Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Mobile printing delivered

Back in October I blogged about our need to provide a mobile printing solution.

Well we now have a solution that's ready to roll. Basically it's not dissimilar to the original implementation plan:

+deploy linux vm with cups printing to virtual queue wth ldap authentication
+provide a simple web based app to allow release of job to pharos
+provide a ipp aware universal driver to users
+provide a job to clean out unprinted jobs on a daily basis

User have to create an ipp queue on their own machine using a standard driver and using their uni username and password as credentials. We will be providing documentation for XP, Vista, OS X (Tiger and Leopard) and Ubuntu. This queue runs over ssl to ensure that their credentials are encrypted and we do an ldap authentication to validate them. The cups print queue then puts the job in a Pharos print queue, passing over the user id to ensure that the job is allocated to the correct user.

Ubuntu was chosen as it's Computer Science's preferred teaching distro. They also happen to have a couple of print release stations already. Pragmatically, as everything can be configured from the gnome cups management application, the ubuntu instructions should work for all common distros.

Obviously we need to cache their credentials locally for printing but given most mail cleinet do this anyway it's no great problem. And they of course need to use their uni id for printing and not the local account details on the computer which could be any thing from 'Admin' to 'pink pussy cat'

Users then go to a print release station on campus to release the job to print on a pre-designated public printer, ie if they go to building A, and release a job it goes to building A's public printer.

Students will also be encourages to use WebDav to save copies of their work to their student filespace so that they can print the work again using a public access machine, just in case their laptop battery dies at a crucial moment.

Given an expanson of public wireless network provision on campus this service should sho steady growth. Also expect it to be popular with on campus student dorms, but less so with students who live off campus.

And the beauty is that the solution has cost us nothing, apart from an ssl certificate. We have the old pc's for print release stations, a VMware site licence, a Pharos licence already, and the rest is open source.

Enhancements for the future would be

  • web based print release station
  • direct pdf submission
  • Open office based virtual print shop to import and print documents in a variety of formats

of these I think to last is the sexiest, but being pragmatic the students would probably really like a web based print release station so they could avoid having to line up at busy times.

(None of this work is truly my own - I had the initial ideas but George Seaton and Adam Reed should get full credit for turning my whiteboard scribbles into reality)

No comments: