Sunday, December 13, 2009


OpenPrinting cannot really be trusted. Some printers are listed as Paperweights--such as the 990i or i990--yet are supported by the commercial product TurboPrint, at least. Others have been listed as Perfectly, fully functional, because they are supported by TurboPrint. You cannot rely on this resource, but it's a good starting point.

I had to buy a new printer because our Pixus 990i went to a solid glowing yellow unresponsive light some days ago and never snapped out of it. I checked out some HP and Brother printers because they have very good Linux printing support. Canon support seemed spotty, but at the last minute this morning before returning to PC Depot to get a printer I was informed that the Canon Pixus MP640 did have drivers for both printing and scanning, and since it also prints CD/DVDs and is a wi-fi printer, I made a last-minute decision to get that one.

The printer wasn't cooperating in Linux at first so I decided to try it in Mac OS X. That was easy to set up and worked like a charm. Actually, the printer and scanner were recognized twice since I enabled the printer to use "Bonjour" as well as the normal wireless network link. We were connecting wirelessly on the laptops but not the ethernet-connected PCs, so I made a slight correction to the networking and now network printing and scanning is now available for Mac, Windows, and Linux PCs both wired and wireless. We had been using the age-old technique of just swapping the USB to the machine we wanted to print from, so this is a huge leap, but it seemed to take most of the day.

You can get the Japanese Linux drivers here, both deb and rpm. Linux drivers for the MP640 are here. The Debian printer drivers are here, and the Debian ScanGearMP packages are here. When you unpack these, each file contains two packages, a more generic one and a specific one for the MP640. Install all four with the package manager (a default, just double-click it). One final note: you cannot scan using XScan. The ScanGearMP works only with GIMP or on the command line, so just fire up the GIMP to start scanning, and set the MP640 as the default printer in your system preferences so you don't need to select it for every application. If you use Linux and get this printer that may save you a few minutes.

I haven't had a whole lot of experience testing printers, and I cannot vouch for the print quality of photos or DVDs and CDs. All I've printed is test prints, web pages, and OpenOffice documents. At the moment I'm just happy to have something that prints and scans painlessly from all the computers, Linux, Windows, or Mac, wherever they are. The MP640 is also a copier and has a fully multilingual menu with at least a dozen major languages. There are also some preset documents in the printer, like writing paper, sheet music paper, kanji practice paper, and so on. Just select one and print it out.

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