Configuring the AirLink 101 APSUSB2 Print Server on Linux

Many Linux users need, for various reason, to maintain another computer using a legacy operating system. For this reason, it is often userful to connect all the different computers together into a heterogeneous network, and to share resources such as printers. This can be done by connecting a printer to one computer and sharing print queues, however this means that the computer with the printer attached must be turned on in order for other computers to use the attached printer. A better networking solution is to connect the printer to a print server box that in turn connects to the network via an Ethernet connection. Using a print server such as this allows all the computers on the network to access the printer directly, independent of any other computer on the network. One such print server is the AirLink 101 APSUSB2, which the company calls a "printer server", despite the fact that the latter term is much less frequently used than "print server". (This particular product may not be available at the time you read this, however the company has other similar products, whose configuration is probably very similar to that for this product.)

The only problem with this product is that AirLink does not, at least as of this writing, provide technical support for Linux. However, as we will see below, their product certainly does work on the Linux platform.

Some parts of the setup, such as cabling, are the same for any operating system. I accomplished these without any problem, and I got the print server working for my legacy computers, but I had difficulty configuring my Linux computer to use the print server. As mentioned above, AirLink does not provide support Linux, but its technical support department is fairly responsive, and the support engineer did volunteer that the protocol to use was LPD.

The Linux computer I was trying to configure was running SuSE Linux. The configuration utility for SuSE Linux is called "YaST", which stands for "Yet another Setup Tool". I repeatedly tried to configure printing to the AirLink print server with the LPD protocol using the YaST utility, and I couldn't get it to work. This is the point where vulnerable users break down and run back to mommy, back to the legacy operating system.

I, however, having read the complete works of Sir Arthur Connan Doyle, remembered Sherlock Holmes' precept: "When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Following this precept, I discovered that YaST was letting me configure a printer using LPD even though the LPD package was not installed: It had set up all the configuration files correctly, however there were no programs to read the configuration files!

In case anyone else is interested in configuring this print server – or other print servers that might be configured in a similar way – I'll explain how to do it.

First, make sure the LPD ("lpdfilter") software package is installed. To do this in SuSE using YaST, perform the following steps:

  1. Launch YaST from the Start menu; enter the root password when prompted to do so.
  2. On the left, click on "Software".
  3. On the right, select "Install and Remove Software".
  4. For "Filter", select "Package Groups".
  5. In the section "Hardware", click on "Printing". Make sure that the package "lpdfilter" is installed. If not, select it.
  6. Click on the "Check Dependencies" button. Resolve any dependency issues (this might involve uninstalling some CUPS packages).
  7. Click on the "Accept" button.

Now that LPD is installed, do the following (still using YaST):

  1. On the left, click on "Hardware".
  2. On the right, select "Printer".
  3. Click on "Configure" for a new print queue, or "Change" to change an existing setup.
  4. Select "Print via LPD-Style Network Server".
  5. For "Host name" enter the static IP address that you have selected for the AirLink print server (see product documentation for details).
  6. For "Name of remote queue", enter the "Port Name". (Find this by accessing the AirLink through the web interface and clicking on the "Configuration" tab; see product documentation for details.)
  7. Check the "Do local filtering" check box.
  8. On the following screens, enter all the information for your printer.
  9. Print a test page. If you've done everything correctly, it'll print out.

Also remember to set up your Kprinter, etc., if that is important to you. You may need to copy the command-line syntax in order to print from some applications such as the Acrobat Reader.

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