Giving Up On Debian -- It Damages My Printer! (Shallow Thoughts)

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

Mon, 20 Dec 2004

Giving Up On Debian -- It Damages My Printer!

I've forever struggled with Debian's printing system. A few months ago, Debian unstable introduced a new package called printconf which, once I discovered by accident it required the parallel port to be in EPP mode, actually detected and configured my trusty Epson Photo 700. It was a happy day!

But since then, the printing system has broken again. It wasn't so bad when printing did nothing at all, or printed random garbage characters or postscript instead of a picture. But now (for the past month or so), what it does is print out a centimeter or so of reasonable graphics, after which the printer starts to issue horrible grinding noises and has to be powered off in order to stop the destruction.

I discovered through much fiddling that I could get the printer working again (on a non-Debian system) by powering it off and leaving it that way for quite a while (a few minutes doesn't seem to be enough, but 20 minutes is), then plugging it into the SuSE 9.1 machine and running a series of clean/nozzle test/clean cycles. Eventually, after the second round where the nozzle test prints clean, the printer works normally again from SuSE or Redhat. I still don't know whether all that loud grinding is doing any permanent damage to the printer.

I suspect the actual problem may be something like paper size. In the few months during which printing actually worked, I had lots of problems with mozilla's printouts overrunning the page, which turned out to be due to Xprint having its own idea of paper size (A4) rather than following the system setting (usletter). I never did find a place to configure Xprint's idea of paper size, so I uninstalled Xprint, and mozilla magically became able to print on usletter paper. But it's possible there are other parameters buried in the debian printing system somewhere, perhaps telling the printer to print to paper wider than it's capable of.

I've filed bugs, but they never get any response which might offer a clue how I could help debug this; I suspect Debian's print spooling system is basically orphaned. I've tried installing and uninstalling every combination of the myriad print spooling components I can find. I'd love to uninstall it all and build the whole spooler from source, and then perhaps try to track down the problem and fix it, but there are so many pieces which all work together in undocumented ways that I don't know where to start. (Perhaps by installing exactly the component set that SuSE does?)

I'm reluctantly giving up on Debian for my primary desktop machine. I like almost everything else about Debian, and I've run it for several years on my primary machine; but during that time I've only had a few months here and there where printing briefly worked before breaking again. There must be a distro that can do easy software updates like Debian, yet is still capable of driving a printer without damaging it!

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[ 23:46 Dec 20, 2004    More linux | permalink to this entry | ]

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