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Old 11-18-2002, 02:01 AM   #1
Registered: May 2002
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
Distribution: Gentoo
Posts: 136

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Status report: the state of cups

(to whom it may concern)

I spent most of this weekend installing CUPS and trying to make it work in a very simple configuration and failed, afterwhich it took little more than half an hour to uninstall it and reinstall lprng so it was functioning properly. I thought I'd offer my two cents here as a kind of status report on the state of CUPS.

I've read a lot about CUPS (e.g. all the man pages, the HOWTO's, the chapter in the SuSE administrators guide, and numerous webpages and usenet discussion on it) before I ever installed it. I liked the ideas behind it.

I tried six months ago to coax an earlier version to work, but failed. Actually, I did get it to work - briefly - but never completely. And somewhere in the course of trying to fix the last few details it stopped working, the web interface no longer allowed me to configure printers, and the more I worked on it, the more problems seemed to multiply. Finally, I uninstalled it and reinstalled it, but even that didn't fix it. After fighting with it off and on for a week I quit working on it and went back to lprng.

I wasn't beaten yet - I was biding my time. I read more and waited. When SuSE 8.1 came out, I noticed that they now use CUPS by default, so I bought 8.1, figuring "good, they must have worked the bugs out of it."

I thought I would start with a totally blank slate. I was going to set up a print server on my LAN. I installed a totally default load of SuSE 8.1 with no other software on an small pentium box, figuring to make it work locally before I worked the remote printer configurations. The installation give no trouble whatever (slow - but hey, its only a P133). I let it autodetect an Epson Stylus Color 400 on /dev/lp0 (which worked flawlessly under lprng and worked for a short time under my previous CUPs trials until CUPS broke). At first, it would print test pages on its default "lp" and "color" queues. But when I went to test the "photo" queue (the 720dpi mode) it started spewing garbage. I shut the printer off and attempted to clear the queue. I could not do so. No utility (the webpage utility, lpc, lpq, lprm) even recognized that there was anything queued. Everytime I turned the printer back on it started spewing garbage. I spent hours (and pages of paper) trying to figure out how to stop it. I never could figure where it was coming from.

In my first round with cups I discovered out that spewage could sometimes be stopped if you physically deleted all the files from /var/spool/cups/. So I deleted all files therein and the tmp directory. This time, it didn't stop anything. It finally stopped when I killed the cupsd daemom. When I restarted the daemon, it didn't spew garbage anymore, but now it wouldn't print anything on any queue that had formerly worked.

And I had a new problem. When I went into the web interface, while I could delete and add printers, I could no longer configure any of them. I would get an error message saying it couldn't access the client. I checked the logs, ran every diagnostic I could find but everything was cryptic or didn't show up at all.

Finally, after searching usenet with the exact error message phrase I began to discover that there are literally hundreds of people out there having this problem and unlike most Linux problems - no one is coming up with any answers. Some people get it working as if by magic after several total system re-installs, others by methods they don't understand. Many never could. And the dearth of responses to the same problems leds me to believe no one has any answers yet.

I tried the de-install and re-install technique. It didn't fix anything. I stopped short of wiping the disk clean and starting with fresh Linux. Somehow its a little too "Windows" like of a solution.

So I gave up again. CUPS is clearly not anything like a mature collection of code yet. I'm not even sure I'd want to call it a beta. And the people with problems were using a variety of distributions - there were lots of Debian, BSD, Mandrake users with the same problems.

Now, don't flame me over this. I like the idea of CUPS and I hope it gets straightened out one of these days. But I don't believe its there yet.

Jeff Cunningham


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