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 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'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.