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Feature: Desktop Hardware

A label printer for Linux

By Lee Schlesinger on October 09, 2007 (4:00:00 PM)

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When Seiko Instruments said it is now offering Linux drivers for its Smart Label Printer 450 and offered to send me one to test, I was happy to hear it, because it seemed like an example of how Linux is being recognized for even non-mass-market hardware devices. While the printer does work as advertised, it is clear that Linux support is a work in progress.

The printer's Quick Start documentation outlines how to install the hardware and the drivers for Windows and Mac OS X, but makes no mention of Linux. The bundled CD also lacks Linux drivers, but a quick Google search took me to the driver download page.

Within the download archive is a README.txt file that notes the Common UNIX Printing System (CUPS) development libraries and other libraries that must be installed before you can build the driver. I used Adept to install the necessary libraries on my Kubuntu Feisty laptop. The instructions fail to mention that you also need the g++ compiler, but I quickly discovered that fact and installed it too. After a quick execution of sudo make build and sudo make install, the drivers were in place.

The next step is to connect the printer and the computer. The printer comes with both a serial and a USB cable to connect to the computer. I used USB, in part because, as the README file noted, the driver has been validated only with USB connections.

Next, I visited http://localhost:631 to add the printer via the CUPS administration tool, specifying a PostScript Printer Description (PPD) file extracted from the download archive. All went smoothly, and I was ready to start printing.

I created a label in an ordinary OpenOffice.org document and sent it to the printer. Unfortunately, only the top half of the first line of the label was printed. By dragging the margins back to the edge of the page, I was able to print a complete label in beautiful, clear type.

One label is nice, but a label printer is most useful when you can merge and print many labels at a time. Unfortunately, Seiko doesn't yet offer an OOo template for doing that, and no one has created one for Wordlabel.com's handy OOo template page. Seiko software engineer Sanford Selznick suggests that label printer support for applications is the company's next logical step.

Until that support is ready, the $150 Smart Label Printer 450 is a handy tool for anyone who needs one-off labels.

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A label printer for Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.168.1.144] on October 09, 2007 04:47 PM
Why would you need to compile anything as root to get a printer working, rather than just downloading a PPD from linuxprinting.org ? It makes no sense, and I would avoid any printer manufacturer who told me I needed to do this.

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Re: A label printer for Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.248.236.96] on October 09, 2007 06:02 PM
Agreed, and in fact, the README does tell you to build it as root. Probably not necessary, but that's hardly any better.


While I do appreciate some support for Linux, this is not a helpful level yet.


I have seen very insightful comments on device support recently, to the effect that, first of all, manufacturers look at device support as a form of advertising. That's why Windows device software support pops up windows, loads doodads in the system tray, and installs special drivers that flash the manufacturer's logo and web links all over the dialog, when all you want to do is print something.


Secondly, but related to that, the actual support software is often complete junk. If people could actually see the poor-quality, possibly intrusive and potentially insecure crap that goes into the software they were installing (as root!), it would be a huge embarrassment.


In this case, even these easily fixed rough-edges cannot be fixed because the support package is all under a proprietary license: no changes and no redistributing.


Based on that, I don't think we'll ever see Windows-style hardware support for Linux, or if we do, I for one don't want it.


The best we can hope for is that the manufacturer will simply release enough information for us to develop our own drivers, or adapt a generic driver to handle the device.

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Re: A label printer for Linux

Posted by: Nathan Willis on October 09, 2007 08:43 PM
There are other varieties of printer that need their own backend, such as HP's <a href="http://hpinkjet.sourceforge.net/">multifunction devices</a>.

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A label printer for Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.34.216.58] on October 09, 2007 08:30 PM
"When Seiko Instruments said it is now offering Linux drivers for its Smart Label Printer 450 and offered to send me one to test..."

"The printer's Quick Start documentation outlines how to install the hardware and the drivers for Windows and Mac OS X, but makes no mention of Linux. The bundled CD also lacks Linux drivers"

Who is in charge of marketing at Seiko ???
Why in the world would you say you are offering Linux printer drivers and then NOT include them with a review unit to a LINUX reviewer ??
I would fire this guy/gal in a heartbeat.

--end

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"non-transferable..."

Posted by: Michael Shigorin on October 09, 2007 09:56 PM
Well, Canon at least thought when they were wrtiting down their LBP/Pixma-related EULA which is quite liberal. Seiko, apparently, didn't. They just lost another distro which could include the driver out-of-box.

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A label printer for Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 67.77.140.3] on October 10, 2007 02:58 AM
Actually that is the way I would make labels on such a printer. If I want multiple lables, I use a sheet of them in an inkjet or laser. If I want a single label, then I use a printer such as the SLP 450. I've got an Avery printer for just such a need, although I have to use it with Windows because Avery does not support Linux. Maybe I will have to junk the Avery and buy an SLP 450. I don't mind the compiling. That is better than the Avery support.
I wonder what license the source code is under? It must be human readable if it has to be compiled. Can't be too proprietary there.

Glenn

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PostScript ... just give me PostScript

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.192.21.54] on October 10, 2007 03:15 AM
This would all be so much simpler if these printers understood PostScript.

We should not have to install a different driver for each printer.

No should we have to use an abomination of a printing system which encourages this gratuitous proliferation of drivers.

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A label printer for Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 12.169.163.241] on October 10, 2007 07:15 AM
OK, so their "Linux support" is nearly non-existent and you get crippled functionality, once you struggle through making the dumb thing work. It doesn't integrate with any major Linux word processor, and only does one thing the hard way. Doesn't sound like a good buy to me.

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Brother P-Touch QL550 (with Brother supplied CUPS drivers)

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 149.254.192.192] on October 10, 2007 08:52 AM
don't forget the rather good Brother P-Touch label printers - I use them for my small bicycle parts business for everything from parcel address labels to glossy server stickers - we are 100% Linux. The drivers are available either from Brother on their website or there is an OSS driver for CUPS. The nice thing about these printers is you can get labels as continuous rolls and the printer cuts it at the length determined by you. We even did 100's of promo bike frame stickers using it...

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Glabels label software

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 194.250.98.243] on October 11, 2007 10:22 AM
Have you tried the gLabels software (http://glabels.sourceforge.net). I think it might suit your needs. I've been using it for single labels and also sheets.
And it's in the {K|X}Ubuntu repositories ,-)

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Re: Glabels label software

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 196.1.58.54] on October 12, 2007 12:33 PM
I second the glabels suggestion.

The CSV functionality is a bit buggy, though, so save often if you are using a CSV file to make each label different.

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A label printer for Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 67.189.33.97] on November 06, 2007 11:19 PM
There are many label printers that you can talk to through a serial port in a common (or at least documented) language. They are usually a little more advanced than this tiny thing, but they're usually higher quality too. Such a printer would be incredibly easy to use in linux (the SafetyPro, DuraLabel and TSC printers come to mind).

As far as software goes, why in the world would you want to print from OO? Most label printers use their own software, even in Windows. For sequencing (or multiple labels as everyone keeps saying), custom s/w or scripting would be quite easy with a serial connection printer.

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