Linux Printing and Scanning Delight On The Go

Being on the road quite a bit I have the need every now and then to use a printer or scanner at a friends place. When it comes to Windows, this is usually a bit of a dangerous thing to do if you are like me and like to keep the PC clean and fast. In the best case, the manufacturers CD is not needed and Windows finds a default printer driver after a
couple of endless minutes of hard drive activities and online driver
downloads. In the worst case, one has to resort to the original software of the manufacturer, which means installing hundreds of megabytes
of printer drivers and utilities of doubtful quality. Fortunately, I use Ubuntu Linux (12.04) on my PC and I was quite surprised at how simple and fast this has become. Read on for the details.

In the first instance I had to connect to to a simple HP color printer over USB. I can't remember the model anymore, probably because it was rather a non-installation as Ubuntu discovered the printer when I plugged it in and automatically installed the correct printer driver. I was quite surprised when I went to the printer settings to find that it was already installed. I guess it can't get any better than that…

A couple of weeks later I was faced with a brand new Canon Pixma MG2255, a printer, scanner and copier combination. Ubunutu's Canon support for this particular device was not as good as for the HP above as drivers were not installed automatically. When trying manually I managed to get a driver installed from the default list that would print a page or two but then stop working. A quick check on the net revealed that this is a common problem with an easy fix by getting the Linux drivers from Canon. Instead of downloading several hundred megabytes the drivers , it's size was only around 2 megabytes and installation took about a minute by double clicking on the included installation script.

When it came to the scanner part of the device I was a bit disappointed that it wouldn't work with xsane like my HP scanner at home. But Canon at least supplies its own Linux based scanner program (scangearmp), again via an easy installation archive. It's a bit of a basic scanning program that works quite well to scan single pages into png or pdf format but not much else. There's no option to collate several pages into a single PDF file and for each page a file name has to be given separately. Hm, would that really have been much extra work? Anyway, for manual multi-page scans a simple Linux shell command converts all PNG output files in a directory into a single PDF file with a good picture quality and reasonable file size (around 1.5 – 2 Mbytes per page):

convert *.png -resize 1020×1320 -units PixelsPerInch -density 120×120 scan.pdf

Agreed, a bit of tinkering is involved, but I much prefer that to my PC accumulating unused Windows printer utilities from different vendors that are difficult to impossible to get rid of again completely once not used anymore.