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ATPM 9.04
April 2003




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How To

by Sylvester Roque,

Making Jaguar Adopt Orphaned Printers (Hopefully)

When I first read the feature list for OS X, I almost shorted out the keyboard drooling. I mean, improvements to multitasking, network support, memory management, and a host of other features—what is not to like?

Despite the many great reasons to purchase OS X, I adopted a “wait and see” attitude, until I could gauge OS X’s stability. No matter how much I wanted the new features, without a stable operating system a computer is little more than a pile of silicon chips, wires, and other sundry parts.

After purchasing OS X, several more months went by before it became my primary OS. This time, the wait was not due to concerns over stability. In tests on my system, things had gone remarkably well. The problem was difficulty printing. There was no OS X driver available for my Epson Stylus Scan 2500 printer/copier/scanner. That was a big problem because, with the exception of a few games, most of the work done on my Mac needs to be printed. I know it is a refurbished printer, but it is a real workhorse and I have had it for less than four years.

Well, since I use OS X every day, and print documents almost every day, it is safe to conclude that I have solved my printing problems. Perhaps my experiences will help you as you attempt to solve your problems. Let us look at the options in the same order that I explored them. For me this also puts the options in order from least to most preferable. For purposes of this article, I will assume that you have checked your printer manufacturer’s list of available drivers recently. If you are running Jaguar and you have not checked for an updated driver since 10.0, it is time to check again.

Initially, few of the applications that I used regularly were OS X-native. I spent most of my time learning the new system. Any actual “work” that I did involved launching an OS 9 application in Classic. I usually booted directly into OS 9 to print.

This process worked well enough but I did not like it. Having to reboot the system was an annoyance. Classic ran well when I needed it to, but I was in a hurry to move all of my operations to OS X. Every minute that I spent running some form of OS 9 was time spent that did not fully take advantage of the new features I wanted. Solving my orphaned printer problem became very important.

A Little Carbon and a Little Cocoa

Over time, I have gradually upgraded my critical applications to OS X. During this process, I had an interesting mix of Carbon and Cocoa applications in use. Because these applications behave a little differently, the methods that I used to print from them were a little different. Let us examine the difference between these two types of applications and how it affects printing if you do not have an OS X printer driver. For purposes of our discussion, let us simplify things a bit.

Most Carbon applications are capable of running under OS 9 or OS X. In essence, which interface the user sees and the options they have access to depend upon the operating system used to boot the machine. Users booting from OS 9 see the OS 9 environment and the printer drivers installed there. Launching the same application under OS X produces the OS X environment and its options. Photoshop 7 is an example of one application that behaves in this way.

These applications are great if you have an orphaned printer. Under most circumstances it is possible to complete your work under OS X and then reboot, launch the application, and print under OS 9. Having to reboot is something of an annoyance and on some systems is rather time consuming, but it is better than not printing at all.

Cocoa applications run exclusively under OS X. Launching these programs usually results in some variation of the Aqua interface. Even if you have an OS 9 printer driver installed on your system, you will not be able to access that driver from Cocoa applications. Using an orphaned printer under these circumstances takes some thought. Let us look at the options in order from least to most preferable.

Making OS X Adopt Orphaned Printers

One of the options that I tried involved looking for an OS 9 mate to the OS X application that I wanted to use. Once I found a mate, I would do all of my work in the OS X application and then boot into the OS 9 version of the same program to print. For example, if I used the OS X version of GraphicConverter to create a file, I could use the OS 9 version of GraphicConverter to print the same file.

Usually the file types were compatible and the process worked, but as I mentioned earlier I did not like it. Rebooting the system was only part of the problem. This solution means wasting hard drive real estate by keeping two copies of an application around. If you use some of the larger programs or have a large number of programs, this may mean losing a significant amount of drive space. Obviously, this might be a concern depending upon the capacity of your hard drive.

One variation on this technique involved saving the file in a common file format and printing from within an application which is not a direct mate to the OS X application that created the file. Suppose, for example, you have the OS X version of GraphicConverter, an OS 9-only version of Photoshop, and an orphaned printer. One solution is to use OS X version of GraphicConverter to save the file in a format that Photoshop can read. Printing the file still requires a trip to OS 9.

The major downside to this technique is that you must be aware of the various file types available to save the file in and which OS 9 program can read the resulting file to open and print it. Additionally, saving the file in the wrong format may mean that some formatting is lost.

No Programs in Common?

Right about now you are saying, “OK, smart guy, what do I do with an orphaned printer if I want to print a file but can’t find a common file type to bridge the gap between the two operating systems?” Well, I stumbled upon a solution to this problem recently on a bulletin board.

One of the features that I like about OS X is the ability to create basic PDFs without the need to have the full version of Adobe Acrobat. Now, Acrobat is almost a necessity for creating complex PDFs, but for basic printing, here is a cheaper option. This trick relies on PDF creation features built into the system software. To accomplish this task, while in OS X use the Print dialog to save the file as a PDF. The file can then be printed using Acrobat Reader under OS 9. While I have not tested this method extensively, correspondence with users who have used this method more than I have indicates that this is not a great solution if you need very accurate graphic printing.

Finally a Member of the Family

Using any of the above techniques will mean that your orphaned printer is not quite a full-fledged member of the OS X family because the actual printing is accomplished under OS 9. There are some ways however in which orphaned printers can almost become full-time productive members of the OS X community.

After a few months using a variety of the techniques discussed above, I was getting a little frustrated. One day, out of sheer desperation, I searched the discussion board on the Apple Web site. I also searched the boards at MacFixIt, OS X FAQ, and a few other sites that I do not remember. Somewhere in all of that reading and posting I discovered that some users had found a way to hack together the driver for a printer that was supported by OS X to make the driver operate a printer that was not supported by OS X. Finally, there was some hope.

A few days after my initial post, I got lucky on two fronts. First, I found the directions to hack a driver that would work with my Stylus Scan 2500. Second, I found someone who had completed the hack successfully and was willing to send me the driver that he was using to operate his Stylus Scan 2500. This was quite a break for me because I was wary of trying to hack the driver myself. I installed the driver, rebooted the system and lo and behold it worked. Most of the printing features worked well. The only feature I seem to have lost is the ability to check the remaining ink levels.

If you choose to go this route in your search for a driver, check discussion groups devoted to your printer manufacturer. Sometimes what you find there will surprise you.

The hacked driver worked well and finally I no longer needed to use OS 9 to print. This was great, but with the upgrade to Jaguar, presented me with an additional option and I have been using this method since about October of 2002.

My CUPS of Tea

With the official release of Jaguar in August of 2002, Apple included access to a printing method commonly referred to by long-time Unix users as CUPS. Short for Common Unix Printing System, CUPS is a cross-platform printing solution for all Unix environments. Since OS X has a Unix core, it is possible to implement this feature on your beloved Mac.

I am still digesting some of the details about CUPS. If you are interested in more detail, check out this overview.

Now despite the fact that I tinker with Macs a lot, I must confess to being a little afraid of tinkering with Unix. Don’t get me wrong, I plan to learn at least the basics, just not right now. What I needed was an easy, preferably GUI way to access this feature. Once again, the Mac community has come to my rescue with a nifty piece of programming called Gimp-Print. This piece of software uses a standard OS X installer program to install all necessary files.

The current version of Gimp-Print is a file that is roughly 10 MB. Before you download the current version of Gimp-Print check out this FAQ page. It contains, among other things, answers to common questions about the program, a list of supported printers, and a link to the download. The list of supported printers is organized by manufacturer. If your printer model is not listed, scroll toward the bottom of the list of supported printers. The manufacturer’s names are repeated with a list of additional printers that are partially supported. Most of the major manufacturers have at least some of their models on one of these two lists.

Initially some users had reported that print jobs sent to Carbon applications such as AppleWorks or Photoshop failed, while printing to the same printer from Cocoa applications such as TextEdit was successful. This is usually due to an incomplete installation that was performed manually. This issue is usually resolved if the pre-built OS X installer package is used.

In testing using my Epson Stylus Scan 2500 I have found this software to yield results virtually identical to the OS 9 driver that I was forced to use. It has proven to be an easy to install and remarkably stable option. The other thing that I like about this option is that a few mouse clicks lets configure my iBook for use with a different printer without installing a completely new set of software. In fact, over the Christmas 2002 holiday I began using this driver with my wife’s Epson C80. A quick trip to Print Center allows me to choose a printer.

The only flaw that I have experienced so far with this system is that I do not have the ability to check remaining ink levels on the 2500. On the C80 I can, because when I removed the somewhat ornery Epson C80 driver, I left the utility that checks ink levels behind.

• • •

I hope that at least one of these ideas will help you breathe new life into a previously orphaned printer. It is at least worth a try before purchasing new equipment.

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (9)

Dusty · April 4, 2003 - 16:28 EST #1
You provided some potentially valuable help for my orphaned Epson SC850 and multiple packages of ink, of course.

Using your link, the file that shows up for Gimp Print is Verson 4.25 and it's 3.8 megs.

There's a 10 meg version 4.312 of March 2003, but darned if I can figure out how to download it. It takes me to a download page where it's highlighted, but I can't seem to find a download button.

Any thoughts? I'm in your league when it comes to fumbling around and there's enough uninstall problems with updates that I'd just as soon await your reply before going further.

Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · April 4, 2003 - 18:47 EST #2
Dusty - sheesh, I don't blame you. They didn't make it easy, but here you go: I followed through several links and got to a page that listed all the mirror sites to download this newest version of Gimp Print. On each line for a mirror site, you'll see a little document icon next to the file size. Clicking that icon will refresh the page and the download should start momentarily afterward.
Dusty · April 6, 2003 - 18:30 EST #3
I'm still trying.

Originally, I downloaded Gimp Print 4.2.5ppc.dmg. It's about 3.8 Megs. When mounted, it's a definitely finished installer, ready to go to work.

When I did the refresh, I got Gimp Print 4.312 that decompresses to a folder, not a disk image, and takes up 13.6 Megs on hard drive. However, there's no installer. The document that says" install" is a text document as is the "readme." Both have command line instructions. If you were nearby when I opened them you would have hear some soft moans. Or maybe a profanity or two. I don't quite recall.

Any further suggestions? Perhaps that newest version isn't yet reduced to handy installer form. If so, have you an opinion about the quick and easy version 4.25? Thanks.

Sylvester Roque (ATPM Staff) · April 7, 2003 - 00:17 EST #4
I am currently using the quick and easy version 4.2.5 with the OS X installer. I should have mentioned that version number in the article.

It works fine for me. Since the article went to press, I have found some PDF files that refuse to print out of Acrobat reader. These same files print out of the Preview application that ships with OS X. I suspect that for some files created with other Adobe programs, this may continue to be a problem. The solution is probably to use a compatible application to print (e.g. Preview instead of Acrobat reader etc.)

I should be testing the new version in a few days to see if these problems are corrected.
Dusty · April 7, 2003 - 18:55 EST #5
Thanks. My old faithful Epson SC850 is happily printing away under OS X 10.2.4 using Gimp Print 4.25. I'm printing 22 pages of tax returns from Turbo Tax.

I don't seem to have any choices about resolution DPI, color, etc. My next step will be to read the docs. It could be that my USB to parallel cable, which they mention, is a cause of problems, but that's not a major problem. Most of my printing is black text and this is coming through looking good.

Sylvester Roque (ATPM Staff) · April 8, 2003 - 19:42 EST #6
All of the options for Gimp Print took me a little time to find. If, like me, you hate reading the documentation, here is the solution:

  1. Call up the print dialog by either using command P or by choosing Print from the file menu.

  2. The dialog box appears with a drop down menu that says "Copies and Pages."

  3. Scroll down the menu until you see an option that says "Printer Features."

  4. The dialog box will change and provide options for type of paper, type of image, resolution, etc.

Dusty · April 9, 2003 - 14:01 EST #7
Thanks again.

The drop-down menus give me more options than I know what to do with, including options that were not available in OS 9 using Epson software. There's a myriad of color adjustments I can tweak and choices that look like CMYK color or RGB, etc.

However, I haven't found one thing I was looking for--the ability to set to just black. It's not important. Most black stuff is black to begin with unless I make it otherwise, such as spreadsheets and Word documents.

One item, however, isn't under my control--printing such stuff as an information web page or .pdf documents which can have all kinds of color in the background and side panels, none of which I want. Black saved the more expensive color inks.

Still, if it's a real bummer, I can always convert in Photoshop and then print.

It's not for lack of looking. On the SC850, there's no black option. On the C80 there is a black option.

However, for free and easy, this is darn good. No complaints.

Thanks again.

Sylvester Roque · April 9, 2003 - 19:40 EST #8
I am not at my usual computer to test this, but here is what I think will work:

  1. Open the print dialog and click on the drop down menu. It usually says Copies and Pages but scroll down to "Printer Features."

  2. In the drop down menu marked "Feature Sets," choose "Expert Settings 2."

  3. When the dialog box changes, choose the drop down menu that says "Output Mode." One of the options should be Black and White.

As you have discovered, this software provides a wide range of settings which vary slightly from printer to printer, so this may not work for all models.
Dusty · April 10, 2003 - 17:39 EST #9
It absolutely works. I totally missed "expert settings" as a drop-down, but "Expert 2" has the black option I was looking for.

Thanks again.

You must have a marvelous memory. Even with a program that I've worked with for years and where people have to call to ask me questions, if it's not on the screen, I mumble about it being "maybe the third dropdown menu, or maybe the fourth. Anyway, what you're looking for is XXX or something like that."


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