Back in 1998 our old trusty HP LaserJet MP5 broke and we replaced it with an HP LaserJet MP6. Over the decades it has provided its humans with reliable Mac OS and Linux printing joy and one of the cats with a warm place to sit in winter and - once - an emergency litter tray.
The cat wee didn't kill it though and after a clean up it provided close to another decade's worth of (slightly smelly) prints.
Sadly it's now running low on toner and it would seem that obtaining new toner cartridges for it is no longer a matter of simply popping down to OfficeWorks. Time then to go shopping for printers.
We also occasionally have a need to scan documents (I'm looking at you, Westpac) and thought it would be good to win back some office desk space by replacing our separate scanner and printer with an all-in-one unit.
Our requirements were relatively straightforward:
- Colour laser
- Duplex unit
- Must work with Linux
- Must be cheap(ish)
So with a budget of around $700 we quickly realised we could have some, but not all of our wishlist items. The final choice was between some HP units, a Fuji Xerox and a Samsung.
The Fuji Xerox DocuPrint C1190FS was, on paper, the best choice. It has a gigantic monthly duty cycle and although its toner cartridges are not cheap, they are large and can print way more pages than the competition. Sadly it appears to just not have Linux support. At all. So with only Linux machines in the office it's a no-go for us.
A similar unit that does have (some) Linux support was the Samsung CLX-6220FX. However, various reviews noted that the software is apparently quite awful and somewhat buggy. Having had a Samsung mobile phone with a UI full of typo3s we decided to take those reviews at face value and avoid this unit.
Nearly all Hewlett-Packard printers and multi-function units are supported under Linux. This is usually by way of the HPLIP software suite. Knowing that the manufacturer actively supports open source made it really easy to decide we wanted an HP unit.
Unfortunately the HP unit that does both colour and duplex was pretty much twice the price of the competitors products and there was not really any way we could afford that expenditure. So the choice was between a colour printer or one with a duplexer.
We don't often need to print double-sided documents, but if we do we can always re-insert them into the printer to print the reverse side and still get fairly decent looking output. Using crayons to colour in a properly duplexed monochrome print just doesn't give the same effect, though.
So in the end, we decided to go colour over duplex and the unit we ended up buying was the HP CM1415NF.
This unit is reasonably new, so as per usual if you run a slightly older Linux distribution it may not necessarily be supported out of the box. Happily though the HPLIP tarball download contains a hp-laserjet_cm1415fn-pcl3.ppd.gz PPD file, so it's supported in a more recent version of the software than what's included on my Ubuntu 10.04 machine.
Dropping the debian build scripts from the Ubuntu-bundled sources into the downloaded new tarball sources and then building seems to work fine. I installed my shiny new hplip-3.11.1 packages and was able to simply add the printer via the printer dialogs. A test print confirms it works - and works in colour.
Although (x)sane can see the scanner though the hpaio module, it seems a few non-free libraries are required in order to actually be able to use the scanner. These are not included in the tarball or hplip package, but these do come with a GUI utility that allows you to download and install the modules in the right place.
After you install hplip, simply run the hp-plugin utility to read and agree to the license, then download and install the modules. With this done, the scanner just works from within Gimp and via the xsane utility.