Shallow Thoughts : : 05

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Fri, 05 Nov 2004

Little successes (printing on Debian)

Printing's been broken on my Debian machine forever. For one brief shining moment back in July I briefly got it working, then a week later a dist-upgrade broke it again and it's been broken ever since.

Last week Debian Weekly News mentioned a new package called "printconf" which supposedly autoconfigures usb and parallel printers for CUPS. Now, setting aside for the moment that there's already a package called printconf, which configures a completely different spooler than CUPS, and that it's very confusing of Debian to resurrect an old name for a completely different purpose, of course I wanted to try it.

At apt-get time, it asked me whether I wanted to configure my printers now, and of course I said yes. The package installed, it printed a message about restarting CUPS, and no more details. Did it do anything?

I visited the CUPS configuration url (CUPS is configured via a web browser) and the entry looked like my old printer entry. Just for ducks I clicked "print a test page". Nada. So I removed the entry, went back to my root shell and typed printconf. It printed "Restarting cups ... done." No other info. Back to the web configuration page ... no printer there.

Eventually I discovered the -v option, which at least told me that it wasn't finding any parallel printers. I know this printer can be detected via the parallel port (SuSE and Mandrake both autoconfigure it), so something was wrong. Time to look at the BIOS.

A bunch of reboots later, I finally managed to get into my machine's BIOS screen (hint: repeatedly press DEL during boot. The screen saying DEL is the right key only flashes for a fraction of a second, so there's no hope of ever reading it and I wasted several boot cycles pressing function keys instead) and changed the parallel port from "ECP" to "ECP/EPP". Back into Debian -- and voila! printconf saw the printer, autoconfigured it with some magic the earlier entry hadn't had, and after a year and a half I have a debian printer again!

(Incidentally, the parallel port setting isn't why the printer wasn't working before; it was something about the CUPS configuration. Printing used to work on this machine several years ago and the BIOS settings haven't changed since then.)

All hail printconf! I wonder if it's ever occurred to anyone to mention in the man page that it needs an EPP (or ECP/EPP?) parallel port?

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[ 22:05 Nov 05, 2004    More linux | permalink to this entry | ]

Turkey Season

A few days ago, we took a break from Election madness and went for a late afternoon bike ride at Alum Rock.

We were hoping for tarantulas, but had no luck on that count. But what we did find, at dusk as we rode past park headquarters, was wild turkeys! Dozens of wild turkeys, all random-walking and gobbling like mad, the males displaying their tail feathers. The handful of deer (a few fawns and several bucks with antlers sprouting) grazing nearby were nervous of the turkeys, and backed off when they came near.

We stood and watched for quite a while, and neither turkeys nor deer seemed particularly worried about our presence. Alas, the light was low, so the photos didn't come out very well.

[ 20:02 Nov 05, 2004    More nature | permalink to this entry | ]