We’ve finally come up with a working print solution for use on-campus, with support for off-campus users not far behind! Yes, coming soon (as soon as we’ve gone through a meeting, approved it and built some nice tidy servers without all our development detritus on them) you’ll be able to use your own Windows, OS X or Linux laptop from anywhere within the Campus WiFi to print using the University printers!

“But how?” I hear you cry. “We thought it was impossible because Windows Server 2003 has such a ridiculous implementation of the IPP standard!”.

The solution is that we don’t use IPP. SMB works far better, supports tidier authentication, is more secure, and actually bothers to tell the client when the print job is done. Basically, we’ve created a Windows 2003 server with a SafeCom printer on it. We then share this printer entirely as normal, with permissions set so that people need to authenticate against our Active Directory to print to it. Because SafeCom behaves nicely with passing authentication information around, there is no need for any complex pop-ups or client side downloads to integrate with proprietary user databases.

So that’s it – all you need to do to print is point your new print dialog at the correct server (no, I’m not going to tell you which one) and the correct printer name. When you print the OS will prompt you to authenticate (with the exception of OS X, which is a bit awkward for the first print but then seems to get the hang of it), you bung in your normal credentials (unfortunately including the ever-present NETWORK\) and as if by magic your documents will be dropped into the SafeCom queue ready for you to collect at your convenience.

The next stage will involve an IPP to SMB gateway, because IPP behaves better over the internet. I just need to get our gateway box, running Linux, to authenticate users against the AD…