Posts tagged Linux

Yes, it’s true. Printing from your own PCs – the #2 item on student surveys about IT for quite a while now – is just around the corner and should be open for use by Week 6 (just in time for all those lovely assignments), with a few caveats.

The University's SafeCom printers, working from my laptop.
The University's SafeCom printers, on my laptop.

Firstly, the initial offering will be ‘Windows only’. As in, Windows (XP, Vista and 7) will work properly and everything else will work after a fashion but be unsupported. This is because of a curious implementation of the protocol at Microsoft’s end which means that clients using CUPS (OS X and Linux, this is you) will print fine, but not know when printing has been done. Some systems such as Ubuntu will then helpfully try to print again, so if you don’t remember to manually clear your print queue then you’ll end up with 100 copies of those lecture slides and no credit. This is very much a work in progress, and I’m actively working on some alternatives to solve this problem. In the meantime, when this is released all OS X and Linux users make sure you follow the guides very, very carefully.

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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!”.

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Following a break from routine yesterday (I went to Sheffield to attend TEDx, where I learnt that I should listen to the Beatles, build cool things with Arduino, use my right brain more, disrupt things, adopt a workflow with no incentives and finally think inside and outside the box at the same time) I am back today and looking at the final pieces of the remote printing puzzle before I get back to revolutionising the way we deal with support queries.

It turns out that Windows Server since 2000 has included IIS components for doing IP Printing (IPP for short) as standard, and all you need to do is share a printer and tick a box. Even better, it comes with support for Windows Integrated Login (the amazingly annoying one which means you need to put “NETWORK\” before your username) and HTTP authentication for those of us who enjoy the *NIX approach to life (Mac guys, that includes you as well). The icing on the cake is that this authentication information is still passed all the way to the spooler in the same way as when you print locally or over the domain (as Lincoln’s printing works at the moment).

So in summary: we already have a fully featured, standards compliant (although admittedly I still need to work out exactly which ports need punching on the firewall for it to work without the HTTP transport) printing solution for non-domain machines of all OS flavours which supports authentication against our existing Active Directory with no additional hardware, software or expenditure and only a short afternoon’s work to implement it

I’ll let you know when we’re ready to let you play around.