Some Technical Stuff

Why (I think) Printing is Broken Under OS X

Apple has touted that their new printing system for Mac OS X is exceptionally easy (relative to Classic Mac OS, I suppose) to develop drivers for. Like any operating system, even this new printing system depends on the printer manufactures to provide drivers that control most aspects of the printing process, such as:

Language conversion
The driver converts Quartz, PDF, or QuickDraw (the Mac display systems) into the appropriate language for the printer (PostScript, PCL, etc.).
Printer Options and Features
This is allows the user to interact with printer special features such as automatic color matching, the use of duplexers, changing resolution, or detecting ink levels (the latter of which never seemed to work with a network printer anyway).
Provide communication
Provide the physical transport of the data across the connection medium to the printer.

This last item is where I feel Apple failed, since this limits the user unduly. For example, given perfectly good PCL instructions, it should be the operating system’s responsibility to decided where it can go and does go, whether it be down a USB cable, FireWire cable, or to an IP address. The operating system only needs to wait for the driver to deliver usable printer instructions, then send those instructions where the user wants, without being limited by the manufacturer to “support” network printing.

In fact, did you know that your Mac OS X already can spool these printer-specific instructions to your AppleTalk network printer?