New Printer a Real Learning Experience

Life was so much easier in the olden days of the Classic Mac OS. Every PostScript printer worked with Apple’s standard LaserWriter driver. That’s not true in the world of Mac OS X, where you need the correct CUPS printer definition to take advantage of all your printer’s features.

I made an interesting discovery. Last week, my 10-year-old Brother laser printer stopped feeding paper. Being unemployed, that’s not an option. I need to be able to print out resumés and cover letters.

I shared my predicament with our Facebook group, and one kind individual offered to buy me a brand new laser printer. I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve had good luck with Brother printers – 10 years of use is nothing to sneer at. So I went to the Brother website, did my research, and settled on the DCP-L2540DW laser printer/copier/scanner. One of those nice all-in-one devices that does double sided printing, supports 1200 dpi high quality output, supports WiFi and AirPrint (for our iPhones and Waverly’s iPad), has ethernet for our network, and includes USB as well – all for under $120 (plus sales tax) with free shipping from Amazon.com.

It Doesn’t Like Snow Leopard

When it arrived, it replaced my old printer, and I just hooked up the cables on the new printer as I had on the old one, both USB and ethernet. Then I discovered that my Mac mini with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard didn’t have the right CUPS definition for the new printer. I could connect to it via USB, but I could only use a generic PostScript driver – and the scanner wouldn’t work at all.

Off to the Brother website to find an updated driver, only to learn that this printer doesn’t officially support OS X 10.6. Not cool, because it’s what’s on my wife’s MacBook Pro as well, and I can’t update her to OS X 10.9 Mavericks (which I use on my MacBook) without upgrading her to Microsoft Office 2011.

Or maybe not.

It Likes Mavericks

The next option was to connect it via USB to my MacBook running Mavericks. I tried to use it wirelessly, but while it would print, it wouldn’t scan that way. With USB, it does both. Nice.

Scamming preferences

I can scan from the MacBook with OS X 10.9; the Mac mini with 10.6 couldn’t scan at all.

But now my Mac mini couldn’t see the printer at all. Not on ethernet. Not via AirPort. I guess it really isn’t supported in OS X 10.6! Not that I don’t like using my MacBook to host the printer, but the Mini is my primary work computer.

Share this printer on the network enabled

Sharing the printer on my MacBook lets me print from my Mac mini with OS X 10.6.

I had hoped to be able to print directly over ethernet and no longer use Printer Sharing, but that’s not the case. That’s going to be fine when the MacBook is at home (which it usually is when I’m at home), but sometimes I take it with me. Then again, I won’t be home to use the Mac mini when I have the MacBook in the field. However, Waverly might want to print on it, but for now she’ll have to use the printer in her basement office.

Maybe once we get her upgraded to Mavericks, she’ll be able to print wirelessly.

Surprise!

Still, I was in for an unexpected treat when I went to my Mac mini to set up the newly shared printer. Not only did it see the printer, but now it had access to the Brother DCP-L2540DW CUPS driver located on the MacBook. That was a pleasant surprise. I guess that’s part of the CUPS system, having the host computer share its CUPS definition with remote devices.

I have access to the right CUPs driver

With the printer shared from my MacBook, the Mac mini sees the CUPS driver for this printer.

I had been limited to 300 dpi and 600 dpi printing using the generic PostScript driver, but now I can use the HD 1200 setting as well.

Now I have acces to HD 1200 output

With access to the right CUPS driver, I can do HQ 1200 printing.

Still no access to the scanner from my Mac mini, but that’s not a big deal. I didn’t have a scanner before, and when I need one, I’ll use the MacBook.

I am very impressed with the DCP-L2540DW as a printer. I’ve done a few test scans, and they seem fine, but I haven’t run it through its paces. I am curious whether I can use the sheet feed with 4″ x 6″ photos. Something to test in the future. If it does, I have a boatload of pre-digital snapshots it would be nice to digitize.

Hey, This Is Cool!

I just had to boot up my Power Mac G5 Dual with OS X 10.5 Leopard. Guess what? It sees the new printer and its CUPS driver just like the Mac mini with OS X 10.6.

I did power up my iMac G4 with OS X 10.4 Tiger installed, but no luck there. Ditto on my Power Mac G5. Tiger just can’t see the shared printer.

Office Reconfiguration

This is impacted my plans to reconfigure my office. I’m making it much easier to use the MacBook as a regular work machine, not just a portable adjunct to the Mac mini. It isn’t a big deal, but it is one more factor.

Work area being set up with 3 Macs

Ever since I got this 60″ x 30″ IKEA desktop, table legs, and the short coffee table that sits below it to hold my Power Mac(s), I’ve had it set up in a closet. I removed the bi-fold doors, and the opening is just a bit over 60″ wide. I left a little space behind the desktop for wires, and it stuck out of the closet by maybe 2″. It made for a very nice standup desk, although the legs aren’t quite long enough for optimal ergonomic height. But it’s close enough.

I had three 12-inch-deep, 6′ wide adjustable shelves mounted to the closet wall, and I’ve pretty much replicated that with my new setup. I’ve also made some tweaks: The monitor shelf is 1″ higher than before, I’m no longer using displays in portrait mode, and the printer is to the right of my desk, where it had been along the wall just outside the closet and to the left of my desk.

The Mac mini used to set in the monitor shelf; it’s now on the desk. My primary UPS used to be on the coffee table; it’s now on the desktop as well. The Mac mini, its display, the WiFi router, and the backup drive are all on UPS. I’m willing to lose power to the Power Mac G5 Dual, the printer, the other two monitors, and the 10Base-T ethernet hub I use to extend the network. The MacBook has its own battery – and a reader has donated funds for a Newer Tech replacement, as the old battery lasts well under an hour.

It’s a work in progress. I’ve removed some old, cheap bookshelves and replaced them better built hand-me-downs from my parents. I’m sorting through my software and books and everything else to determine what will remain in the office, what will go out with the trash next week, what will go into storage, and what I might try to sell.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a reliable, budget laser printer or all-in-one device, give Brother a look. Just be sure before you buy that your Mac setup is fully supported. These days, less and less printers offer drivers for OS X 10.6 and earlier – sometimes even 10.7 Lion and 10.8 Mountain Lion support is iffy.

For value, I’m very happy with Brother.

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