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The Problem with Printing on Windows Networks

No more printer drivers!

This summer has flown by, and I've neglected my blog. I really did try to find a way to work my Germany vacation into the concept of providing feedback to Microsoft. But I still can't figure out how to make my visit to Bavaria and Biergarten touring fit in. So the blog has been blank. How is a Biergarten like a Microsoft product? I don't know, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on that one. Anyway, I'm back on the job and will start blogging again regularly. Microsoft is certainly providing a lot of things to think and talk about. What easier way to get back into the swing of things than to post a letter from one of our favorite readers, Murat Yildirimoglu. Murat's musing on printer drivers is timely, and his point is valid. Let me know what you think. Here's what Murat wrote: Today many network admins complain about the problems of printing: printing over the network, printing through the Terminal Server, etc. DOS had only basic printing functionality but no printer driver concept. DOS expected the applications do the actual printing job. So, every application had a portfolio of printer drivers. WordPerfect was a good program because, among other things, it had the widest printer support: You could see a list of more than 1000 printers in that program (and here and there, the chance of meeting a printer not included in the list was very high). Then, Windows came and it freed applications from the burden of supporting every printer. We installed printer drivers to the operating system and, after that, every application running on top of the operating system could make use of the printer. This functionality necessitates that every Windows machine has to have the printer driver. Not bad, up until the first half of 1990s, when the network of computers become ubiquitous and we frequently use "network printers"; the printers not directly connected to the Windows machine. Network printers gave us flexibility. Printers would not have to be close to the machines, and expensive printers can be shared. Good. But the printer driver model didn't change with the network printers. Again, every Windows machine has to have the driver for the printer; whether the printer is a local one or not. And this point is nonsense. Let me give an example: If you have a network printer with a 10 MB driver software and you have 100 Windows machines that can print to that printer, then 10 MB driver must be installed either locally or over the network to these 100 machines (total 1 GB of network traffic and all the problems of locally installed drivers). What can be done for the network printers? There must be a solution so that only the print server (the machine that shares the printer) must have the printer driver. All the other machines should use that printer without installing the driver for it. Today, almost every device (mobile phones, PDAs, etc.) has some document viewing capability. That is, viewing the documents (interpreting the contents of the files) is a mundane task. Why, then, shouldn’t we send only the documents to the printers? Windows machines could send the documents as they are, and the print server could interpret the content and, using the printer driver installed on it, print the document. As a result, we may get rid of all driver related problems, especially in Terminal Server environments.

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