Friends of FLOSS: HP Printers.

For the first time in more than a decade this former Mac user doesn’t feel like a second-class citizen when it comes to printing, and it’s all thanks to Hewlett-Packard and their first-class support for Linux.

Their software, HP Linux Imaging and Printing (HPLIP for short) comes bundled with most of the major Linux distributions and their derivatives, including the newly-updated Linux Mint on my desktop computer, and Easy Peasy on my netbook.

Here’s how easy it was to set up my new HP Officejet j6450 on both.

1. Connect printer to my wireless network.

I actually messed up a bit in this first step. I had learned some hard lessons about home networking with my NAS, and knew that a static IP address was important to create a permanent and unfaltering link to something that wouldn’t always be powered on.

Unfortunately I chose to assign a static IP to my HP via the printer itself, using its fax keypad and built-in display. I must gotten something wrong because neither of my computers could find it. In other words, it was a pebkac issue.

Resetting the network access and assigning a static IP through my router worked like a charm, though. Lesson learned — or more accurately, reinforced.

2. Start printer utility on Linux OS and click on “Add Printer”.

3. Select my HP (discovered automatically).

You can see in this screen grab that my exact model isn’t listed, but I figure HP knows its drivers better than me.

4. Wait for the appropriate drivers to be retrieved.

Not sure if they were being downloaded from a server or just installed from my local CUPS database. Either way, this took less than a minute.

5. Choose printer names for my network and for me.

Name selection is entirely arbitrary, so long as the network moniker contains no spaces. I ‘ve named my printer “awesome”.

And that’s it. I now have a printer that’s accessible from any device on my network. If I still had my Eseries Nokia I could probably print from that too. Scanning also works without issue using Linux Mint’s default Simple Scan app.

If I seem irrationally exuberant over such a simple matter I guess it’s because I’ve never had a printer that didn’t require the installation of kludgy software to make it work. With the possible exception of networking considerations this is the first printing peripheral I’ve ever bought that delivers on the promise of “plug and play”.

6 comments:

  1. The only problem, and this is with the exact model used to illustrate the article, is that the printer is incredibly temperamental. It will or will not print, depending on the moment.

    So yes, it’s a very easy install, but a very unreliable experience.

    Now it may have to do with that printer model in itself (OfficeJet J6415) as it’s already the second printer, having already returned one which had an imaginary paper jam.

  2. Could this be a networking issue?

    If your printer doesn’t have a static IP address then your router will be handing out one ad-hoc via DHCP, making it hard (if not impossible) for your computer to find it on your network.

    This wouldn’t explain your imaginary paper jam, of course…

  3. Honestly, if the operating system includes a “printer discovery” feature, it ought to at least be scanning on the local broadcast network. Of course, wireless routers may segment the wireless portion from the wired, and not pass packets, even if they are technically on the same collision domain. I don’t really trust the built-in routing protocols on most wireless routers, but that’s what most people are stuck with.

    If it is DHCP, then you can always look at the DHCP server logs (or status page) and see what IP has been handed out to what host. Then, specify that in the configuration. You could also scan the network with NMAP or something to see what’s there.

  4. Another reason they are a friend of FLOSS: there is a free app in the Ovi store called HP iPrint that can discover HP printers on your network and print your photos to them:

    http://store.ovi.com/content/21309

    That’s pretty cool. I say it’s a friend of FLOSS, since Symbian is now open source; I do not think HP has released the source code to that particular app.

  5. @Andrew: the pninter has a static IP address, so that’s not the issue.
    The HP Device Manager (which sets a little icon in Gnome’s Notification Area) always sees the printer, and its state.

    It’s the actual printer that screws up. It sometimes takes up to a minute of various noises for the beast to actually start to physically move a sheet of paper in its belly.
    My guess is that by outsourcing so much of the “intelligence” to the printers (away from the computers and their drivers), the printers have become too complex for their own good, which heightens the probability of them fucking up and of bugs showing up. (Imaginary paper jam I’m looking at you.)

    Now maybe the HPLIP drivers aren’t top notch either, but at the end of the day, my mum’s experience with her HP printer using Ubuntu Karmic Koala is a hit-and-miss one. Thankfully she’s humorous about it, but it really feels sometimes as though the printer is just an attention whore. 😉

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