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Google Cloud Printing using Papercut MF

We have been using Papercut to manage printing for some years and its an excellent piece of software. However, as we have gained more and more ChromeOS devices, there has been a need to have managed Cloud Printing. We have been able to deploy cloud printers, I wrote a document about it here.

This method had the limitation that the printing was not billed to a specific user or account. I had to setup Papercut to charge to one shared account. It also did not allow for printing to copiers as they did not talk to Papercut and required an additional layer of authentication that Cloud Print could never support. The solution appear at the end of last year when I noticed that the latest revision of Papercut supported Google Cloud Printing. As the contract for our copiers was up for renewal, we took the opportunity to get copiers that have embedded Papercut on them. This means they talk directly to our Papercut server.

So we are now on Papercut MF 14. This has an option to enable cloud printing and publish printers to the cloud. So I have published our Mono and Colour copier pools to Cloud printing. These I've shared to groups and as the owner of the groups approved the share. So this basically allows us to cloud print from ChromeOS (or any other device) to our copier pools from anywhere.

So a user selects a cloud printer:

This is the mono pool - so the print job can be picked up at any copier.
If they then do nothing, they will get and email telling them to click on a link to choose an account to print to (or they can go straight to the site rather than wait for the email). At which point they get this browser popup:

The user can then select an account and print or cancel the job. They can then pickup the job from the copier.

This is for staff who print to accounts that as assigned to them. Students print to a print quota, so they can go straight to the copier to pick up a job. When they run out of quota, they cannot print until we give them more.

So we have managed printing from ChromeOS for the first time. It will be interesting to see how in pans out in the coming few weeks. It offers some interesting possibilities - I took a picture on my phone and printed it straight to a copier - modern android phones have cloud print build in.

Some things to consider:
  • This does not work across a non-transparent proxy - then again what does!
  • On Papercut you must have your Google Apps account on all your users - so Papercut syncs with Active Directory to get its users. If your user names on AD and Apps are the same this is easy.
  • You need an account for sharing printers. We use one called printman.
  • Papercut needs to be able to send emails - so this is where it falls down with non-transparent proxies.
  • To get the Papercut popup on cloud print outside your network you need an external IP address for you print server.
  • You need the very latest build of Papercut which is v14 build 26241 at the time of writing - this resolves some timeout issues with the cloud connector. 
  • Its very new - so expect err issues!

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