Printer1Right, so I am busily grafting away on my comparative test, taking into account the suggestions you guys made with regards to the tests I used, the scoring method and also some extra tests that I could use to even out the tests and give a much more realistic comparison.

Boy did I not expect these kind of problems!

Hardware Issues

I am generally loathe to include hardware oriented tests in my reviews – things like hardware support is tricky. Most modern operating systems support most PC hardware configurations either out of the box, or with the needed drivers installed. I decided to bend that rule for the sake of broadening my desktop usability comparative test.

It would be more fair to all comers, right?

Wrong

Huawei 3g

Corrie suggested that I include setting up 3g as one of the tests. That sounds like a great test, right? Think again. Recently newer Huawei modems were launched by a local carrier, as part of my tech support duties I have worked with them and various os’s these past few months since the newer model came out.

With Windows XP there are very few problems with installing them. In Ubuntu there are very few problems installing them. With Win7 you run into problems – especially if you installed the older model and now want to upgrade to the newer model of the modem, or vice versa. On at least one occasion the driver installation broke the Windows 7 networking stack bad enough that neither the old or the new modem would work. When the hardware supplier, Vodacom, installed the fix the software they used broke the networking stack so badly that there was no networking connection available to the Sony Laptop!

In the end we needed to format and re-install from scratch.

I have had Huawei modems fail to install in Windows 7 for various reasons, and people have reported issues with the newer models in Linux as well, although I have not had any problems with either the old or the new version.

I cannot fault Windows for this though. The vendor indicated that there was a known issue with the drivers with regards to Win7, and that a fix was forthcoming.

I decided to drop this test from my comparison.

Which is better though?

Ubuntu – or any other proper desktop distro is preferable to Windows 7 in this case. Even though I cannot fault Win7 for bad hardware drivers, I can commend Ubuntu for making the installation and use of these devices very easy. The setup is quick and painless and doesn’t make use of the on-board drivers that come with the modem. This was not the as recent as Hardy Heron, when you still needed to fiddle with downloaded drivers and whatnot to get the thing working.

PrintersPrinter2

Ho boy. Printers. Anyone who has ever tried to get a Lexmark printer to work on Linux will agree with me that printers are a hit and mis affair. With that in mind I decided to try out a wide variety of printers to find one that is supported in both Linux and Win7, and then to use that one to gauge ease of setup.

I am sad to report that I did not find one that works with both.

Samsung CLP-350

With Ubuntu this one installed faultlessly as a dedicated Network Printer. Ubuntu detected it great and it worked without problems, printing the color test page first go. As a USB printer setup was not a problem either. Great Linux Compatible printer. (Both 64 and 32 bit versions performed well)

With Windows the story is a bit different. When we first received it, it worked fine with WinXP, and even Vista. Once we started using Win7 though, we had minor issues. At first we had to get it to work using Windows Vista drivers. Later on Win7 drivers became available, but we still have a bit of a problem with Win7 64bit. Since the driver issues have been sorted out, it has worked as a network printer, but USB I cannot comment on since the printer decided to break and has gone for repairs. Win Vista and XP have no problems with it on USB though.

Brother

Again I forgot the model name. Tomorrow I will update the model name for you guys, very sorry about that…

Ubuntu and Brother did not like each other. I am sure that with fiddling I can get it to work, but having to fiddle disqualifies Ubuntu as usable for this test. Win7 worked after downloading the proper drivers (167megabytes thanks a lot) from the vendor website. Very nice printer IMO, but not for people with Linux.

HP Laserjet 1005 and Laserjet 1050

Two older printers, yes, but these two have been stalwarts in our office, and I figured that they would work best as a printer setup comparison for both Windows 7 and Linux since they would be supported by both.

Wrong again!

1005

The Laserjet 1005 does not play with 64bit Operating systems. We tried it with anything from WinXP 64 through to Win7 64 and Ubuntu 64 and all of them show the same symptoms – it installs, but doesn’t print. Since my Win7 install is 64bit I had to drop that one as an option.

1080

Right, that left the Laserjet 1080. I have used this as a network share with both Ubuntu 32 and 64bit for the better part of two years. Win7 also prints to this shared printer without many problems – again, when Win7 just arrived I needed to use the Vista drivers to print…

Printers3The problem cropped up when I did the USB printing test. Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS installed proprietary drivers from the Internet without much hassle. Printer printed after the installer finisher. Did I say it was correctly auto detected? Yes I had high hopes by now that I had found my printer to do my tests with. An older model – I had hoped to be using one of the newer ones – but a working printer nonetheless.

Well Win7 refused to install the printer as a USB printer. It installed USB printing support, but then told me that there was no driver available for the Laserjet 1080

Printer1At this point I gave up in disgust. I know that there is probably a driver available for Win7 64 on the internet to get my printer/OS to work together, but I seriously was not in the mood to fiddle any more.

Win7 or Linux? Which one to recommend?

Printers4I’d have to go with Windows XP! Yep, I know. Hate me if you want, but if you want a proper reliable printing experience go with Windows XP. You are almost guaranteed tha your printer will have drivers for WinXP. Vista is a close second. Win7 and Ubuntu (or most other Linux Distros) are a bit of a hit or miss as far as this goes.

My 14 years of IT experience and printers have told me that printers are evil, and sadly progress have only made them cleverer.

Surprisingly Windows have been going the opposite direction as far as printers are concerned when compared to Linux. You can probably get any printer model out there to print you something when using Linux. Quality and printing speed might not be what you want though. I have an old HP Laserjet 4L that prints about 1page every five seconds when I use Ubuntu – slow but reliable.

Summary

If you DO need a printer that is supported by as many Operating Systems as possible go with Samsung. Seriously, Win7 driver issues aside, I have had the least hassles with them. Go for one that includes the drum on the cartridge, as opposed to the CLP-350 I mentioned here. Our CLP will need to be replaced completely now, because we wore out the drum. Printer is in awesome condition though, except for the drum.

The Perfect Combo?Printer Added!

You knew I was gonna go there huh. If you want a printer, 3g and OS combo that works – go with Samsung, new Huawei Modem, and Ubuntu. I would recommend this to anyone who needs a reliable combination for the small office but needs Internet on the go as well.

To End With Then.

My comparative review will be delayed one extra day because I spent the greater part of the afternoon hunting for the perfect printer to do the tests with, and found none. Hardware centric tests will have to be slated from that test then. To throw you guys a bone, installation wise Win7 got hammered when I take ease of installation into account. When I needed drivers Ubuntu and PCLOS both downloaded the drivers automagically and installed the printers. Ubuntu fared a bit better than PCLOS because there was less hoops to jump though, but Win7 is a bit behind especially Ubuntu when it came to installing and setting up a printer. Hunting for a driver online pales in comparison to an auto installer script taking you through all the steps.

Ubuntu WILL fail though when you need to hack away to get something like an older Lexmark or Brother printer to work properly.

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  4. Linux Mint Felicia – First Impressions
  5. Intrepid Ibex – Two fresh installs and I like it!