiiggg, also including my little Deskjet. Because this is a parallel port connected printer, the device it resides at is "/dev/printers/0". So far so good! See here is what I had to do to seup.

click for full-size

click for full-size

After this I tested with "lp -d deskjet /etc/nodename" and the textual printout was fine. Then it was time to start Mozilla and print a page with graphics and color. Also this worked out-of-the-box.

The last thing to do was to configure the printer in StarOffice. Because StarOffice runs on Windows, Linux, Solaris, OS-X and a couple of other systems, it doesn't make use of the underlying printer subsystem, but has its own. Which is a hassle, but from a software development point of view, I understand why they did it like that. To configure the new printer in StarOffice 8, go to Launch -> Applications -> Office -> Printer Administration. And then I ran out of luck. StarOffice knows only about one HP Deskjet printer and that was of course not the model I had. I still configured using that driver, and I got printouts, but there were white bands every inch and couple of other formatting issues. So, that was not the way to go.

Time to pull out of my bag of tricks a goldie-oldie, I've used for years with success. When setting up a PC, I always configure a HP LaserJet III and an Apple LaserWriter II printer. The first driver can be used for any printer that uses PCL, while the latter is the lowest common denominator for PostScript based printers. OK, you won't get the use of features like two-sided printing or using other paper bins, but for basic printing these two configs are good enough.

Back to StarOffice, I selected the driver for the "HP LasterJet III PostScript Plus" and printed a test page. All was fine, including color. Which was a bonus, knowing that the LJ III was a B&W laser printer.