Linux: It Just Works

Here’s a nice little (totally subjective!) story for Linux users.

At home, I have a HP Laserjet 1018 printer; it’s a dinky little USB laser. When I was setting up my Mac running OSX, I attempted to use it.

A common refrain from Mac users is that MacOS X just works — attempt to get something working, and the Mac will do the right thing with little friction, compared to the Linux situation which will involve complex config file editing and what-not. If this experience is anything to go by, that’s not entirely the case anymore. In fact, the exact opposite applied; when I plugged the printer into the Linux box and ran System -> Administration -> Printing -> New Printer, it “just worked” and I wound up with a working network printer within seconds. No such luck with OSX. Some googling revealed the problem:

In summary, the LJ1018 is just not supported on MacOS X. In order to get it working you need to install a third-party port of the Linux printing components foo2zjs, Foomatic, and Ghostscript, ported to MacOS X, and then get busy with the config file editing and undocumented tweaking and what-not. Ouch.

So there you go. Linux: it just works! ;)

(By the way, I was able to work around it by printing from the Mac to the Linux print server in Postscript; the CUPS print server will transcode PS to the native format.)

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  1. Posted November 3, 2008 at 15:02 | Permalink

    Really funny. Especially since MacOS X uses CUPS. CUPS is actually owned by Apple these days! So it’s just that they don’t ship it with all the infrastructure that was built around CUPS (foomatic, gimp-print) and maybe not the latest version. But to me happened exactly the opposite with some color laser printer. I had to print from Linux to the Mac’s lp queue and that worked :-)

  2. Posted November 3, 2008 at 15:43 | Permalink

    Yeah, it was a bit of a hassle to set this printer up on osx, since it requires a script to update the firmware on the printer at startup. Guess this process has been integrated in your linux distro. I agree that it’s not plug-and-play to get non-supported hardware to work with osx. However, once I’ve got it set up on my old imac, I’m able to print to it from all my other macs without any hassle.

  3. Posted November 3, 2008 at 17:55 | Permalink

    That’s what you get for buying HP! And buying HP. And buying HP every time the toner runs out. ;)

  4. Craig Hughes
    Posted November 3, 2008 at 19:55 | Permalink

    I use a linux print server too, precisely because it does the “anything printed paper” conversion so well, where the Mac….does not. I have a lasetjet 4050 though, which is one of the last “HP” printers, before HP’s printer division got fucked by the merge with Compaq. It used to be that reliably HP printers would “just work” and spoke postscript, where any other company just would not work. Now, you buy an HP printer and 99 times out of 100 it’s really a compaq printer, and utterly fails.

  5. ben
    Posted November 3, 2008 at 19:57 | Permalink

    It just works … if you install Flash 10 on Ubuntu 8.10, otherwise Flash sound doesn’t work.

    Also, they introduced this awesome new enhancement to the Terminal “Edit” Menu. Try pressing Alt+E => P.

  6. Posted November 3, 2008 at 23:47 | Permalink

    Linux “just works” if you search the right compatibility list for the computer product category you want to buy, and go buy stuff that appears in a big green “works fine” table cell. And don’t let a sales person or yourself bamboozle you into getting something that’s almost the same.

    Usually this is stuff that has been available for a while, but the time lag between product introduction and showing up on the right Linux pages is getting smaller.

  7. Nix
    Posted November 4, 2008 at 00:31 | Permalink

    Let’s compare this to the alternative.

    I just finished a marathon three-hour phone conversation with my mother. She’s not a computer expert, but she’s used PCs for twenty years, used computers for forty-plus, and has a First in physics: so she’s not an ignoramus by any means.

    It took us the entirety of those three hours to set up a single HP colour LaserJet on Windows XP, over the phone. In the process we installed no less than six ‘printers’ that didn’t work, three of which had drivers derived from HP’s website, each of which warned you not to use any of the others; two of which came from a CD supplied with the printer (the CD had autorun, but one obscure note on HP’s website warned you not to let the autorun work or it installed a driver that ‘may misbehave’: one of the no-printers turned up before we spotted that). (The last printer that didn’t work was the driver built in to Windows for that model of printer.)

    In the end, we had one Windows printer instance which could print in non-duplex only, one printer instance which could print in yellow only (!) and one printer instance which entirely failed to print without any sort of error: jobs submitted to it just stick there forever, but the printer is listed as functioning OK despite nothing happening when you print to it. All three instances have the same name, none allow renaming (or rather they all allow it, and the change never sticks) and none of the three can be deleted. And this is perhaps the most popular colour laser from perhaps the most popular printer manufacturer on Earth, for the most popular OS, with drivers written by that manufacturer with the assistance of the OS vendor… and it’s still an appalling howling dog’s breakfast.

    And I’m exhausted.

    There’s no way Linux or MacOS X can possibly be this bad.

  8. Posted November 4, 2008 at 10:51 | Permalink

    @Nix: yeah, I’m really impressed by how badly the hardware manufacturers have screwed up the user experience for Windows users! it’s incredible.

  9. kerensky
    Posted November 5, 2008 at 03:22 | Permalink

    Typical lusers clusterfuck. To quote LHR: “Why don’t you try one of these printers and get back to me on Just Working.”

  10. Posted November 5, 2008 at 12:01 | Permalink

    Kerensky: please take that poker out of your ass before reading. As I noted right at the start, it’s a totally subjective little story.

    I’m not saying that all known printers will work better on Linux than they do on MacOS. Instead, I’m simply recounting my subjective experience, this one time, illustrating that simple three-word generalisations greatly oversimplify the real world, that Macs aren’t as easy-peasy as their advocates tend to make out, and that Linux is improving nicely in its hardware support.

    On the other hand, I fully expect the next time I have to deal with a wireless driver I’ll be bitching about ndiswrapper again.

    (who’s LHR anyway? London Heathrow?)

  11. kerensky
    Posted November 25, 2008 at 02:25 | Permalink

    Why don’t you join the party over at ? And you always have linuxhaters.