I just won a $300 bet

For the past several years I’ve printed various documents at home by sending them to my wife Amy with a request “Please print…”. And after several years we both know that Adobe Acrobat version 5 for Mac works far, far better than any subsequent release from Apple or Adobe, at least for the pdf documents I create on Linux. But how crazy is it that I don’t have my own printer?

Last weekend I found myself at Staples and I decided to make a $300 bet with myself that I could get good value from an Epson Stylus Photo 1400 printer (with a maximum format size of 13″x19″ borderless prints).

What I did was completely reckless: I did zero research on whether or not this printer would be supported at all, let alone work well with the printer’s amazing 5760×1440 dpi, 1.5 pL capabilities. Nevertheless, I declined the $39 Staples warranty that would have allowed me to return the printer for a full in-store refund for up to a year, and prepared myself to Make It Work.

My home machine runs Fedora 8 (Werewolf), and I quickly determined that Epson does not yet ship Linux drivers on their software media disk. That’s a shame, because the disk’s 700MB capacity was less than half used (337MB if memory serves).

Undaunted, I plugged in the printer and the GNOME Print dialog told me that a new printer was detected and would I like to configure it? Heck yea! I selected the vendor name, whereupon it offered me a selection of printers, only Epson 1400 was not on the list. It did offer to synthesize a .pdd file for me, however, and I accepted that.

Soon I was printing test pages, but the rest of the printer was not really working for me. So I fired up a search engine and started looking for “fedora epson 1400” and before long found a download page from Avasys that ultimately led me to pipslite-cups-1.0.3-1.i386.rpm


For a real test I loaded up some glossy photo paper, fired up The GIMP and printed an image. It certainly corresponded to what I had onscreen, but it also clearly lacked the kind of photo quality that made Epson famous in the market.

But wait! What is “print with gutenprint”? I used that command, and suddenly I’m getting all the options, all the features, and all the quality output I’d expect from a high-end (i.e., $300) consumer printer. Wow!

In less than an hour, with no lines of code needed, I was able to get what I needed, even if it wasn’t bundled on the disk, available from the EPSON website, or readily discoverable in Fedora’s growing list of supported and extras packages.No worries…I’m happily printing and now Amy need no longer maintain ancient versions of acrobat on my account. I’ll be sending both a thank-you note to the guys at Avasys and a suggestion that they push their packages to Fedora. Who says open source is not ready for the desktop? With just a little bit of confidence, it works great!