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Driverless printing, BYOD made easy

Is BYOD a disruptive phenomenon or a business and work enabler?

With smartphones, tablets, and laptops making their way into your organization or campus, allowing users to connect to your network, find their files, and print can cause operational challenges.

According to Gartner, BYOD forces IT to wrestle with governance and compliance, mobile device management, and security of your network.

Trouble-managing-BYODs-school

Keep your documents secure

Your users expect to be connected wherever they are; working from home, delivering an assignment, or just in between buildings. What’s the easiest way to manage their printing and still track and control what is being printed and where?

Jon Witts, Director of Digital Strategy, Queen Margaret’s School UK. “Normally this would be a no-go area – ensuring the compatibility of devices with your printers and installing drivers, or asking users to install drivers to access the printers would be an administrative nightmare.”

We know all devices have a web browser, so PaperCut’s Web Print could just be the answer you’re looking for. “We rolled out Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) for staff and students, using PaperCut as a secure method of printing along with Web Print for easy accessibility and convenience. There was no need to do a hard sell for students to adopt the new Web Print workflows. The service improvement with more access to printers and less down time from printer errors, far outweighed the changes in workflow that came with a ‘new system’.” said Jon.

 

An easy way to allow BYOD printing

PaperCut’s Web Print enables printing from user-owned devices without the overhead of installing client software, printer drivers, and managing server authentication. Users print by simply uploading documents with a standard web browser. Deployed across thousands of organizations, it is an ideal solution for print services via BYOD.

With Web Print, users are authenticated when they log in to the PaperCut NG or PaperCut MF User web interface. Any documents they upload can then be tracked against their user name. Users have access to features set up by IT, including access to shared accounts.

“Web printing makes it super easy for students to print from anywhere on campus and from their own mobile devices, along with the ability to easily charge students for printing costs outside of the classroom and recoup some of the money spent on printing supplies. Not only has PaperCut allowed us to save money, it has genuinely made an aspect of the IT department’s job exceedingly easy and less troublesome on a daily basis!” said Matt, IT Manager at Steele Canyon High School USA.

 

Print anywhere, anytime

Many SysAdmins have come to us with interesting stories of how Web Print has been working hard overnight processing 100’s of jobs from students printing in their dorms, all while the SysAdmins are fast asleep (but actually wide awake playing Pokemon Go). With that in mind, we’re continuously improving the robustness of Web Print.

Version 15 of PaperCut NG and PaperCut MF saw enhancements to include common picture formats such as jpg, tif, gif, and png, in addition to Microsoft Office files and PDFs. PaperCut’s Web Print feature just works, straight out of the box with minimal setup for IT. Users can upload multiple files simultaneously with ‘drag and drop’ to get their files to print with ease. Version 16.2 is around the corner, and will include Web Print Scaling to remove bottlenecks and improve reliability particularly in larger organizations such as universities where students use Web Printing.

Find out more on PaperCut Web Print, or deep dive into configuration.

Got a Web Print idea to share? Comment below or if want to share how you use it, tell us your story.

Posted in General, PaperCut Tips | Tagged | 6 Comments


Everyday Tools, Tricks and Automation

Often when I use a different computer, I’m initially a little lost because the machine doesn’t necessarily have all the custom bits and bobs that I have set up to save me time. Everyone has shortcuts, ways of working, and preferred apps that they like to use – so I thought I’d outline a few tools and shortcuts that I’ve come to love over the years.

Given that I have a Mac on my desk, the following tips are biased towards Mac tools, but there’s many that have Windows/Linux equivalents too!

Tim-Automation

Google Chrome Custom Search Engines

Probably saves me hours a week – for any web-based tool where I’m constantly searching, I’ve created custom search engines to allow me to dive right into that system with the search term pre-loaded. Everything from our internal order system to the Knowledge base or our ticket system. For example, if I type ‘pc iOS’ in the URL bar, Chrome searches the PaperCut knowledgebase for the term ‘iOS’. On any system where you’d normally go to a bookmark, click search, enter the search phrase and click ‘go’, that adds up to a lot of click-saving!

Alfred

Being British, I can’t help but not rely on my trusty butler – Alfred. I’ve only scratched the surface with this Spotlight-like tool (Apple’s Spotlight is starting to catch up with Alfred’s functionality), but I use Alfred for a host of quick fire actions, such as launching all the search functions available through Chrome mentioned above. That means that I don’t even have to go to the browser to search – I can summon Alfred with a keystroke and type ‘pc iOS’ which not only takes me to Chrome and opens a new tab, but also performs the search. All in a couple of keystrokes. In addition to the core Alfred functions, I’ve built a few workflows to kick off different remote desktop sessions, letting me connect to the ESX server or the Mac VMs with a couple of keystrokes.

Keyboard Maestro

While we’re on the subject of keyboard shortcuts, I have an extensive library of keyboard macros built up with Keyboard Maestro. It goes above and beyond text replacement, and lets me assign keyboard shortcuts to almost anything. I use keyboard shortcuts for all my Applications so that I don’t have to cmd-tab through a list of them – for example a keystroke for opening Finder, or Terminal, or Slack etc. I can even control down to the tab-level, for example one keystroke will switch to chrome and switch to the ZenDesk tab, or the Gmail tab. My favorite function that brings out my inner geek is the one that lets me insert a customer upload link into a ticket with one keystroke. In the background it’s building the custom URL for that particular ticket number (involves picking up the ticket number from the web page I’m on) and then inserting it where I’m currently typing. Fun stuff!

Sublime Text

Sublime Text is my go-to text editor and log-looking tool. Along with the ‘styles’ add-on it lets me open huge log files with ease with all of the search / highlight multiple functionality of Notepad++. Being able to highlight all the instances of a trouble document-name, or a job ID makes the whole thing way more searchable!

Wunderlist

I’m a huge fan of lists. But I also like my lists to roam… which rules out post-it notes : ) Wunderlist fits the bill perfectly for me. Nothing too over-engineered, it looks great and it runs on all the platforms that I need, so that when I’m on the train and think of that thing that I need to do, I can drop it in Wunderlist and feel happy that it won’t get forgotten when I get into the office. The important features for me are ordering, highlighting super important stuff, and reminders if I need them. I have multiple lists – things to do, Knowledgebase articles to write, even things to see in Portland! Love the lists!

Dropbox

An old favorite – obviously there’s file sharing, but my main use of it currently is for config file sync’ing. All those workflows, shortcuts and other time-saving shortcuts I use are stored in Dropbox and automatically sync’d. So if I log onto my home machine, I can use the same Application Shortcuts. After a while it becomes muscle memory – shortcut machinery!

Fantastical Calendar

When I combine my own calendar, my family’s calendar, and then I start to add in my work calendars, the out of office calendars and others, suddenly I’m left with a boat load of calendars to manage! I use Fantastical on my Mac as well as my phone, which lets me manage those a lot more easily! Selecting which ones to view, and assigning groups to them (e.g. ‘Work’ or ‘Home’) cleans things up when only needing to view one set of appointments. And of course, the desktop version popup has a keyboard shortcut assigned!

Fake Printers!

Since we do a lot of playing with printers, I was always jealous of Windows’ ability to use a ‘nul’ port. There are ways to set up /dev/null type printers in CUPS, but they never seem to act quite like a regular printer. Enter CUPS PDF. With all my CUPS PDF printers setup, I can simulate test jobs, recreate Find-Me environments and try out scripts and conversions, all without wasting any paper. Bliss.

Bonjour Browser

When hunting for clues with iOS bonjour troubles, I always go to Bonjour Browser first. It lets you see exactly what bonjour advertisements are out there on your network, and drill into the properties of those adverts – super handy for finding out why your printer advertisement isn’t showing up correctly on iOS!

Cloudy Tabs

I would move to Safari, but I’m still hooked on Chrome for a few of the features (the dev tools are great, and I’m still hooked on the multi-profile feature). Until then, I use Cloudy Tabs to open any browser tabs that I have open on my phone, without having to go to my phone. Since it uses the default browser, that system makes things pretty smooth with Chrome.

1Password

I’ve been late to the party with this one, but finally one banking ‘you need this number of characters, but not this number, and you need this and that, and that and this’ password pushed me over the edge. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t switch to 1Password long ago. It’s already saved me buckets of time and frustration. Plus – it’s now got built in support for Time-based One Time Passwords (think 2 factor authentication codes). Awesome stuff!

PostgresApp

Perfect for running an ‘external’ database with PaperCut on a Mac so that I can use db tools to look at the tables and data within the PaperCut db when needed. PostgresApp makes running the db really simple – and it puts a cheerful elephant in the menu bar. What more could you need?

Keka

Simple I-can-unzip-anything type of app. Keka sits in the background and honestly most of the time I never notice it – which means it’s doing its job!

Clocks

It’s sometimes the simple things that help every day… Clocks is one of them for me. It sits hiding in the menu bar until summoned (keyboard shortcut, of course!). Simple display of the current times on the West Coast, East Coast, Brazil, UK, and Australia. Favorite function? Being able to drag the slider quickly to see what the time will be in one of those locations at a particular time in one of the others. For me it’s faster than typing in a time and translating it.

Super Duper!

A somewhat old-school interface, but it really does one task really well – Super Duper makes bootable backups of your hard disk. So when the meltdown happens, you can plug in your USB drive and boot off that to get things up and running.

Forecast Bar

Honestly I don’t know why I need this since the weather in Portland is mostly just raining. But when I need to check the weather to see if the wait for the train is going to be tropical or sub-arctic, Forecast Bar comes to the rescue. Looks great, accurate weather, and I love the minute-accurate rain prediction. Running out to the shops? Wait 7 mins for the downpour to ease!

And there you have it. A list of some of the helpers and tools that I use on a daily basis. While writing this, I came across a great article on the bus, talking about why we automate – and how sometimes it’s to save mental energy – not necessarily time. The article has an awesome analogy about automation being like batteries (in this case). Oh and there’s an xkcd cartoon!

Some of the items above take a bit of setting up – especially the workflows, and the more complex keystroke macros. They also take development time when you change systems or migrate to different tools. The point is that when things are quieter, you’re investing in setting up processes and procedures that will then help you save time, and ensure accuracy when times are busier.

That also brings me full circle as to why I use Wunderlist in the first place (the to-do list app). When times are busy, it takes almost no time to dump the new-thing-to-do / new-thing-to-test / new-thing-to-explore into the list. I feel happy that it’s going to get remembered, and when times are quieter, I can pick off the to-do items as time allows. It serves as a brilliant buffer against getting flooded.

Plus, it’s sometimes just plain fun, building the macros / working around issues, and then knowing that your little macro saved some time for you – every time you use it!

Feel free to comment below with any tricks, tips or apps that have saved you time, or helped you automate something. I’m all ears!

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Weatherproofing your print server

While I was a member of the Windows print spooler test team at Microsoft, one of my side tasks was to support Microsoft IT with their deployment of prerelease operating systems that hosted the print infrastructure at the main campus in Redmond. I provided support for IT when it came to printing at Microsoft and during this time, learned many lessons.

Many of the guidelines I learned should help you to make your infrastructure reliable and simplify the print experience for the end users printing through your environment. The following information is primarily intended for Windows print server administrators.

Alan-RoyalMelb

Setting up the machine to be the print server

Before adding printers to a server, you should:

  • Disable printer redirection on any dedicated print server. This will cause a failure in the spooler service when print drivers not written for enterprise environments get installed due to printer redirection.  Follow the guidance from Microsoft below regarding this configuration on the machine. https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc731963(v=ws.10).aspx.
  • Move the spool directory so it is not under Windows. If you have another physical or virtual disk on the system, move spool files to this location so large spool files do not reside on the same disk as the operating system’s page file. For more information, see https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc736979(v=ws.10).aspx.
  • Enable print driver isolation in shared mode for all Type 3 print drivers.
  • Add the Print and Document Services role. Adding this role sets up the remote endpoint for sharing printers and adds the tools you will use to administer the printers on the machine.

If you do not want to add the Print and Document Services role, you should at least install print management tools. The following command run in an elevated command window installs PrintManagement and PrintBrm printer migration utility:

Dism /online /enable-feature /featurename:Printing-AdminTools-Collection

 

Printer setup

Proceeding through the Add Network Printer Wizard, you should take the following into consideration:

  • Using WSD ports in enterprise scenarios can be problematic. In a DHCP environment, I have found that it is harder to determine the root cause of issues due to the limited methods to determine the actual IP of the device.

In the Add Network Printer Wizard, select the “Add a TCP/IP or Web Services Printer by IP address or hostname”, then “TCP/IP Device”

NetworkPrinter

  • I like Windows Update for print drivers. There are specific test requirements to have drivers posted to Windows Update that are not required for drivers from the print vendor site. I am sure vendors test their print drivers more thoroughly when they are released to any external source.
  • Avoid setup.exe installers. These setup programs sometimes install other components that are not needed on a machine hosting an organization’s print infrastructure. If you have a relationship with a hardware vendor, ask for an INF based installer.
  • Sometimes the vendor provides only a setup.exe or some other self-extracting executable. Typically, setup installers unpack the files to the user’s %temp% path.  I generally copy these files to a network share, which I use for installing the driver using Have Disk in the Add Printer Driver Wizard or the Add Network Printer Wizard.
  • Simplify your printer naming convention. Try to plan this in accordance with what makes sense for your organization. I avoid printer names with spaces, but I understand the need for this in many configurations. Attempt to keep the share names as one word, particularly in organizations with operating systems other than Windows.
  • After you have set up your printers, disable language monitor software. Language monitors are loaded by the print spooler service. Any failures in this software can cause a failure in the print spooler service, which will affect all printing on the machine. In most cases, you can disable language monitors by clearing the Enable bidirectional support check box on the Printer Properties, Port tab.

 

Maintaining a healthy print server

After you have set up your print server and given it life, as time rolls on and changes occur in your environment, you will need to periodically make sure it stays healthy. Some of the tips I have learned are:

  • Limit the number of print drivers. Clean up any unused print driver packages. Deleting the print driver removes the driver from the print spooler. Removing the print driver package also removes the driver from Windows DriverStore directory. Be careful not to inadvertently remove 32-bit drivers.
  • Delete unused ports as the spooler service will perform an SNMP query to the IP for device status. When the IP no longer points to a device, the spooler retains the port in the list and will query the device, then timeout before continuing to the next port.
  • Test the print drivers with the applications used in your organization. If you uncover problematic documents, keep these if the content is acceptable, so they can be used to test the next print driver version or operating system.
  • When deploying 64 bit and 32 bit print drivers, use the same driver versions (for example, PCL 6 version 4.2.3  for both drivers).
  • Client load can be a limiting scalability factor for a print server.

Thanks for taking the time to review my brief wordings on Print Management.  Some of these suggestions may already be utilized in your environment and I hope the information presented is clear.  My goal is to help you configure a durable Windows print infrastructure.  Establishing a solid print foundation prior to installing PaperCut is always a best approach.

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