Thursday, 31 December 2015

The joy of printers ...

My venerable Lexmark E120N needs a new drum kit - something between $70 and $80 bought online from the usual suspects.

It's also not wireless, which is not a great problem at the moment, our router still has ethernet ports, but we're in the throes of buying a new house, and that might mean the printer living somewhere other than next to the router.

What brought the whole problem to a head was we had to print out draft copies of the purchase contract, take one to the bank, two the lawyer and so on, and the photoconductor unit in the Lexmark had decided it was time to stop playing.

One of the big box stores had a pre Christmas special on FujiXerox Docuprint P115W's for less than a Lexmark drum kit, and I could get it there and then. So I did, and we printed nice clean copies and got papers filed the last day before the holidays.

Now for a cheapie I didn't expect much. I didn't expect inbuilt Google Print support, but given it plays nicely with our Macs I thought it might work with Linux as well, after all both use CUPS as print management solution.

Well, no.

FujiXerox don't distribute a ppd file - something that they must have to allow Mac support via CUPS. The obvious solution would be the  the generic PCL driver, which certainly submits the job, and that's about it. (PostScript's worse, it's a great way to push a lot of blank pages through the machine to test paper handling).

I'm guessing that there's something wierd in the job initialisation sequence that is missing from the generic driver output - a language select statement or something like that needs baking into the generic ppd, and certainly there's some hints of this in the printer configuration if you dig round the internal system settings.

The question is which will be easiest - hack the generic ppd or try and extract the vendor one from the Mac printer driver distribution?

Hacking the generic one means it could be released back into the wild, but life would be easier if FujiXerox just released the ppd as an unsupported driver ...

Friday, 11 December 2015

Dear Tim, Chromebooks are as much a real computer as an iPad ...

I'm a Mac user, a linux user and a Chromebook user.

Tim Cook, the boss of Apple, has been very disparaging of Chromebooks, describing them as 'test machines', as in machines for computer based testing rather than carrying out software tests.

Not true, you can do real work on a Chromebook like email, spreadsheets, documents, as well as surfing the web. Something I proved quite dramatically yesterday when our building was closed due to a rather dramatic water main leak.

When I turned up to work the building was already closed off and you guessed it, my work machines were the other side of the safety cordon. I started off with a keyboard equipped Android tablet sat on a picnic table under a tree while I emailed and called people, shifted meetings and so on.

But useful as the tablet was, it was showing some of its limitations. So I went home.

I started first off with my Chromebook. Again, email, calendaring and so on was all available, because they all have web based interfaces, and google Docs is pretty good at displaying word, odt and pdf files these days.

Even when we had a server failure and someone had to remote in, I could deal with the service desk incident purely because it's a web based service.

In fact the only reason I stopped using my Chromebook was that by about threethirty in the afternoon the battery was down to 8%.

So I swapped over to the old linux netbook I take travelling and finished my day.

So, why do I have a MacBook as well ?


The Chromebook needs a good internet connection. I've learned from experience that while it will work on a 4G connection or even a good 3G connection, if the internet's in the least bit crappy, you might as well go home.

And travelling's about slow, crappy, unreliable internet. It's why sometimes I take my own 3G network box with me as it's often cheaper (and more reliable) than using hotel wifi.

So, with my old linux netbook, I can work offline, and upload material and documents at the end of a session, especially at conferences, which nowadays seem to involve a lot of frenzied typing and overloaded wifi connections.

I could live in a totally linux based world except for the need to occasionally use some of the software the rest of the world uses, and for that reason I have a MacBook ...