Print Nazis

“Hey man,” began the instant message. “Have you ever done Windows print queues using Samba?”

“Sure, a long time ago,” I say.

“Did it work?”

“It worked fine the five or six times I printed to it. And three of those were probably test pages. I was messing around. Why?”

“I set up a Linux print server a week ago and it’s not working right. People print big jobs and it stalls, or people can’t print to it. All sorts of weird shit going on.”

I’ve seen my friend’s setup. He has HP printers with JetDirect cards. “Why don’t you just print straight to the printers with TCP/IP and skip all the BS?”

“We wanted to start using Linux more around here, so we thought we’d replace our Windows print server with a Linux one.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way but you work for a company with five printers and 30 people. Why do you even need a print server?” Not to mention using a platform out of its element.

“We use it for print accounting. Plus this way we can delete print jobs that get stuck.”

“My *single* local printer services 30 people and they all print straight to it via TCP/IP. No fuss, no muss.” I didn’t mention that I also have no tolerance for that passive-aggressive print spying crap. Treat someone like a four year old and that’s what you’ll get.

“What do you do when there’s a problem?”

“There’s a power button on the printer. Or the ‘cancel job’ button on the front.”

“Are you serious?”

“Um, yeah,” I answer.

“You’re all sysadmins, though. That’s why that works.”

“Most of the organization prints via TCP/IP, straight to the printers. We had one problem a few months ago where someone was doing something that was crashing a printer’s JetDirect card. I took a Linux box, gave it the printer’s IP, and logged the connection attempts. Our desktop guys went to the couple of machines that tried to connect repeatedly and found the culprit. We have problems once in a while, but compared to the staff time spent babysitting queues, print servers, etc. it’s just easier our way. Besides, the ‘cancel job’ button is strangely intuitive once people know when they should push it.”

“How do you tell when someone is printing a lot of crap, or inappropriate stuff?”

“Our printers are in fairly high-traffic areas, which does the trick. And so what if someone prints a map to their aunt’s house? Big freaking deal. You can’t use technology to solve a ‘people’ problem.”

“Well, you shouldn’t do that stuff at work.”

“Aw, give me a break. If you want to be a dick about it I won’t do incidental work stuff from home, either.”

“Well, *I’m* not the one worried about it.”

“Yeah, but you’re the guy who has to spend 20 hours a week making mountains from molehills. And now you’ve asked me for pointers on how to torture your coworkers. I bet you guys look at people’s phone records, too.”


Thought so. My organization can be a drag sometimes, but at least we don’t sweat the little things. Freakin’ print Nazis. You’d think they’d have something better to do.

P.S. Oh, and if you run an all-Windows shop, use Windows for your print server. If you want to play with Linux start with the goal of implementing Nagios to monitor everything. That way you aren’t sacrificing the productivity of others by messing with their printing. 🙂