Thursday, December 23, 2010

The PrinterShare Service

I first discovered PrinterShare strolling through the android marketplace looking for a way I could print to my home printers from my Samsung Captivate.  As I browsed the web on my phone, I'd run into a cool article I wanted to read.  Being that a phone has a small screen, printing seemed all to convenient.  Yes, of course I could have gotten on my home PC and printed, but I wanted to see if I could do it directly from my phone.

PrintShare Overview
With PrinterShare you can print to remote printers from Android, iTouch, iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Windows.  The magic about it is printer clients do not need direct access to your printer(s).  For example, I could print to my home printer while at a coffee shop on my android, come home, and pick up the print out.  I could even be across the nation and print something to my printer in Atlanta from LA, not that that would be practical for most of us.

Their website does a great job explaining how it works so I will only briefly cover it here.  I have one of my home Windows XP boxes configured to be able to print to my home networked printers.  This machine, let's call it "pserver" for clarity sake, runs the PrinterShare software and connects my home printers to the PrinterShare network.  You of course have to create an account with PrinterShare and pay a small fee to print via the service ($5.00 per 100 sheets) with other pricing and commercial plans available.

My Android Phone
Now on my phone, I install the PrinterShare software, login with the account I created earlier, and select which printer I wish to print to.  I configured two to be available in my case.  The simplicity about this service is that the printer clients do not have to have the printer drivers installed, just the PrinterShare software.  My home box, "pserver", takes care of all the print driver work.

My Son's Mac Book
I recently got my son a Mac Book and coming from a unix and windows background, administering the Mac was pretty new to me.   For some reason, the Mac could not print to my home printers in the way a Mac should, e.g. just point and click. So, as a quick work-around, I just installed the PrinterShare software on his Mac and he can print to my home printers via PrinterShare.  I agree this is the long about way for a home machine to print to a locally networked printer, but it worked great and we are still using it today.  I just have not had time to troubleshoot and get the Mac to print directly to my home printers.

Web Based Printing
PrinterShare also provides a no software to install, web based printing technique for certain file formats too.  I have not used this yet since the PrinterShare software can print anything.

Other Alternatives
For the group of us that are familiar with opening ports on our firewalls and pumping things through SSL and/or SSH, you can certainly print remotely in alternative ways.  There are also free VPN services that can do something similarly.  However, the PrinterShare setup was fast and just worked, so I opted for it.  I did come across a RSS Feed recently that stated that Google was looking into this type of service but have not followed up on it.

For any of you as geeky as I am and want to print from your smartphone, I urge you to check out this service.  Accordingly, if you want to print to your home printers from across the nation, PrinterShare is a service you should definitely check out.  I have no connection or ties to PrinterShare so this is solely my opinion.

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