The Panther Won't Print At Home - Or Will It?


(Updated)

The text below may still help people with other unsupported HP printers (and will be the first thing I look for if HP doesn't support newer revisions of Mac OS X in a timely fashion), but an updated driver suite is now available.

Of course Panther would have to have a downside, and I'd better start taking notes now, since it's bound to be necessary in the future.

My current printer is an HP PSC 950 (a USB fax/printer/scanner/copier). It's not that common a model, I'll warrant, and I actually don't use it much (except as a photocopier or fax for those archaic processes European bureaucracies are so fond of), but today I wanted to print some hard copy of a short document I'm laying out.

OK, I thought. Let's see if Panther will pick up the PSC 950 as easily as it did my office network printer. Oooh, it sees it on the USB bus. What do you mean, no driver installed?

To make a long googling short, HP's Support Page lists the 10.3 driver as "available soon", right at the end of the table (a sure sign the model is dead as a dodo, and perfectly in tune with HP's veritable swarm of printer models, clearly designed to force people to buy a new one every two years at the most). Apple's page doesn't list it as part of the built-in Panther drivers (but interestingly enough, it lists the PSC 1100, which is not that different).

Now, there's a bit of history here. First off, HP is not exactly known for delivering Mac OS X printer drivers on schedule (or actually defining a schedule, for that matter). When I upgraded to 10.2, I waited for nearly five months for a working printer driver (and even then, it tended to take up to 30% CPU doing nothing after printing).

And Apple, whose feedback form is now responding with an error page - so it probably has enough issues of its own right now, and isn't likely to want to support an ageing printer model.

So I'm looking at stuff like Gimp-Print and wondering if it would make all that much difference if I plugged the printer into my XP box (actually, given the closet's location I wouldn't be able to plug it in to the phone line for faxing, which might be a problem... ah well. I need to practise running cables anyway, for old time's sake...)

Oh, and my next printer won't be an HP - and it'll definetly have an Ethernet port, to get rid of this idiotic fiddling with printer drivers once and for all. PostScript is still the best approach to printing ever invented, and I want it back.

The Update, and The Results

After a few hints from Luís Lourenço and a vote of sympathy from Christopher Whipple (thanks to both), I managed to get the PSC 950 working with the Gimp-Print drivers bundled on the second Panther CD.

My first try after installing Gimp-Print failed due to two very important steps:

  • You have to boot your Mac with the printer on
  • You absolutely must click on the Add Printer... option in the Printer Setup Utility while holding the option key

I forgot the first, and had to look around a bit before I found a reference to the second.

So the correct sequence of steps was:

  • Reboot the iMac with the printer on
  • Open System Preferences, click Set up Printers..., option-click on Add Printer...
  • Choose the Advanced option on the drop-down box (this is why you option-clicked)
  • Click the Device: drop-down box and select your printer at the bottom of the list (this is why you rebooted with it on)
    • The Device URI: field will then be filled out for you with something like usb://Hewlett-Packard/PSC%20900%20Series?serial=ES19SAG13XXX
  • Choose HP in the Printer Model drop-down box
  • Next, choose HP DeskJet 900 series, CUPS+Gimp-Print v4.2.5 from the list
  • Click Add
  • Go and print something.

The default settings seem to work fine for now, but I'll be tweaking them later and posting any useful results here. I'm curious as to whether the DeskJet 900 has the same features as the printer portion of the PSC 950, but I guess that can wait.

The important thing is that as far as HP is concerned, I'm in the clear - if they ever manage to get out a decent printer driver I'll probably install it (since I'd like scanning and faxing as well), but the beauty of this is that I'm pretty sure I can get the scanner and fax working on my own too.

After all, SANE supports HP scanners, and I don't think it's that hard... We'll see.