Wednesday, November 24, 2010

AirPrint Hacktivator

iOS version 4.2.1 provides a new feature for Apple iDevices called AirPrint. It works directly with a series of HP HPQ ePrint printers.

However, it AirPrint was also designed to work with a wide variety of Bonjour shared printers on a LAN. That functionality was included in the beta test versions of iOS 4.2, but was removed before public release. The reason why has not officially been stated by Apple. I discuss some details about the situation below. But first I want to point out THE SOLUTION:

A hack that returned full AirPrint functionality was devised a couple weeks back. Thankfully, one developer put the hack into a simple little freeware application called AirPrint Hacktivator by NetPuting. It works beautifully. The website provides a simple video demonstration. Essentially you must set up printer sharing for any printers you wish to use with AirPrint.

I have been able to set up and use two printers I have connected to my AirPort Extreme N Base Station via a connected USB hub:

1) A Lexmark Z715 using driver version 1.0.5, supplied with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. (The driver is not included with 10.6 Snow Leopard and not supplied by Lexmark).

2) An Epson Stylus C84 using the GutenPrint driver version 5.2.3. (I was unable to get it to work with Epson's own latest driver for the C84).

Both printers were setup for sharing on my MacBook running 10.6.5, hacked with AirPrint Hacktivator. My MacBook has to be running and awake for AirPrint on my iPod Touch 4, running iOS 4.2.1, to see the printers. Apparently, AirPrint accesses the printer drivers installed and setup for sharing on my MacBook. The print job is then sent via Wi-Fi over to the Apple Extreme N Base Station. The print outs are nothing fancy but are perfectly adequate.

Note that the only control you have via AirPrint is which printer to use and how many copies you with to make. That's it. There are no other options at this time. Therefore, it's a quick, no frills way to make a print out from an Apple iDevice.

That AirPrint works via printers connected to an AirPort Extreme Base Station was a surprise to me! No where in Apple's original statements about AirPrint was this functionality stated. I tried it. It worked. I'm extremely pleased.

So why was this great functionality deliberately removed from Mac OS X 10.6.5?

Originally Apple had stated that AirPrint would:
... automatically find printers on local networks and print text, photos and graphics to them wirelessly over Wi-Fi without the need to install drivers or download software.
Now Apple only state AirPrint functionality with the afore mentioned HP ePrint printers. My net friend Daniel Eran Dilger wrote about this situation in his AppleInsider article 'Inside AirPrint: Apple's printing system for iOS.' To quote:

A rumored controversy, however, maintains that Apple's soon to be released AirPrint has run into a patent issue, reportedly from App Store developer.

We know that Apple's patents for AirPrint are pending. They were reported in September by AppleInsider in their article 'Apple's ambitious AirPlay, AirPrint plans detailed in patent applications'.

When I find out more about the apparent legal tussle over AirPrint technology, I'll post.

1 comment:

:-Derek said...

I received a comment from a fellow named Bruce regarding AirPrint Hacktivator via my review of the app over at VersionTracker/CNET:

On Dec 6, 2010, at 12/06,11:33 AM, wrote:

"When you have time could you please let me know if I am reading your comments correctly about Airprint Hacktivator? I have two Mac laptops printing on an HP 4480 through my Airport Base Station. I was flabbergasted to find that my new iPad won't print and the only way to have it print is to buy a new wireless printer and throw out my Airport.

"Does this program help? Can it have my iPad print the same way my laptops do?"

Essentially the answer is YES.

The drawbacks are:

1) You have to be using a printer driver that is Bonjour literate. If your HP driver won't do the job, try using the equivalent GutenPrint driver. All the GutenPrint drivers are Bonjour aware.

2) The printing interface on iDevices is dead minimal with only the option of how many pages to print. It can also be a bit obscure as to where the Print interface is located in many apps. And some apps don't have any! Gradually such apps are being updated.

3) You have to have the Mac from which you're sharing printers running in order for your iDevice to 'see' the printers. If your Mac goes to sleep, no printing for you. Wake it up again and all is fine. IOW your iDevice is talking directly to your Mac with printer sharing setup in order for AirPrint to work.

Be sure you follow the instructions at the website for AirPrint Hacktivator regarding how to share printers. There are two major, albeit simple, steps to get sharing working. Once it's on, however, and you've got the right driver going, it's all very easy.

Therefore, I think you're kewl with your current hardware.


Derek Currie