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Print to PC-based printer

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Aaron Sakovich
Super Advisor

Print to PC-based printer

Some of our developers are starting to work from home. Accordingly, we've a need to be able to provide VMS-based print capabilities to them. We currently support a couple large home-brewed printer device control tables, using PCL-5 and PCL-6 sequences.

I'm formulating a scheme to provide personalized print queues for each user that gets set to the user's terminal IP address and uses an SSH tunnel to ship print streams back to the PC -- I have no problem with requiring the user to run a program to setup their printer /On=Sys$Rem_Node_Fullname prior to getting output. (As an aside, I know I can do LPD to the client PC, but am wondering if there's a way to do a raw port to a PC -- any ideas welcome!)

My question is does anyone know of a good, (1) inexpensive, home (2) multi-function printer that supports (3) PCL-5 or -6? These 3 criteria are my major needs to support the users. The cheapest current HP printers I've seen that fit this functonality kinda miss on item 1, in that they cost about US$2500! HP's site does not make it easy to search for PCL-only printers.

I'm asking here in the VMS forum because I'm hoping someone else has already done something like this and can grok the environment I'm trying to setup, rather than have to argue with PC-heads about why I want to do it from VMS in the first place. Know what I mean?
Honored Contributor

Re: Print to PC-based printer

There is/was a pwprint tool around, if you have a license for it. See http://h71000.www7.hp.com/wizard/wiz_7438.html
and (to a lesser extent) see http://h71000.www7.hp.com/wizard/wiz_8811.html

Also see http://lprng.sourceforge.net/DISTRIB/RESOURCES/DOCS/pcl5comp.pdf for some related.

Also look at the implementation of a mechanism to print into a file, and then allow the users to download and print the file.

I'd be tempted to set up a firewall and VPN for the home users (firewalls are pretty cheap) and punch a hole into the home network for remote network printing. This solves a couple of problems, and provides some flexibility. It does require a little work to set up, either staging it in the office, or documenting it on paper for the home user.

Printing through another system has always been a dicy configuration, in my experience. Printers with NICs -- albeit slightly more expensive -- almost always provide significant cost savings due to their simplicity and reliability, in my experience. If you allow it and set the firewall up right, the corporate team can connect directly into the printer web server, and see what's up or when you need ink, for instance.

As for specific printers, LaserJet 3050 AiO and 3052 AiO both do PCL5e and PCL6. US$249 for the former. Color LaserJet 2800 AiO at US$699 has PCL6. You'll want to confirm this, and that these meet your specific requirements. Or not.

The other wrinkle: the low-end printers that have some form of Postscript emulation can have the Postscript emulation implemented in the driver. If you need native Postscript or Postscript emulation, read the printer specs carefully. The Color LaserJet 2800 AiO appears to have driver-based Postscript emulation, for instance. If you need both Postscript and direct OpenVMS access, take a look at the DCPS SPD and ensure the printer is listed there.

As for your choice of printers, that's up to you -- very few HP printers seem to lack some recent version of PCL, and many printers from other vendors also include PCL. The current HP InkJets and OfficeJets I just checked seem to mostly have PCL3. The LaserJets seem to have circa PCL5e, or PCL6.

Stephen Hoffman

Verne Britton
Regular Advisor

Re: Print to PC-based printer

I have found PCL support only by looking at "PDF version of all spec" for each printer and then scrolling down to Languages ... very time consuming but important as many low-cost HP printers now do all the page formatting in the Windows driver and simply do not understand PCL.

Some 3rd party sites say the HP LJ 1320 was retired 1-Feb, but BUY.COM on 3-Feb had a 1320N for $351 ("N" means it has a network card included).

Now I see at HP.COM the new P2015 does PCL and is only $280 after a $70 instant rebate ($283 at BUY.COM) but your network card is extra (or get a P2015*N* version).

Of course these are just simple B/W LJ models ... what multi-functions do you require?

A long time ago we needed a Telnet emulator package that supported the slave printer passthrough escape function (cannot remember the proper name for that) and found not all emulators did it in such a manner that setup escape modules would make it through the Windows spooler to the printer correctly ... but maybe you are not looking to change your terminal program so send the printer stream that way :-)

LPD works so well and is so easy to set up that it could end up being your best bet after all :-) Finding a special listening program to capture and spool the printer data all under Windows using a non-standard port could be messy ...

but if you do find a solution, especially a SSH tunneled one, be sure to let us all know !!

Aaron Sakovich
Super Advisor

Re: Print to PC-based printer

As far as the "multifunctions" we're looking for in a printer, nothing terribly unusual -- just all of them! 8^)

Print (duh), scan, copy, and FAX. We need to set up our users as independent entities, basically. It's easy to pick out a cheap DeskJet to do this, but I've not seen one yet that says it does PCL5 or better.

I think you're right about LPD being the only way to accomplish this, but that raises another question: If we tunnel LPD through the SSH connection the user creates, and the user starts the queue manually, will the LPD symbiont pick up the host name/ip address at the time the user issues the "Start/Queue My$Print /On=Sys$Rem_Node_FullName"*?

I can find this all out experimentally, but if someone knows off the top of their head, that would help save me some time.

* I know that's not the precise syntax, I'm just trying to get a point across.
Aaron Sakovich
Super Advisor

Re: Print to PC-based printer

Verne -- you got me going on a good track. I Googled the following:

site:h10010.www1.hp.com multifunction specification "HP PCL 5"

and then with "HP PCL 6", and found a printer: the OfficeJet 9110. It's $600, and it's not small, but it does both PCL5e and PCL6.

(The specific site restricts the search to small/medium business printers. You can take out the host h10010, and you'll get not only small office, but also enterprise printers, which cost several thousands of dollars.)
Honored Contributor

Re: Print to PC-based printer

The LaserJet 3050 All-in-One (AiO) and LaserJet 3052 AiO both process PCL5e and PCL6. US$249 list for the former. Copy, print, scan, fax.

Color LaserJet 2800 AiO at US$699 has PCL6.

See my earlier reply for additional details on the driver-based Postscript emulation in the LaserJet 2800. Didn't check the 30xx. There can be some cases when you don't want or cannot use driver-based emulation; where it's better to have it all built into the printer.

Verify the cartridge costs and slower print speeds, too, as can quickly eat through any savings you might realize from a lower cost of acquisition. The initially-more-expensive mid- to upper-end LaserJet printers might turn out to save you money and/or time, depending on your application. And most of the LaserJet printers are faster than the InkJet printers, and there's rather less of a ruckus when printing something.