Apple orphans Linux CUPS features- handicaps open source printing

CUPS, is the printing standard that open source projects have used successfully to convert desktops and computers to become printer servers, allowing plug-in, modular type of printing. However, now Apple after it acquired it from its developer Michael Sweet, at Easy Software Products, in 2007, has chosen to abandon certain Linux exclusive features, and continuing with popular Mac OS X features.

The changeover is being attempted by Apple to set new printing standards that will not require ‘drivers’ in the future. However, the journey in between from the present ‘driver-only’ printers that communities across the world are engaged to Apple’s printer-utopia, just got tougher and essentially involves more work for Linux users.

When lead developers on the project, Tim Waugh, let the cat out that newer versions of this printing project, starting with CUPS 1.6, would become an exclusive Mac OS features, leaving out Linux-features maintenance to other project – Linux-platform feature, orphaned by Apple’s ambitious Internet Printing Protocol-Everywhere will now be maintained by OpenPrinting Project as a separate project.

In the post Waugh, goes on to discuss that the ‘driverless’ printing feature that Apple is currently pursuing does not require PPDs(PostScript Printer Description)  since it will have an exclusive set of common imaging standards in printers , so that they are rendered ‘driverless.’  Developers like him are expecting that in CUPS 1.6 PPDs clients will be orphaned, while internal PPDs will continue, until the stage when all printers convert to IPP Everywhere. Discussions on optional vector candidate hovers around PDF 1.4/1.5, while ‘Postscript’ will see a complete phase out.

Two main changes Waugh mentions in his post are- CUPS browsing and some CUPS Filters are to be orphaned.

CUPS Browsing, the pivotal process that detects cups-to-cups printer queue on Linux will no longer be available. Up until now each CUPS server typically sends UDP packets at 631 port to indicate its availability for queuing.

Now, the new changes in CUPS 1.6 will not allow this browsing to happen and will be replaced with DNS-SD. This is already the standard for Mac OS X, but does not include Avahi support. Avahi is a  popular system for zeroconf DNS-SD processes.

This change will upset the very feature that makes CUPS vital to Linux-based printing. The auto cups queue will now require that Avahi is present on both servers- at host and printer.

The second orphaned feature, that Apple has removed another key linux feature on CUPS, some filters as they are not necessary for Mac OS X and will be offered as a separate cups-filter package.

Way forward for CUPS

Though, further maintenance will be handled by OpenPrinting project independently it will not essentially be fork. While Apple’s attempt to install a new printer standard, with driver-less printers but imaging it a way forward, but at the cost of established Cups mechanism is definitely self-defeating.

Linux users are truly rankled at losing a very important printing feature, which they will now have to work by using Avahi; though suggestions of using other, less popular, printing ecosystems such as gimp-print, Foomatic, are yet to garner greater support.

  • Anonymous

    The headline is inflammatory and the article misses the point — the features will continue to be developed but just not by Apple. Every distro is sure to include the add-on projects sponsored by

  • Zygmunt Krynicki

    Eventually cups will also support service discovery and publishing via avahi. Avahi (and the standard behind it) makes much more sense than custom cups-only discovery protocol. There is definitely a lot of hand waving “evil Apple” in the article here. Careful readers should realize, should apple succeed in their effort and manage to bring driver-less printing to both Mac (and as a side effect, Linux) as then the world will be a _much_ better place for free software.

  • Ahmad Syukri bin Abdollah

     Do you understand the meaning of the word “orphan” in this context? It is exactly as you said, “developed, just not by Apple”.

  • Billclinton

    Wow. Can someone edit this person’s writing before posting it?

  • Apple are usually the bad guys

    Do you understand the meaning of the word “handicaps” in any context?
    I’m a strong OSS supporter; I only use Linux (Debian and Arch) on my computers. But this time, bashing Apple means saying we can’t take over the job ourselves. There is nothing to say that “open source printing” will get worse in any way as a result of this.

  • Guest

    I was pretty sure something like this was going to happen within a version or two after Apple got their hands on it despite promises to the contrary.  Sounds like it’s time to fork the code.

  • jhansonxi

    IPP will definitely eliminate many printer hassles.  SANE already supports Avahi for scanning (although it’s broken on Ubuntu 10.04, Lucid Lynx).  What IPP doesn’t help with is older printers for which the existing CUPS drivers are critical.  I’m also not sure if Avahi works through VPN or SSH tunnels (CUPS does).

  • IGnatius T Foobar

    Unacceptable.  Apple should abandon its half-baked proprietary operating system, and begin installing Linux on their computers.

  • Winston Weinert

    It’s a fork. Otherwise Apple would be happy to take sane patches.

  • Electric Cat Herder

    Nope. Linux desktop UIs are still not ready for prime time. Gnome lacks polish, KDE 4 is a monstrosity, Unity is too Fisher-Price, and do you really think some Gramma somewhere is gonna be able to handle Fluxbox?

  • Guest

    My 9 and 11 year old children know their way round Ubuntu well, as does my mother.

  • Guest

    You’d think Apple would be spending its time and money checking that Xcode works before shipping it, rather than messing with something else.

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