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Essential System Administration, 3rd Edition by Æleen Frisch

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Chapter 13. Printers and the Spooling Subsystem

Despite years of hype about the coming paperless office, printing has become more frequent and more complex as time has passed, not less so. Ordinary users now routinely print tens or even hundreds of pages a week, often including the sort of high-quality graphics formerly done only rarely, on expensive, special-purpose devices.

This chapter discusses the printing subsystems of the various Unix versions we are considering. Nowhere is there more variation than in accessing printing devices and spooling jobs. The FreeBSD, Linux,[1] and Tru64 operating systems use the BSD spooling system, HP-UX and Solaris use the System V spooling system, and AIX uses its own spooling system. Each of them is discussed individually.

In this chapter, I'll talk almost exclusively about "print" jobs, but the general discussion applies equally well to related hardcopy devices such asplotters. In fact, the Unix spooling subsystems are flexible enough to be used for purposes unrelated to printing: archiving data, running programs in batch mode, and playing music, among others.[2]

A spooling system typically includes the following components:

Printers

Current output devices include laser printers and inkjet printers, as well as special-purposes devices such as label printers. Printing can be done by a printer attached to the local computer via a serial, parallel, or USB port; by a printer on a remote system; or by a standalone device connected directly to the local ...

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