Hi-res printing with Gimp-Print

By Joe Barr, LinuxWorld.com |  Operating Systems

The first one I printed took forever. I made a very newbie mistake by not scaling the output size, so the image completely filled the 8.5-by-11-inch paper size. It took more than a half-hour to complete. But even on stock inkjet paper, it looked pretty decent.



My next attempt scaled the output appropriately; the printed image occupied about a quarter of the page. I used one of the two free sheets of Epson photo quality paper that came with the printer; the resulting print was gorgeous. I had never seen print quality that fine on an inkjet printer.



I had a printing need that day that provided another test. I had downloaded all 70 pages of the curriculum for a Linux adult education class that I assist with, and needed to bring the curriculum to class that night. The downloaded file was in postscript format, so I just aimed it at the Epson from a command line by typing lpr curriculum.ps.



For a second or two, nothing happened. Then the printer made a few small whirring sounds, and page after page of crisp dark text began to emerge, some of it highlighted with a bright yellow, pink, or light blue background. It looked extra sharp.



How did they do it? How did the Gimp-Print project, only in existence for a little over a year, put such a great product together so quickly? I thought Epson might have provided the project team with drivers, programmers, or extra help. I asked Epson some of those very questions, but the company did not respond by deadline. I then asked Robert Krawitz, the Gimp-Print project lead, straight out: How did you do it?



Krawitz attributed some of the project's success to reverse-engineering the
output of the Epson drivers for Windows platforms -- not reverse-engineering
the driver itself, just its output -- and to developer documentation that Epson has made available on the Web. But he was quick to add, "That's only part of the answer. The real 'way we did it' was by gathering people around a solid nucleus. Nothing breeds success like success, and by putting something that produced much better quality output than any other free driver up on SourceForge, people who know stuff about color and dithering were attracted to work on it, and that further improved the quality -- a virtuous cycle."



Krawitz also said, "The publicly available Epson documentation is far superior to that from HP or Canon, the other two vendors whose printers we support. . . and the results show -- just knowing the basics has let us write really high-quality drivers for Epson printers, but our HP and Canon drivers lag."



How good are these free software drivers for Epson printers? Krawitz said, "An employee of one printing company later told me that one concern his company has is that third parties will write inferior printer drivers and devalue the product as a result.

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