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Linux tips and tweaks

Using an HP DeskJet 3050 with Linux

Buying a new printer when you are using Linux is always a bit of a gamble. Will it work? Will you be able to find drivers for it? Is support built in to the version of Linux you are using? These problems don't exist for Windows users and every printer is designed to use Microsoft's operating system. Printing support is actually quite good in Linux, but it's nowhere near universal as it is in Windows.

Having recently replaced my printer with an HP DeskJet 3050 printer/scanner/photocopier all-in-one, I can report that it works well, once I'd found the software. This combo device isn't the latest from HP, but it is being sold at a big discount and it is really cheap at the moment. It might be a good time to get one if you are a Linux user and need a printer/scanner/photocopier gadget. Even if you don't choose this model, there are tips here on how to get your own combo printer up and running.

First off, there was only Windows and Mac OS X software supplied on the CD bundled with the printer and there wasn't a printer driver. Linux did its best to find one and install it, but printing and scanning didn't work. Maybe there is a driver in the system somewhere, but trying random HP models to see if they would work didn't get very far.

The solution was to use Google to search for drivers. Searching for 'HP 3050 Linux' turned up HP LaserJet Printer Linux Drivers. That led to Open Source and Linux from HP. Links then to HP Linux Imaging and Printing and software called Hewlett-Packard's Linux Imaging and Printing software or HPLIP for short. You can select the version of Linux you use, the type of printer or all-in-one combo and download HPLIP. A lot of Linux distros and devices are covered and it is a great resource for driver software. I downloaded the DeskJet 3050 software for Ubuntu 11.04.

It informed me that HPLIP is available in Ubuntu (find it in the Software Centre), but the version on the website was slightly newer and it's not too hard to install. Step-by-step instructions are given and you basically just run it from a Terminal window and follow the prompts.

Restart Linux after installation and the printer/scanner/photocopier works great. Utilities like Simple Scan and XSane Image Scanning Program work fine and the HP 3050 scans with a click of the mouse. It's nice when things just work.

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