Many schools use Piezography as a core component of their educational pedagogy. As a monochrome “digital first” technology, Piezography offers a ready alternative to costly silver/chemical printing while maintaining Black and White’s edge for teaching composition and photographic thought without the added social/media complications introduced by color. Because Piezography has such high fidelity, it rivals and surpasses darkroom printing and retains that same “magic” of a darkroom print.

This post is a quick white-paper outlining best practices for running Piezography in a networked environment with both PC and Mac computers, and even student laptops. This post is for network admins, lab technicians, and professors well-versed in Piezography or Epson printing (with all that that entails!). It’s not exactly for first-time users!

 

Mac/Windows Software & Hardware:

  1. Piezography Pro ink (recommended)
  2. Epson 3880, 4880, or 9880 (the best for hard everyday use, but x900s work great too)
  3. Print-Tool (required)
  4. QuadtoneRIP (required)
  5. An old Mac Pro or Mac Mini (or equivalent) with a good powered USB hub attached (USB v3 is not required here).
  6. Extra calng (16foot) HighSpeed USB cables.
  7. OS X 10.7 or later (10.10 – 10.11 recommended) with full admin controls turned on (for debugging)
  8. ColorPort software (optional)
  9. An i1Pro Spectrophotometer (for print and monitor calibration)
  10. i1Profiler
  11. Excel (optional)
  12. PaperCut print auditing software (optional)
  13. Piezography Community Edition (required)
  14. Piezography Professional Edition (optional)
  15. Viewing wall with Soraa 4700k LED gallery lights with dimmer (optional) (or a bank of 3200k and 5000k Sorraa lights with individual dimmers).
  16. Decent daylight (diffuse) viewing wall.
  17. MacMinis or Mac Pros with matte-finish professional 14bit LUT monitors (NEC, DELL, EIZO, etc) NOT IMACS!
  18. Bonjour for Windows (required for Window-to-Mac printing)
  19. Epson drivers for whatever printers are going to be used for Piezography.
  20. Gigabit Ethernet with Bonjour port available (99% of the time it is).
  21. If wifi printing is required, Wireless-N network with access to the print-server (old mac pro) IP address.

Setting up Piezography in a networked environment can seem daunting at first. There are a lot of protocols that must be learned and enabled and followed. However, the idea is incredibly simple and basic Mac-to-Mac printing is literally only a few clicks. The idea is that you have a printer connected to one mac computer on a network. For the sake of argument we will call this computer the “Print Server” or just “Server”. This server then shares access to its USB printer (or printers) over the network and everyone can queue their prints to it from multiple computers. This does a few very useful things in an educational setting. First, it frees up computer time and space. Students can sit at computers and both edit and print without having to switch computers or rooms. Students can also queue prints to a printer during a class if the paper size and type are all the same: twenty sheets can be loaded into a 4880 and everyone can just keep printing, their prints will come out of the hoper one after another and this will more than quadruple the efficiency of the printing during the class. A networked print environment for fine-art printing can drop the required number of printers from 1-per-student down to only 1 printer per 7 students: a savings of about 85% on hardware costs.

 

The most basic workflow:

  1. Attach a Piezography printer via USB to your Mac OS X “server” computer.
  2. Install QuadtoneRIP & Piezography Community Edition.
  3. Install your curves and printer.
  4. Go to `System Preferences > Sharing and turn on Printer Sharing.
  5. Go to Printers & Scanners and enable sharing on the Piezography printer you see there.
  6. On each classroom computer, go to System Preferences > Printers & Scanners, and click the small “+” at the bottom left of the window.
  7. Find the Piezography printer in this window. Sometimes you need to click the printer, click another printer that shows up, and then click back onto the Piezography printer for it to register the “QuadtoneRIP” driver properly. Click Add. Do this for each classroom computer.
  8. Now everyone will be able to print from their classroom computers through the print server directly onto the Piezography printer exactly like they are printing through a USB cable!

 

Serving multiple printers:

  1. If you have more than 1 Piezography printer (of the same model), simply go to its corresponding curve folder and duplicate its install command (the one that looks like Install3880-Pro.command). After duplicating the command change the part of the filename “Pro” to anything you want eg: Pro-1, Pro-2, Pro-3 for each printer in the room. *make sure to delete the annoying “copy” that is automatically added when duplicating the file as well.
  2. For each different printer, attach it and only it to the printer server. Make sure the printer is on. Then double click its corresponding installer command (eg: Pro-2 for the #2 Piezography printer).
  3. After each printer has been installed this way, make sure they are all shared in system preferences and then add them on each classroom computer using the basic workflow above.
  4. Color printers can also be shared from the same server simply by making sure their OEM driver is installed on both the server and classroom computers and then adding the printer on the server and sharing through system preferences. At Lightwork in Syracuse NY (this writer’s previous job) we shared 18 printers from a single mac pro including 4 44″ printers and 1 64″ printer along with a slew of 17″ printers. The MacPro could handle same-time printing of all printers at once. It had an SSD hard drive and 32GB of RAM. That was critical!

 

Printing to a Mac from Windows (on the classroom windows machine):

This assumes you have already set up your printer server properly.

  1. Download and install Bonjour for Windows.
  2. Download and install the Epson Windows driver for the particular printer that is being used.
  3. Download and Install QuadtoneRIP
  4. Download Piezography Community Edition for Windows and install the curves there into their appropriate folder(s).
  5. Add the Piezography printer (or printers) using the Bonjour for Windows app.
  6. Go to the Piezography printer in the printers control panel and go to Properties>Advanced and set the driver to be the Epson OEM driver that you installed earlier.
  7. Make sure the driver is set to Spool and then Print, nothing else will work.
  8. Open qtrGUI and select the printer and curve folder and then curve, etc, just like you normally would on a Windows machine when printing Piezography.
  9. After hitting print, qtrGUI will rip (raster image process) the print to the local print queue and then that local queue will spool the ripped file to the Mac server and the printer will print. This causes a slight delay (10 to 20 seconds) and only one person should print to the printer at a time when Windows machines are mixed in like this.
  10. If you have networked color printers that are also shared from the mac server, you can add them directly with the Bonjour for Windows app as well.
  11. This process enables seamless mixed-OS printing to both Piezography printers and normal color printers (regardless of whether they are Epson, Canon, or HP).

 

Print auditing, auto and manual payments (supports CashNET), and user-ID restrictions with PaperCut

PaperCut is an incredibly useful tool for managing an educational print-lab. It enables very complex print auditing and rules that can be taylored to specific printers or printer groups as well as users and usergroups through LDAP or OpenLDAP or Active Directory. Piezography is built on top of CUPS and Gutenprint and both of these platforms work seamlessly with PaperCut (all open source at heart!).

  1. Download PaperCut 30 day trial.
  2. Install on the server and set up how you want to have it handle usernames (you can also just leave it default if need be).
  3. Install the PaperCut Client on each classroom machine. If each classroom machine does not authenticate to a server via something like LDAP make sure each default user on each classroom machine is unique: aka, ClassroomUser1 for the first computer, ClassroomUser2 for the second computer, etc.
  4. Set the printer charging rules in PaperCut for per-square-foot (I do a cost per square foot for ink and tell people to bring their own paper generally, class fees can cover class paper and paper cut ink auditing can be turned off during class-time).
  5. Each time someone prints a print, they will see a little “gas meter” at the upper right of their screen showing their balance. PaperCut can either be set to require Pre-Pay or be set to enable students to pay after printing (preferred for fine-art printing and for printers that might jam or have banding problems due to improperly maintained humidity and cleaning schedules).
  6. CashNet or other payment gateways can be scripted into PaperCut to enable credit card or university-card payment of print balances directly from the class computer or from a mobile phone (via emailed link).
  7. Upper-balance restrictions can also be applied in PaperCut that will disable printing once a user has gotten to a certain amount of money-owed.

 

Security

It’s important to make sure your print server is secure. We recommend installing Bitdefender and LittleSnitch on the print server to deny outgoing connections and continually scan for malware that could be introduced via exploits in old versions of PaperCut or CUPS (rare). The firewall should also be turned on to enable extra protection. LittleSnitch and Firewall may need to be configured to allow port 631 on incoming TCP connections however! This will enable a certain degree of future-proofing even if running older versions of OS X or any other software component in the future.

 

Queue Monitoring and Workflow

Generally it’s wise to require 1 golden and inviolate rule be followed during non-class printing: nobody can hit print unless their sheet of paper is in the printer. This keeps people from printing on other people’s paper and keeps arguments and conflict to a minimum when using shared resources and expensive ink. During class printing, if a stack of paper is being used that is all the same, people can feel free to simply queue their prints. However, anyone caught hogging should be told not too. Only 1 print at a time per person!

Setting up an auto-refresh of the print server queue is easy:

  1. Set a monitor and keyboard up on the printer server (or set it up on a projector!)
  2. Go to Safari and go to http://localhost:631/jobs/
  3. Set this page as the home-page.
  4. Go to the Finder and go to the “Go” menu and then “Go to folder”
  5. Type in /usr/share/cups/templates
  6. Navigate to “header.tmpl” and edit with the text editor of your choice (we recommend TextWrangler).
  7. Change the {refresh_page?<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”{refresh_page}”>:} to <meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”2″> and save.
  8. This will set the refresh rate to every 2 seconds. Restart the server.
  9. Now when Safari is open on the print server it will show which document is printing to which printer and which ones are printing next. Students that do not follow the 1 inviolate rule will have a way to figure out if they should put their paper in the printer or wait for someone else who is in the queue before them.
  10. This is also good for enabling the cancelation of documents that a student has sent to a fine-art printer in error (like their term-paper). This screen in safari can over-ride and delete print files that are in the queue even after a classroom computer as been turned off.
  11. It’s always good to have a small cheap BW printer in fine-art labs to dissuade lazy students from printing text files on Piezography printers. We recommend a basic Brother BW laser printer that can be hooked to the printer server.

 

We will continue to update this workflow and document with more information and specifics (and links!) over the coming months.

all the best,

Walker Blackwell (R&D at Vermont Photo Inkjet LLC).