One of the most frustrating things about using Linux is setting up printers. Virtually no printers ship with Linux drivers or installation programs, and configuring printcap files is definitely not an easy process for the uninitiated. In fact, doing so manually is not pleasant for anyone.
Lucky for us, it looks like all that is starting to change. In what we hope is the first offering from a series of manufacturers, Lexmark now supports Linux with their line of Inkjet printers. The Z32 and Z52 color Inkjet printers are currently supported, and Lexmark now makes the setup program available on the Web.
If you’re looking for the Lexmark printer with a friendly Tux logo in stores, you won’t find it just yet. According to our contact at Lexmark, the Z32 and Z52 were midway through their product cycle when Linux support was added. The boxes don’t contain Linux software or even indicate that Linux is supported. However, Lexmark expects to add Linux software and instructions when they update their packaging.
We tried the Lexmark installation program on several distributions, with mixed results. The program itself is pretty slick, and the Z52 and Z32 were up and running in no time on SuSE 7.0. However, when we tried installing the printer software on a Linux-Mandrake 7.2 box, the install failed. This likely has to do with the fact that we were using CUPS on the Mandrake box rather than the standard lpr. Mandrake users who are using CUPS instead of lpr will need to make the switch to get the Lexmark software up and running. According to one page of the manual, the Lexmark printers should work with Linux-Mandrake 7.0 or higher, but another page says only Linux-Mandrake 7.0 and 7.1 are supported.
The Lexmark software not only configures your system to print to the Lexmark printer, but also allows you to perform cartridge alignment and change resolution. The Lexmark Z52 is capable of printing some very nice pictures at 2400 dpi, but you may want to tone it down to 600 dpi to conserve print cartridges and time. The Lexmark printers are pretty speedy at 600 dpi, less so at 2400. But if you print a lot of pages at 2400 dpi, you’ll quickly spend more money on printer cartridges than you did on the printer itself.
Linux users on unsupported distributions are out of luck for the time being unless they want to configure the printers the old-fashioned way. It also would have been nice if Lexmark had added the ability to configure a printer for network printing instead of just local printing. However, for the time being, the fact that there is support for Linux at all is a great improvement.
The print quality of the Lexmark Inkjets is above average, especially when using the high-quality paper recommended for high-resolution printing. The Lexmark printers are a sound investment for Linux users considering buying an inkjet printer, particularly if they’re running one of the supported distributions.
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