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Printer buying guide
Buying a printer
Frequently I was asked which printer should be bought for Linux.
The first choice to get information about the support level of a printer is the printer database at [www.linuxprinting.org]. But you have to know the exact vendor and model. A query for "Kyocera Mita"/"FS-820" is different from "Kyocera Mita"/"F-820".
Be also aware that perfectly working laser printers can be found second hand for as low as Euros 25... with toner, like Kyocera Mita 1700 or HP laserjet5m.
The printers with the least problems are PostScript printers. So, my first advice is to buy a PostScript-able printer.
Real PostScript printers and emulated
However, there exist two kinds of PostScript Printers: Those which carry the PostScript trademark logo and those which emulate PostScript. The problem is the price: getting the trademark sign is expensive. It increases the printer price dramatically, but then the original PostScript fonts are included (this is good :-).
Make sure, that a PPD file (a PostScript Printer Description) exists for this printer. Then it's easy to add this printer to your printing system, and use all the flavorful features: duplex printing, different resolution, etc.
One disadvantage of Old PostScript printers (PostScript level 2 or less) is that they are not able to print multi-byte characters. These multi-byte characters are necessary to print non-typical characters, such as those of asian languages. AFAIK there is no backward compatible way to print in both ways. The result is: If you have a PostScript level 2, the data needs to be converted, and then the possibility to use the features of printer, like Duplex printing gets lost.
Non-Postscript printers are usually inkjet printers.
HP Inkjet Project
Hewlett-Packard (HP) printers are supported by OpenSource Linux drivers and are developed by the company itself; thus we recommend them for use with SUSE Linux. You can download the latest drivers from the [HP Linux Printing Project]. We try to include the latest drivers into SUSE Linux, but there may be delays since building distributions take time.
Sure HP printers cost a bit more money. But you don't have so much trouble in getting fine printouts from those printers, as you might have with others. They are supported, and if HP is changing the way they address their printers, they release this in a new software version, and the Linux customer is getting support.
If you buy a printer, you should also calculate the total cost of ownership: this should include replacement toners (inks), replacement drum kits, the filling of printer included inks (toners), the easy to get those replacements, etc. If you sum up this costs, HP gets suddenly comparable with other vendors models.
I recommend the HP Business Inkjets. They are more expensive, but you a piece of hardware, which you won't throw away after the second ink is bought. :-)
Printers with ClosedSource Linux drivers
No other company is at the moment willing to provide OpenSource drivers. Some provide Linux drivers, but they are ClosedSource. Usually don't work with latest Linux version, and because they are ClosedSource, we cannot adapt them to get them working. :-( Really annoying, if vendors suddenly get surprised that there exists AMD64, which are able to run 32bit code and 64bit code. Because of that fact, we had to setup the SUSE Linux system different to support both schemes. But the ClosedSource driver vendors, realized this really late, if ever. So, you might run into pitfalls, which never got realized by the ClosedSource vendors.
Another problem of those ClosedSource drivers is, that, in case of a security hole, you have to wait till the developers of your vendor realize the problem, fix it, test it, and after some time release the fixed drivers. Even more, you cannot get this fixed drivers via the SUSE Linux update mechanism, as we don't include such drivers, and have to install it again.
Typical vendors are: Brother, Epson.
Windows / GDI printers
Don't try them! It is unlikely that these printers will work under Linux. For some outdated printers there are some filters avail (like Lexmark Z11), but not for those, which are nowadays in the market. In the past it happened frequently, that the OpenSource detected a way to support those printers. But a few weeks later the vendor came up with a new, successor model which had a different protocol implemented and needed a different Linux driver and all the work done before was worthless. So, even if for a specific GDI printer exist Linux drivers, the successor mustn't.
Typical vendors of these paperweight printers are: Lexmark.
Summary: buy a PostScript(TM) printer, with PostScript level 3. If you cannot, buy a HP inkjet, like the Buisness Inkjet line; and everything should be easy.
Klaus Singvogel, Kssingvo, 16:08, 30 Nov 2005 (CET)