How not to do it…

At work we have a (necessarily) complicated printing system for the student computer labs. Mac and PC workstations print via LPR to Windows print queues. On the Windows Server 2003 box Pcounter takes control of releasing jobs and charging student/faculty accounts for the prints.

Most of these queues feed the jobs to various laser printers throughout the building, but several of our print queues are for wide format inkjet printers, so the queues pass the files off to other 2003 Server boxes running ColorBurst RIP software. ColorBurst has its own printer port (CPT1: ColorBurst Port Monitor), so all incoming print jobs are handled by a Windows print queue using this port. ColorBurst runs as an application, not as a service, and it unfortunately crashes quite regularly.

A problem arises when the RIP software crashes and an impatient student is trying to print. Even though the RIP is crashed, the windows print queue on the RIP workstation is still accepting jobs. If Johnny Impatient keeps sending the same file, the spool file gets overwritten…. again and again. A reasonable system would handle name collisions. How hard is it to tack on a unique suffix to the file name?

When the RIP is brought back online the pending jobs are picked up and printed. Johnny got charged for each copy he sent, but only got one copy from the printer. This means that I have to deal with crediting him back for the prints he didn’t get.

This is one of many issues that ColorBurst throws at me on a regular basis… I’ll detail a few more the next time they pop up.

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