Hopefully someone else can chip in on the USB prob. It's sounds like you are troubleshooting it right, and I'm not a big wiz with USB. Ideally, you should wind up with something like this:
[11435.540762] usb 1-3: configuration #1 chosen from 1 choice
[11435.540762] usb 1-3: New USB device found, idVendor=03f0, idProduct=3e17
[11435.540762] usb 1-3: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=3
[11435.540762] usb 1-3: Product: HP LaserJet P1006
[11435.540762] usb 1-3: Manufacturer: Hewlett-Packard
[11435.540762] usb 1-3: SerialNumber: Free Hat
I assume you have other USB stuff working?
re: the difference between USB and parallel port printers
The difference is huge :}
But the most basic is that a parallel port sends data to the printer in several paralell streams, serial sends data in one big stream.
USB is much more of a multifunction tool while parallel is almost exclusively used for printing. A better comparison would be parallel and serial printers.
Parallel ports are generally simpler to deal with; the technology has been around for decades. A parallel printer can be operated by a microcontroller. A USB printer needs not only everything necessary to make USB communications go, but a couple pounds of software to make the printer go. Yet in all fairness modern printers are capable of far more then the tractor-feed printers that parallel is often associated with.