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.