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Having trouble installing a piece of hardware? Want to know if that peripheral is compatible with Linux?


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Old 09-08-2006, 05:11 AM   #1
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Distro/Driver for old HP Plotter?

I can't believe people actually ask this:
"Hey, my plotter is only 19 years old, why doesn't every OS in the world support it?"

I see that question everywhere I look on the web in my feeble search for a driver for my plotter. Do people really think that the whole world is going to continue to support a machine this old?

I'm not that naieve, but I still want to use my plotter. It is an HP Draftpro, model 7570A. It uses the first implementation of HPGL, which is essentially dead because it was quickly replaced by HPGL2, the language that nearly every plotter in the world uses to this very day.

What I'm doing is setting up an old PC as a plot-server of sorts, wherein the plotter will be installed and hopefully shared on the network. If I have to, I will just create plot files with other computers and do the plotting with that computer. At any rate, the newest MS OS that supports it is win98, which I would rather not mess with for obvioius reasons. Most of my linux experience is with Suse and Knoppix, neither of which includes native support for the 7570A. I'm hoping that I can find a distro that includes a driver for it, or maybe someone has created a driver for it somewhere that I can use with a lightweight distro like DSL (or perhaps someone can suggest one?).

Any ideas?


Old 09-08-2006, 11:35 AM   #2
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I think that you are correct in your assessment of reasonable expectations. Linux wasn't even a gleam in Linus' eye 19 years ago. Since then people have developed the things that they needed. If nobody needed to get a particular piece of hardware to work on Linux then support was never developed. This is one of the differences between open source and commercial product development.

When people think of printer drivers used in Linux they are almost always thinking of the Common Unix Printing System (CUPS) software. In fact CUPS has nothing to do with Linux development or vice versa. They are completely independent projects.

All the same I may have found an answer. The answer is that you don't need a system driver. Maybe. Check out this page.

It has a table with the following information.


Series 700 (internal) [1] asio0 /dev/tty#p#[2]

[1] The following model plotters can be configured to the Series 700 serial interface: 7440A, 7475A, 7550A, 7558, 7570A, 7576A, 7596C, C1620A, C1625A, C1627A, C1629A, C2847A, C2848A, C2858A, C2859A, C3170A, C3171A, C3180A, C3181A.

[2] The device file created by default is the standard /dev/ttyinstance# pport# . For ease of system administration, HP recommends that you create a line-printer device file (/dev/c#p#_lp) using mksf, as explained in “Creating a Device Special File for a Printer or Plotter Configured to a Serial Port”. The device naming convention derives from ioscan output: c# is the card instance for the tty class of interface card to which the device is attached and p# is the port to which the plotter is attached.
This might mean that you can simply plug your plotter into a serial port. Then you would have to rely on your application to control the printer. I haven't worked with plotter/plotting software in Linux so I don't know what packages are available or how good each is. You can look on the following sites for software applications.

That would be my approach to getting your plotter to work with Linux. You may be able to find a version of 19 year old plotter software that is available today to run on Linux. So, whatever application that you would have used in 1987 might be available to run on Linux or it may have a GNU equivalent with a similar name. Failing that you might look at the web pages for the various BSD distributions (OpenBSD, FreeBSD, and NetBSD). They might have equivalents of the 1987 plotter software that would have been available on most Unix systems. NetBSD is known for having the greatest variety of hardware compatibility, though this generally applies to computer architectures. You could say that NetBSD's strength is that it runs on a wide variety of legacy hardware.

Last edited by stress_junkie; 09-08-2006 at 12:00 PM.


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