A Look at the HP3392 All In One Printer from Linux
I recently decided to invest in a new laser printer for my network of Linux machines. The old inkjet still works, but since it takes a minute or two to print a letter it's hardly ideal as a business printer. As I also needed a fax machine, a photo copier and a Linux compatible scanner, the answer was quite clearly one of those All-In-One devices that do those exact 4 jobs: laser printer, fax, scanner and copier. Having checked the compatibility charts it seemed that the HP 3392 was the machine to go for. It had all the features I needed and HP claim to support Linux as a top tier platform. So I bought one.
Setting It Up
Installation is a nightmare. You wouldn't have thought a printer could be hard to install, would you? I started off by using its front panel to set its IP address to something suitable for my network. That was easy enough, and once I could ping it I stuck the CD into my Windows XP box. The software and driver wouldn't install. There's a bug in the installer that makes it give up at a certain point and go back to the previous screen. After 45 minutes on the phone to HP tech support (on an 0870 number, thank you HP) they gave up and said they'd call me back. That was 4 weeks ago, and I'm still waiting. Fortunately I stumbled upon the solution: reset the machine to factory defaults before running the Windows installer. For some reason, even though the machine is visible on the network, the Windows installer won't install the drivers unless some mysterious setting is left unchanged. I never did figure out what the magic switch was.
Setting it up on Linux was even harder! I tried under SUSE-10.0, but it's far from clear how you should do the setup procedure. Going via YaST's Printer Config utility was relatively simple, and led to a functioning printer, but with only the most basic features working. No two-sided printing, tray selection, or anything else clever. So I moved on to CUPS, but that gets even harder. Round and round I went trying to make CUPS understand the idea of a network printer. It failed to communicate, even though it repeatedly said it had succeeded. So I moved on to the mysterious 'hplip-hpijs' package, but that refused to recognise a printer was attached anywhere and pointed me back to CUPS.
I'd like to put an explanation in this review of what I did to get it working, but I honestly don't know. I moved onto a SUSE-10.2 machine and fiddled for several hours until I eventually hit the right combination of CUPS and 'hplip-hpijs' from SUSE-10.2, and set up CUPS to act as a server which the SUSE-10.0 machine could use. I got there in the end, but it was a highly frustrating experience. HP do support the use of their products from Linux, but don't assume they make it easy.
Thankfully the scanner was much easier to get going. The scanner driver is in the 'hplip-hpijs' package so it just required me to add the 'hpaio' entry to the end of the /etc/sane.d/dll.conf file. After that it just worked. That rather impressed me: the driver must know to go out onto the network to find the device. I certainly didn't tell it to do so! The sheet feeder works with the scanner too, so you can just drop a document into the top, hit the button on your screen, and the machine will pull the document in and scan it for you. Nice.
Thankfully, after all that print setup nonsense, it worked a treat. Almost - see below. The print it produces is nice and crisp - well up to my definition of business standard. It happily swallows my heavy letterhead paper. It's silent except when working (and except for about 30 secs after printing when its fan runs quite loudly). The scanner works well, and produces output that's well up to my requirements. I sent a fax from it (directly, not via software) and that worked fine, but I've not yet received a fax correctly. I've tried but it's dropped the line twice with some weird error code. I Googled for this and found several people have experienced it. Turning off error correction seems to fix it. I've made that config tweak, but haven't received a fax since so I don't know if it works. Oh, and the copier, that works like a copier. Stick a handful of paper in the top and it grabs it sheet by sheet and copies it. The front control panel has the usual bewildering array of complex copier type operations to enlarge, reduce, change tone, do 2 sided, etc. In so far as I've used it, it works.
Software for Printing
The 'hplip-hpijs' package contains a utility called 'hp-toolbox', although installing it doesn't seem to put a menu option to this tool anywhere useful. I found it by accident. It's a python script that throws up a front end to a bunch of other python scripts that give you basic functionality to the machine's features.
The hp-print tool gives basic access to print functionality. It's a standalone thing that you give a filename to. It doesn't integrate with existing software, like word processors or web browsers, which makes it of limited use. It provides access to the basic printer features, such as duplex (two sided) printing and changing orientation, but it doesn't give access to anything like the number of features the machine has and which are accessible from Windows. The Windows print dialog (which is correctly integrated into all applications' Menu->Print option) allows various print quality settings, tray selection, effects like watermarks, booklet layout and so on. None of this is made available via the Linux tool.
It gets worse: if you're using a non-KDE application, like Firefox or Openoffice, you get even fewer options. Firefox's print dialog lets you set colour or greyscale, set the margins and paper size, and that's it. OOWriter's print dialog gives access to paper size, duplex printing, paper tray, scale, print mode (draft, normal or quality) and resolution. I'm not sure why this discrepancy is. Presumably the driver tells the application what features it has, and the application decides what it knows how to deal with. Firefox doesn't know much, OOWriter knows quite a bit more. Abiword knows something different. None knows what a Windows application knows.
Fortunately the day is (almost) saved by KDE's print system. 'kprinter' is integrated into all KDE applications and therefore gives a consistent feel to printing as long as you stick with KDE tools. Sadly I don't. Still, kprinter allows control of all the features listed above, plus paper source (i.e. which tray), banners, pages per sheet, image controls such as gamma correction and other driver settings. I'm not sure how much of this is being provided directly by KDE, and how much KDE is using the printer driver for. It's a shame it matters, but it does. I've still not found a way to get kprinter to take its paper from the bottom printer tray; under windows I just click the option in MS Word to say the page should be printed on letterhead paper (which is what I've told the printer is in that tray) and it just happens. There's no such option anywhere under Linux or KDE so it just doesn't happen. Given that kprinter lists various trays (such as Upper Tray, Lower Tray, Photo Tray, Large Tray, etc.) you'd think one of them would make the printer select from tray number 3, but it doesn't seem to work like that. More frustration.
After a fashion I've got a working set up though. The KDE print system allows me to select either the main tray or the individual sheet feeder, so I can put letterhead paper through the slot one page at a time. I'd rather just choose the right tray, like I can from Windows, but at least there is a working solution under Linux. Not so if I want to use the printer's advanced features from Firefox. In that case I have to do it from Windows. Sigh.
Software for Scanning
The hp-toolbox kit doesn't provide a scanner program. Instead it just runs the KDE application 'kooka', which is a front end onto the SANE library. It'd be nice if the HP software actually installed itself such that it just worked - it's only a single line change to the SANE config file after all - but at least it works.
Actually it works rather well. kooka seems somewhat confused about whether it should be a scanner or some form of image management tool, but you can use something simpler like xscanimage. I'd like to see a KDE KPart for scanning so any KDE application could do it.
Software for Fax
The hp-toolbox has a utility called hp-sendfax, which looks like a basic fax sender dialog. I've not tried it. It looks, however, very much like the one HP provide for Windows and that worked fine. I've no reason to believe this would be different.
What you're supposed to do, I think, is use the Fax printer option that CUPS presents you with. Anytime you open the printer dialog from an application, the option of a printer called "HP 3390 Fax" is there. There's a similar one from Windows, and when you select it and click OK a dialog pops up asking for a fax number, etc. I tried this from Firefox under Linux but when I hit send nothing happened. No dialogs, no errors, no change in printer status. Great. By chance I spotted an error in the CUPS server's log window telling me to run hp-sendfax first. Can't do that, since I don't have that software on the machine running as the CUPS client, and it doesn't work if I run that software on the CUPS server either. So I moved to the CUPS server, ran hp-sendfax, then tried printing to the Fax device from there. Bizarrely, the hp-sendfax utility then told me I have to run hp-sendfax first!
I've no idea what's going on here. I did actually make it work by running the hp-sendfax utility from the right machine at the right moment. The window popped up and I gave it a phone number which the machine dialed. So it is possible, it's just hopelessly user unfriendly. So it's not beyond the realms of possibility to make it work, but for the moment I'm working on the basis that if I need to send a fax from an application, it'll go from the Windows machine.
Software for Copying
The final button in the hp-toolbox runs hp-makecopies, which is a front end dialog to the photocopier. This allows you to change enlargement, quality and contrast from the computer screen rather than the mess of buttons on the machine's panel. I've only used it once, but I'm happy to report that this bit, at least, works as expected.
So, would I recommend this machine for the Linux user? The answer is a reserved yes. It's a good device and HP have provided Linux software that makes it usable. My only reservation is that I can't find a way to make any Linux application take its paper from the second tray. As long as that's not critical for your usage - it's not for mine - it works, especially if you're OK using the KDE print system.. There's an almighty 'but' though...
But... the state of the Linux software that does printing and faxing is dreadful. Installation via CUPS and YaST is a pig. Application print support is a total mess: Firefox's print abilities are different from OOWriter, which are different from Abiword, which are different from KDE applications. You never quite know how many options you're going to get access to. Actually using the thing is a horrible experience.
I'd recommend the machine to the Linux user who wants a multi-function device, because it's a good device and it works, after a fashion. But I wouldn't recommend anyone with high demands actually uses Linux for the type of work that this machine excells at. The Linux desktop environment just isn't up to it. Coming from a Linux fan like me, that's a big and painful admission.
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