Linux, TurboPrint and Canon Pixma

I just installed a new printer where I do most of my computer work. It involved many steps, but the results have been excellent. To understand the many steps, you have to know first that I don’t use MS Windows or even the Mac OS. I was running [Kubuntu]( Kubuntu) “Dapper Drake” on this machine, and it was very nice to use. Historically, the main trouble with any Linux-based computer has been hardware support for new hardware. This has changed dramatically in the last few years. In fact, I was surprised to find that the manufacturer of this new printer actually offers a Linux driver for it.

My first step was to install the driver. This wasn’t so easy, because Kubuntu is based on Debian, which has an excellent software management system, but is not commercially promoted the way Red Hat’s system has been promoted. The printer manufacturer (Canon) only offered prepackaged drivers for the latter. So after some time juggling, transforming, compiling, installing, and generally fiddling, I got the driver installed. It worked great, but the printing quit about halfway through the first page. I found a reference to this problem online, which seemed to indicate that a different version of my printing subsystem (cups) would fix it. I tried to get one, but Kubuntu is so user-friendly that it was not possible.

Excursus: I am not trashing Kubuntu or Ubuntu at all here. They are well-done, remarkable Linux distributions. I highly recommend them to anyone who is installing Linux for the first time. If you would like a bootable installation CD, look at the web site, or ask me the next time you see me. My problem was that the efficiency of Kubuntu is geared toward novice users, not people with the problems and capabilities that I have required from time to time.

I also found out about a general printer driver for Linux called TurboPrint. It’s not free, but doesn’t cost very much for a personal license. The reputation was excellent, so I tried installing it. Again, I was thwarted by the efficiencies of Kubuntu. (TurboPrint uses certain libraries that were not available in the correct versions.) So, I decided I was done with Kubuntu on that machine. I changed the configuration of the software package management system and gave the commands to update to the “Testing” version of Debian. Various small discrepancies between Kubuntu and Debian made the process slightly frustrating, but three or four days later, the machine was running Debian with a new, custom Linux kernel, and everything was go. Finally, I could try the printer.

TurboPrint worked great. I bought a license and have been quite impressed with its performance, both in speed and output. This printer is fantastic. It’s a Canon Pixma inkjet. I have avoided inkjets for about a dozen years now, because of the higher cost and maintenance over against laser printers. But this printer is great. It does duplex printing, photos, etc. etc. I have not used up the ink cartridges that came with it yet, but the cost for new ones is about a third the median cost of the competition (HP, Epson, Lexmark, etc.). Hopefully they will last about as long. I’ll have to post my long-term impressions after a few months.

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