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Understand basic printer troubleshooting


Be able to view the print queue and manipulate the jobs within the queue. Be able to recognize the meaning of the first two fields in an /etc/printcap entry.


Systems administration will invariably involve trouble shooting printers. The BSD spooling system consists of five programs and several files, the key pieces to this system are lpd - the line printer daemon, lpc - the administrative interface to the printing subsystem, lpr - adding jobs to a print queue, lpq - list print jobs in the queue, lprm - remove print jobs from the queue. The printer configuration file is /etc/printcap which describes all printers on the system.

The file printcap is the printing capabilities database, which is a simplified version of the termcap(5) database used to describe printers.

The following shows an example printcap file:

# Local Printer
lp|local line printer:\

# Remote Printer
rp|remote line printer:\

All lines in the printcap file that start with a # are comments. Individual items are separated by colons. The first field in the printcap database gives the printers names, which in the example above is lp for the local printer and rp for the remote printer. The remaining fields describe the printers characteristics, using name=value pairs, the name is a two character code. The most important ones in the example above, are, in alphabetic order:

lf error log file pathname
lo lock filename
lp device special file
rm machine name for remote printer
rp remote printer name argument
sd spooling directory
sh suppress burst page - header page


Practice Exercises

More information

lpc(8), lpq(1), lprm(1), printcap(5)

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