Future of printing is colorful and driverless, HP representatives say

Future of printing is colorful and driverless, HP representatives say

By Michael Cheek

GCN Staff

BOISE, Idaho'Wouldn't it be nice not to spend so much time searching disks and Web sites for printer drivers?

Hewlett-Packard Co. thinks so. Showing off a glimpse of printing's future, officials said they expect it to be driverless, more colorful, and better adapted for Linux networks and print clustering. 'We would like to find a way to get rid of the driver forever,' said George Mullen, a general manager with HP's LaserJet group here.

HP recently began to unify the basic code in all its laser printer drivers, Mullen said. Ink-jet printers will follow this fall, using the same code. That will reduce the hassle of getting the right drivers, because all the software will be essentially identical.

HP also is developing open-source code drivers for Linux, said Jim Gutierrez, a section manager in HP's LaserJet R&D laboratories.

Although Gutierrez said printing is 'the last thing anyone thinks of' in an operating system shift, Linux has arrived to stay, and 'HP wants to be there.'

He said HP began its Linux project in January. Last month, it produced the first driver code for most LaserJets built since 1992. The drivers are available on the Web at hp.sourceforge.net, an open-source software site. Incorporating the downloaded code requires some Linux familiarity, Gutierrez said.

The driver software supplies half-tone algorithms for Adobe PostScript Level 2.0 printing, adds fonts, and supports features such as duplex printing and multiple paper trays. Current versions do not yet use the Linux KDE or Gnome graphical interfaces.

Queuing up

HP recently released a standalone print server that uses Linux as its primary OS. An administrator can manage the HP JetDirect 4000 server's 64 print queues from a Web browser. The only connection to the $1,499 server is a 10/100-Mbps network plug.

HP solutions manager Tom Codd said HP is working on software to enable printer farms and clustering. Configured like storage farms and server clusters, they would send jobs automatically to the closest printer and split large jobs among several printers.

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