Helpful CUPS error messages, decoded (Shallow Thoughts)

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

Tue, 22 Jun 2010

Helpful CUPS error messages, decoded

Another in the continuing series of "This isn't documented anywhere and Google searches aren't helpful":

Dave's printer was failing to print on Ubuntu Lucid. The only failure mode: pages came out with the single printed line,

Unable to open the initial device, quitting.

What a great, helpful error message! Thanks, CUPS!

Web searching found lots of people using HP printers, using various versions of the HPLIP software to installer newer drivers and otherwise reconfigure their HP setups.

Only problem: this printer isn't an HP. It's a Brother HL2070N, which has given very good service and, until now, worked flawlessly with every OS we've tried including Linux.

The solution? It turns out the problem really is HPLIP -- even if the printer isn't an HP. What this message really meant was:

HPLIP isn't installed, and Ubuntu's CUPS refuses to work without it.

apt-get install hplip hplip-data got the printer working again.

Wouldn't it be nice if CUPS bothered to print error messages that gave some hint of the real problem? Ideally, visible on the computer to the user, rather than on the printed page, so you don't have to waste 25 pages of dead tree while you try to narrow down the problem?

Update: After further testing, we have established that a standard Gnome-based Ubuntu Lucid machine needs hplip and hplip-data installed, while a Lucid machine without Gnome needs those two plus hpijs. Or you can get around needing any of them by ignoring CUPS' recommendation for which driver to use, and choosing the Gutenprint driver in the CUPS configuration screens.

A reader asked me if we had checked the CUPS error log. On one machine, the log file was virtually empty; on another, there actually were some lines about hpijs (nothing about hplip), intermixed with a lot of debug chatter and a large number of errors that were fairly clearly unrelated to anything we were doing.

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[ 22:46 Jun 22, 2010    More linux | permalink to this entry | ]

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