Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Learning Curve Part 2 - Printing

In part two of the learning curve series we will go ahead and look at the second biggest knock on Chromebooks, printing. Some people would say that printing from a Chromebook is the biggest issue, not Office. In the last post David Andrade brought up a good point. When Android apps make their way to Chrome OS in the second half of 2016, almost all these issues can easily be resolved. Most every printer comes with an Android app that allows for pretty simple printing. But Chrome OS devices last a long time. For example, every Chromebook on our campus won't get Android apps, neither will my Chromebox.

For most PCs installing a printer is pretty straight forward. In fact, most printers used to be installed via usb directly into the computer that used them. Nowadays, printers are generally set up as network printers, meaning you hook that printer up to a network and more than one device can print to it. And it is because of this shift in printer setup, the notion that Chrome OS is obsolete because you can't directly hook a printer up to it is almost null.

The first method that most people will look at is Google Cloud Print. When GCP was first rolled out it was difficult to set up. Most printers weren't set up to handle cloud printing. Early Chrome OS adopters probably had to set up Google Cloud Print on a Windows/Mac machine and keep it on as a printer server. Most printers are made now for Google Cloud Print. Set up is simple and painless. I recently bought a Samsung laser printer and it was completely set up without a computer. All I needed to do was plug it into our router.

If you need to set up a printer server through another machine our IT guy came up with a quick solution. He took an old laptop and installed the printers and put them on Google Cloud Print. Then he simply shared those printers with staff members. It allowed us to print to the machines and not have a laptop running 24/7 for the rare occasions we printed. 

If you happen to own an HP printer, they developed their own Chrome App, HERE. I talked about the HP printer app before, but I feel like some of the things are worth mentioning again. All you need to do is find the ip address of the printer. Type it in and you are done. The two printers near us are both HP and they haven't had an issue once. I set up this app on my two colleagues Chromeboxes and not one time have I heard them tell me they can't print. 

And that is what we want when switching to a new OS, a seamless transition. If staff is able to work like normal and not have to worry about things working, then they are more willing to fully buy into what they are using. 

Our campus also has copy machines that are set up on our network for direct printing as well, for class sets. It was always hit or miss on our laptops. Sometimes is would work, but most of the time it didn't. In fact, I know of a handful of teachers who have never printed directly to the copy machine. Something that you might not know is that if a printer is one the network it has an ip address. And when you type in that ip address you are taken to a webpage for that printer. Most printers have a way to directly print from that webpage. So that one teacher that could never print to the copying machine can now upload the file to print and send it to the copying machine. Also to note, these printer webpages have all the options that you can select on the actual copier. So if you want double sided & stapled, all you do it check the boxes and it will print.

So from this post it sounds like printing isn't a real issue anymore, and honestly it's not. When I started the Chromebook Challenge I had to keep my laptop on when I wanted to print because it was my server. This year? Don't need it. Chrome OS has come a long way in terms of printing. And I'm not sure if that is because of Google or the printer companies. Google Cloud Printing is still technically in beta even though it has been functional for years now.

Despite all the advances in printing, there are still a couple of things to be aware of. The options in the Chrome OS print screen aren't as detailed as a Windows print screen. Chrome OS basically gives you the option of what to print & how many copies. Also a lot of the success lies in the printer. Even though I have had zero problems with my personal Samsung laser printer, some people complain that the printer is always said to be offline. And keep in mind if your network printer isn't an HP, then you will have to set up a printer server on a Windows/Mac machine to run through, or use the solution we came up with and have one machine and share them out.

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