Anne van Kesteren

Cloud Appliances

Google announced A New Approach to Printing the other day. No longer having to worry about printer drivers, being able to print from any device, and effectively printing from anywhere definitely sounds pretty good. But it also ties things to a Google account. And while the protocols may be open, it is pretty clear what it comes down to. Is it not possible to get a better cloud API for accessing printers over the network without it going through a Google account? Once we get Web-based music applications will we need cloud APIs for receivers that are also tied to some account service? Apart from the obvious privacy concerns it just seems kind of crappy.


  1. CUPS + Zeroconf anyone? The only new part is the forced Google account nonsense if you ask me. Thanks, but no thanks.

    Posted by Frans at

  2. Frans, I think you'd have to add VPN in there too. Isn't Zeroconf relegated to your local subnet? In any event, that solution seems easy enough to implement. The downside would be mobile devices that don't have the horsepower for VPN, but I think that's a concern that really died out back in 2007 or so.

    Posted by Josh Peters at

  3. Josh, disclaimer: I'm merely explaining my line of thought here a little better. Upon reading over it in the comment preview I think it sounds a bit like I'm disagreeing with you or something.

    If you want to send things to a printer not physically nearby, or at least not on the same network, sure. I suppose you could throw OpenVPN or a quick SSH VPN tunnel into the mix. As far as device power goes, my Sony Ericsson s510 can (allegedly) send pictures to printers through Bluetooth, and it can run SSH well enough. However, I can't think of a circumstance where I'd want to print something directly from my phone. I bet that any phone from which you might actually want to print something easily has the required horsepower, at any rate.

    Looking at it from another angle, you might say that my suggested method is too complicated still. But then isn't the answer better roaming tools in addition to or on top of the tools I mentioned? A "cloud-aware printer" would simply be a printer with CUPS + Zeroconf and perhaps a few other services in my example (think of the professional grade Xerox printers for instance) where the only clearly discernible difference with the present would be that you won't have to copy IP addresses to configure the printer. Or maybe they already do that in the latest models, frankly I wouldn't know. In that case it'd only strengthen my "I don't want Google to know what I'm printing" paranoia because it'd be trying to fix a wholly non-existent problem.

    I guess my point is that the main "problem" right now seems to be something like "how do I print to my own (non-networking) printer without too much hassle" and the answers to that question have already been available for quite a while. An extra solution may be nice, but as far as I'm concerned it should come from a concept more akin to Opera Unite than from some external cloud. Besides, if my network is down nothing's going to print regardless, but if the cloud is down I can't print even though I theoretically could.

    Even as far as Windows goes the situation isn't hugely different I would think. The easiest roaming solution would then probably be something like Hamachi or SSH tunneling with Cygwin. I do think CUPS + Zeroconf solves everything more elegantly, however.

    Posted by Frans at