The following sections cover some of the most frequently encountered printer hardware and software problems and ways to solve or circumvent these problems.
Printers that do not support any common printer language and can only be addressed with special control sequences are called GDI printers. These printers only work with the operating system versions for which the manufacturer delivers a driver. GDI is a programming interface developed by Microsoft for graphics devices. The actual problem is not the programming interface, but the fact that GDI printers can only be addressed with the proprietary printer language of the respective printer model.
Some printers can be switched to operate either in GDI mode or one of the standard printer languages. Some manufacturers provide proprietary drivers for their GDI printers. The disadvantage of proprietary printer drivers is that there is no guarantee that these work with the installed print system and that they are suitable for the various hardware platforms. In contrast, printers that support a standard printer language do not depend on a special print system version or a special hardware platform.
Instead of spending time trying to make a proprietary Linux driver work, it may be more cost-effective to purchase a supported printer. This would solve the driver problem once and for all, eliminating the need to install and configure special driver software and obtain driver updates that may be required due to new developments in the print system.
manufacturer-PPDs package does not contain
any suitable PPD file for a PostScript printer, it should be possible to
use the PPD file from the driver CD of the printer manufacturer or download
a suitable PPD file from the Web page of the printer manufacturer.
If the PPD file is provided as a zip archive (.zip)
or a self-extracting zip archive (
.exe), unpack it
with unzip. First, review the license terms of the PPD
file. Then use the cupstestppd utility to check if the
PPD file complies with “Adobe PostScript Printer Description File
Format Specification, version 4.3.” If the utility returns “FAIL”, the
errors in the PPD files are serious and are likely to cause major
problems. The problem spots reported by cupstestppd
should be eliminated. If necessary, ask the printer manufacturer for a
suitable PPD file.
The safest approach is to connect the printer directly to the first parallel port and to select the following parallel port settings in the BIOS:
If the printer cannot be addressed on the parallel port
despite these settings, enter the I/O address explicitly
in accordance with the setting in the BIOS in the form
/etc/modprobe.conf. If there are two
parallel ports that are set to the I/O addresses
(hexadecimal), enter these in the form
7 is free, it
can be activated with the entry shown in
Example 12.1, “
/etc/modprobe.conf: Interrupt Mode for the First Parallel Port
Before activating the interrupt mode, check the file
/proc/interrupts to see which interrupts
are already in use. Only the interrupts currently being
used are displayed. This may change depending on which hardware
components are active. The interrupt for the parallel port
must not be used by any other device. If you are not sure, use
the polling mode with
Connect the printer directly to the computer. For test purposes, configure the printer as a local printer. If this works, the problems are related to the network.
The TCP/IP network and the name resolution must be functional.
Use the following command to test if a TCP connection
can be established to lpd (port
netcat -z host 515 && echo ok || echo failed
If the connection to lpd cannot be established, lpd may not be active or there may be basic network problems.
As the user
use the following command to query a (possibly very long)
status report for
queue on remote
host, provided the respective
lpd is active and the host accepts queries:
echo -e "\004queue" \ | netcat -w 2 -p 722 host 515
If the lpd does not respond, it may not be
active or there may
be basic network problems. If lpd
responds, the response should show why printing is not possible on the
host. If you receive a response like
that in Example 12.2, “Error Message from the lpd”, the problem is
caused by the remote lpd.
By default, the CUPS network server should broadcast its queues
every thirty seconds on UDP port
Accordingly, the following command can be used to test whether there is a
CUPS network server in the network.
netcat -u -l -p 631 & PID=$! ; sleep 40 ; kill $PID
If a broadcasting CUPS network server exists, the output will look as shown in Example 12.3, “Broadcast from the CUPS Network Server”.
The following command can be used to test if a TCP connection can be
established to the cupsd (port
netcat -z host 631 && echo ok || echo failed
If the connection to cupsd cannot
be established, cupsd may not be active
or there may be basic network problems.
lpstat -h host -l -t
returns a (possibly very long) status report for
all queues on
host, provided the
respective cupsd is active and the host accepts queries.
The next command can be used to test if the
host accepts a print job
consisting of a single carriage-return character. Nothing
should be printed. Possibly, a blank page may be ejected.
echo -en "\r" \ | lp -d queue -h host
Spoolers running in a print server box sometimes cause problems when they have to deal with a lot of print jobs. Because this is caused by the spooler in the print server box, there is nothing you can do about it. As a workaround, circumvent the spooler in the print server box by addressing the printer connected to the print server box directly via TCP socket. See Section 12.5.2, “Network Printers”.
In this way, the print server box is reduced to a converter between
the various forms of data transfer (TCP/IP network and
local printer connection). To use this method, you need to know
the TCP port on the print server box. If the printer
is connected to the print server box and powered on, this TCP
port can usually be determined with the nmap
utility from the
nmap package some
time after the print server box is powered on.
For example, nmap
may deliver the following output for a print server box:
Port State Service 23/tcp open telnet 80/tcp open http 515/tcp open printer 631/tcp open cups 9100/tcp open jetdirect
This output indicates that
the printer connected to the print server box
can be addressed via TCP socket on port
By default, nmap only checks a number
of commonly known ports listed in
To check all possible ports, use the command
This may take some time. For further information, refer to the
nmap man page.
Enter a command like
echo -en "\rHello\r\f" | netcat -w 1 IP-address port cat file | netcat -w 1 IP-address port
to send character strings or files directly to the respective port to test if the printer can be addressed on this port.
For the print system, the print job is completed when the CUPS back-end completes the data transfer to the recipient (printer). If the further processing on the recipient fails, for example, if the printer is not able to print the printer-specific data, the print system does not notice this. If the printer is not able to print the printer-specific data, select a different PPD file that is more suitable for the printer.
If the data transfer to the recipient fails entirely
after several attempts, the CUPS back-end, such as
reports an error to the print system (to
cupsd). The back-end decides whether
and how many attempts make sense until the data transfer is
reported as impossible. As further attempts would be in vain,
cupsd disables printing for the respective
queue. After eliminating the cause
of the problem, the system administrator must reenable printing
with the command /usr/bin/enable.
If a CUPS network server broadcasts its queues to the client hosts via browsing and a suitable local cupsd is active on the client hosts, the client cupsd accepts print jobs from applications and forwards them to the cupsd on the server. When cupsd accepts a print job, it is assigned a new job number. Therefore, the job number on the client host is different from the job number on the server. Because a print job is usually forwarded immediately, it cannot be deleted with the job number on the client host, because the client cupsd regards the print job as completed as soon as it has been forwarded to the server cupsd.
To delete the print job on the server, use a command such as lpstat -h print-server -o to determine the job number on the server, provided the server has not already completed the print job (that is, sent it to the printer). Using this job number, the print job on the server can be deleted:
cancel -h print-server queue-jobnnumber
Print jobs remain in the queues and printing resumes if you switch the printer off and on or shut down and reboot the computer during the printing process. Defective print jobs must be removed from the queue with cancel.
If a print job is defective or an error occurs in the communication between the host and the printer, the printer prints numerous sheets of paper with unintelligible characters, because it is unable to process the data correctly. To deal with this, follow these steps:
To stop printing, remove all paper from ink-jet printers or open the paper trays of laser printers. High-quality printers have a button for canceling the current printout.
The print job may still be in the queue, because jobs are only removed
after they are sent completely to the printer.
Use lpstat -o
or lpstat -h
to check which queue is currently printing. Delete the print job with
or cancel -h
Some data may still be transferred to the printer even though the print job has been deleted from the queue. Check if a CUPS back-end process is still running for the respective queue and terminate it. For example, for a printer connected to the parallel port, the command fuser -k /dev/lp0 can be used to terminate all processes that are still accessing the printer (more precisely: the parallel port).
Reset the printer completely by switching it off for some time. Then insert the paper and turn on the printer.
Use the following procedure to locate problems in the CUPS print system:
Set LogLevel debug in
to avoid having to search through very large
Repeat the action that led to the problem.
Check the messages in
identify the cause of the problem.
Solutions to many specific problems are presented in the Support Database. If you experience problems with printers, refer to the Support Database articles Installing a Printer and Printer Configuration from SUSE LINUX 9.2, which you can find by searching for the keyword “printer”.