Linux

Linux scores big in large-format printing

Jack Wallen recently had to help out a large-format print house to get their most trust-worthy machine back up and running. Can you guess what OS ran that particular money maker?

Recently I had to take care of a fairly sizable client's printing needs. This wasn't just some small-time printer, this was a multi-location, multi-million dollar industry, large format printing client that does one thing and does it in vast quantities. They print. They print everything from business cards to banners that fly behind planes. And this printer relies upon multiple platforms and multiple printing software. When something goes down...work stops.

Now within this warehouse there is one box that every man in the building swears by. This box never gives them trouble, the software is the best they have, and the business would be in serious trouble if anything happened to it. I'm sure you can see where I am going with this...it's pretty transparent. That box runs Linux (Kubuntu to be exact) and uses Caldera VisualRIP+ to handle a massive amount of very large print jobs. The software is an amazing testament to just how well Linux does printing. Not only does it handle the constant influx of huge jobs, it does so with a very well-designed GUI. So powerful is VisualRIP+, you would think it's a distribution in and of itself. When installed it actually installs a completely different desktop, SAMBA, and FTP server, and numerous other tools that enable a large format print house to work properly. The installation is straight-forward and nearly as automatic as you would hope. And the supported printers ranged in the thousands! Everything from desktop laser printers to massive, large-format printers.

I found all of this out last week because the hard drive on the Linux box unexpectedly (and prematurely) died. You could hear that spine-shortening "click click" from within the box. The ghost in the machine had given up. It was time to replace it. Unfortunately the box went down when I was on vacation and, since I was the one that originally built the machine, they wanted me there to build the replacement.

When I arrived on the scene everyone was all smiles and handshakes. They needed that box back up ASAP. And, after about an hour, they had it back up and running like the champ it was. Business could continue on as if nothing had happened.

What prompted me to want to write about this particular job was how, among all of the high-end Mac and Windows printing software, it was the Linux software that was this company's bread and butter. Without Linux, this large-format print house, wouldn't have it nearly as easy as they do.

To be honest, I hadn't given Caldera a thought since the death of Caldera Open Linux and their stab at Word Perfect on Linux (which, by the way, is still one of my favorite word processors to ever grace the Linux platform). But obviously Caldera still has their hands in the Linux pie and that is good to know. If you're looking for a large-format printing solution you should certainly not overlook Caldera VisualRIP+ working on top of Kubuntu.

As you might expect, the pricing for such a solution is steep. For VisualRIP+ you're looking at around $3,995. Fortunately it does not require any major hardware to run on and the OS will be included in the package.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

8 comments
Justin James
Justin James

... why was it running with a single hard drive and not RAID 1? I really hope that along the way, you took care of that little detail... for the cost of a second $50 hard drive and a simple BIOS (or even software, if the chipset doesn't support it) setting could have saved them from that pile of downtime. Honestly speaking, for something like this, critical hardware failures are much more prevalent than critical OS failures, at least with newer versions of both Windows and Linux. My FreeBSD box just plugs away. So do my Windows boxes. I trust them equally (although I don't trust the apps equally). But hardware... that's where the real issues tend to be. J.Ja

seanferd
seanferd

But interesting all the same.

mschafer555
mschafer555

Clearly, the VisualRIP+ developers have a self-contained solution that needs few o/s services.

jlwallen
jlwallen

Honestly...I thought the same thing the first time I set the box up. I just did my job and went on. From what I understand the first box I did replaced a Linux station that had been going along for quite some time, so the IT manager for the company probably made a false assumption all things were created equal.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Though I would assume on a proper print server, the HDD would see very little activity, all spooling should fit into RAM.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

As long as there is more than one OS available to users, the OS wars will never be over. It's really not like a race that instantly ends when the first runner crosses a set finish line. In OS development, there is always the possibility of someone introducing a better OS or someone letting an established OS flounder. Not that this relates to any specific OS branding or the article itself.

Justin James
Justin James

... hit disk once in a while, like to log stuff. Also, it's a large format print shop, so it's quite possible (I'm no printing expert) that a single job could take a ton of space, so spooling might not fit into RAM. However... ... if it *does* all fit into RAM, moving to a Live CD scenario is a great way to avoid this kind of failure, just keep a spare box available and pop a copy of the CD in. :) J.Ja

Slayer_
Slayer_

of RAM, yeah, a LiveCD would be a very neat solution. Though CD drives are prone to failure far more so than hard drives. Now maybe a live flash drive... Make a few copies of the drive and it could run for years and years. Of course, if hard drives were made with the same quality as they were 15 years ago, this wouldn't be as much of a problem. I still have some 1 gig drives that are working perfectly.