Getting printing properly working is a rather complicated task in the
administration of a GNU/Linux or Unix system, especially when one
wants to make use of all the capabilities of a modern printer. One
needs a printer spooler which collects the print jobs from
applications and network clients, filters to transfer non-PostScript
jobs to PostScript and a printer driver which transfers PostScript to
the printer's native language.
All this is not trivial: First, one needs a printer for which a driver
or enough knowledge about its language exists, and then one has to
make the printing system call the correct filters with their long,
cryptic, and often not well-documented command lines and to give the
user the possibility to control the capabilities of the printer.
To improve this situation, Grant Taylor, the author of the former
Printing-HOWTO has set up a database for information about free
software printer drivers as well as for printers and how they are
supported with free software. This database, called Foomatic is
located on http://www.linuxprinting.org/
and Till Kamppeter is currently maintaining it. Now the database
lists near 250 free software printer drivers and more than 1600 printers.
The database is implemented in XML and is accompanied by a universal,
PPD-(Postscript Printer Description)-based print filter
("foomatic-rip") and Perl scripts which automatically create
Adobe-compliant PPD files and even complete print queues for all known
free spoolers: CUPS, LPRng, LPD, GNUlpr, PPR, CPS, PDQ, and
spooler-less printing. With these queues the user will have access to
the full functionality of the printer driver in use and thanks to the
PPD files he can even use all the printer options out of applications
(as OpenOffice) or from Windows/Mac clients.
The system is used by the printer setup tools of most GNU/Linux
distributions, as Mandriva, Red Hat/Fedora, SuSE, ... and several
printer manufacturers are contributing to the database. For PostScript
printers some manufacturers (HP, Ricoh, Epson, Kyocera, ...) even
release the official PPD files which are part of their Windows/Mac
software as free software and post them on linuxprinting.org. So it
turned to be an unofficial standard and around 10000 people visit the
linuxprinting.org web site every day.
With its database and its static pages linuxprinting.org is the
biggest knowledge base about printing with free software. To make it
easier for users and printer manufacturers to add even more knowledge
it is planned to manage the site content with MediaWiki, the Wiki
system successfully used by WikiPedia. Then static pages and
discussion forums will be replaced by the Wiki system, and the Wiki
will also serve as input frontend for new printers.
The talk will cover
- how linuxprinting.org evolved
- what linuxprinting.org provides
- how the database is structured
- how PPD files and printer queues are generated with it
- how the devlopment of linuxprinting.org will go on
- perhaps first linuxprinting.org-Wiki experience
This talk is aimed to system administrators and technically interested
users who want to know what happens "behind the scenes".