Printing from Unix/Linux

Last revision August 2, 2004

Unix and Linux computers have a flexible printing system that can work with directly attached printers or networked printers. In addition, using the standard "lpd" protocol, one Unix system can be configured as a printer server and other systems can easily forward print jobs to that server for processing. In the School of Earth Sciences, networked printers are the rule and directly connected printers are rare.

The most common networked printers in Earth Sciences understand the "PostScript" printer description language and communicate on the network with AppleTalk and Windows NetBIOS on TCP/IP print sharing protocols. Many, but not all, of these printers also communicate with the standard Unix lpd protocol. In such a case, a Unix or Linux computer can directly forward print jobs to the printer, treating it as another remote Unix print queue.

In general, Unix and Linux systems do not come pre-configured with support for the AppleTalk or Windows TCP/IP print sharing protocols. But open source software can be installed to provide such support. On the School's general network server, pangea, we have installed the Columbia AppleTalk Package (CAP) to support printer access via AppleTalk protocols, and the SAMBA package to support printer access via the Windows NetBIOS on TCP/IP print sharing protocols. So we can establish Unix print queues on pangea to virtually any printer on our network.

Rather than install these software packages on each Unix or Linux computer in the School, the recommended method for them to print is via the printer queues established on pangea. The system manager of the Unix/Linux workstation should contact the pangea system manager to configure this.

The web page Printing files from pangea, although customized for the setup on pangea, does contain general information on the Unix programs for formatting files for printing, specifying which printer to use, examining print queues, and troubleshooting basic printer problems.

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