>Debugging Printing Problems

Debugging Printing Problems


This is a short description of how to debug printing problems with Samba. This describes how to debug problems with printing from a SMB client to a Samba server, not the other way around. For the reverse see the examples/printing directory.

Ok, so you want to print to a Samba server from your PC. The first thing you need to understand is that Samba does not actually do any printing itself, it just acts as a middleman between your PC client and your Unix printing subsystem. Samba receives the file from the PC then passes the file to a external "print command". What print command you use is up to you.

The whole things is controlled using options in smb.conf. The most relevant options (which you should look up in the smb.conf man page) are:

        print command     - send a file to a spooler
        lpq command       - get spool queue status
        lprm command      - remove a job
        path = /var/spool/lpd/samba

The following are nice to know about:

        queuepause command   - stop a printer or print queue
        queueresume command  - start a printer or print queue


        print command = /usr/bin/lpr -r -P%p %s
        lpq command   = /usr/bin/lpq    -P%p %s
        lprm command  = /usr/bin/lprm   -P%p %j
        queuepause command = /usr/sbin/lpc -P%p stop
        queuepause command = /usr/sbin/lpc -P%p start

Samba should set reasonable defaults for these depending on your system type, but it isn't clairvoyant. It is not uncommon that you have to tweak these for local conditions. The commands should always have fully specified pathnames, as the smdb may not have the correct PATH values.

When you send a job to Samba to be printed, it will make a temporary copy of it in the directory specified in the [printers] section. and it should be periodically cleaned out. The lpr -r option requests that the temporary copy be removed after printing; If printing fails then you might find leftover files in this directory, and it should be periodically cleaned out. Samba used the lpq command to determine the "job number" assigned to your print job by the spooler.

The %>letter< are "macros" that get dynamically replaced with appropriate values when they are used. The %s gets replaced with the name of the spool file that Samba creates and the %p gets replaced with the name of the printer. The %j gets replaced with the "job number" which comes from the lpq output.

Debugging printer problems

One way to debug printing problems is to start by replacing these command with shell scripts that record the arguments and the contents of the print file. A simple example of this kind of things might be:

	print command = /tmp/saveprint %p %s

    # we make sure that we are the right user
    /usr/bin/id -p >/tmp/tmp.print
    # we run the command and save the error messages
    # replace the command with the one appropriate for your system
    /usr/bin/lpr -r -P$1 $2 2>>&/tmp/tmp.print

Then you print a file and try removing it. You may find that the print queue needs to be stopped in order to see the queue status and remove the job:

h4: {42} % echo hi >/tmp/hi
h4: {43} % smbclient //localhost/lw4
added interface ip= bcast= nmask=
Domain=[ASTART] OS=[Unix] Server=[Samba 2.0.7]
smb: \> print /tmp/hi
putting file /tmp/hi as hi-17534 (0.0 kb/s) (average 0.0 kb/s)
smb: \> queue
1049     3            hi-17534
smb: \> cancel 1049
Error cancelling job 1049 : code 0
smb: \> cancel 1049
Job 1049 cancelled
smb: \> queue
smb: \> exit

The 'code 0' indicates that the job was removed. The comment by the smbclient is a bit misleading on this. You can observe the command output and then and look at the /tmp/tmp.print file to see what the results are. You can quickly find out if the problem is with your printing system. Often people have problems with their /etc/printcap file or permissions on various print queues.

What printers do I have?

You can use the 'testprns' program to check to see if the printer name you are using is recognized by Samba. For example, you can use:

    testprns printer /etc/printcap

Samba can get its printcap information from a file or from a program. You can try the following to see the format of the extracted information:

    testprns -a printer /etc/printcap

    testprns -a printer '|/bin/cat printcap'

Setting up printcap and print servers

You may need to set up some printcaps for your Samba system to use. It is strongly recommended that you use the facilities provided by the print spooler to set up queues and printcap information.

Samba requires either a printcap or program to deliver printcap information. This printcap information has the format:


For almost all printing systems, the printer 'name' must be composed only of alphanumeric or underscore '_' characters. Some systems also allow hyphens ('-') as well. An alias is an alternative name for the printer, and an alias with a space in it is used as a 'comment' about the printer. The printcap format optionally uses a \ at the end of lines to extend the printcap to multiple lines.

Here are some examples of printcap files:

  1. pr just printer name

  2. pr|alias printer name and alias

  3. pr|My Printer printer name, alias used as comment

  4. pr:sh:\ Same as pr:sh:cm= testing :cm= \ testing

  5. pr:sh Same as pr:sh:cm= testing :cm= testing

Samba reads the printcap information when first started. If you make changes in the printcap information, then you must do the following:

  1. make sure that the print spooler is aware of these changes. The LPRng system uses the 'lpc reread' command to do this.

  2. make sure that the spool queues, etc., exist and have the correct permissions. The LPRng system uses the 'checkpc -f' command to do this.

  3. You now should send a SIGHUP signal to the smbd server to have it reread the printcap information.

Job sent, no output

This is the most frustrating part of printing. You may have sent the job, verified that the job was forwarded, set up a wrapper around the command to send the file, but there was no output from the printer.

First, check to make sure that the job REALLY is getting to the right print queue. If you are using a BSD or LPRng print spooler, you can temporarily stop the printing of jobs. Jobs can still be submitted, but they will not be printed. Use:

  lpc -Pprinter stop

Now submit a print job and then use 'lpq -Pprinter' to see if the job is in the print queue. If it is not in the print queue then you will have to find out why it is not being accepted for printing.

Next, you may want to check to see what the format of the job really was. With the assistance of the system administrator you can view the submitted jobs files. You may be surprised to find that these are not in what you would expect to call a printable format. You can use the UNIX 'file' utitily to determine what the job format actually is:

    cd /var/spool/lpd/printer   # spool directory of print jobs
    ls                          # find job files
    file dfA001myhost

You should make sure that your printer supports this format OR that your system administrator has installed a 'print filter' that will convert the file to a format appropriate for your printer.

Job sent, strange output

Once you have the job printing, you can then start worrying about making it print nicely.

The most common problem is extra pages of output: banner pages OR blank pages at the end.

If you are getting banner pages, check and make sure that the printcap option or printer option is configured for no banners. If you have a printcap, this is the :sh (suppress header or banner page) option. You should have the following in your printer.

   printer: ... :sh

If you have this option and are still getting banner pages, there is a strong chance that your printer is generating them for you automatically. You should make sure that banner printing is disabled for the printer. This usually requires using the printer setup software or procedures supplied by the printer manufacturer.

If you get an extra page of output, this could be due to problems with your job format, or if you are generating PostScript jobs, incorrect setting on your printer driver on the MicroSoft client. For example, under Win95 there is a option:

  Printers|Printer Name|(Right Click)Properties|Postscript|Advanced|

that allows you to choose if a Ctrl-D is appended to all jobs. This is a very bad thing to do, as most spooling systems will automatically add a ^D to the end of the job if it is detected as PostScript. The multiple ^D may cause an additional page of output.

Raw PostScript printed

This is a problem that is usually caused by either the print spooling system putting information at the start of the print job that makes the printer think the job is a text file, or your printer simply does not support PostScript. You may need to enable 'Automatic Format Detection' on your printer.

Advanced Printing

Note that you can do some pretty magic things by using your imagination with the "print command" option and some shell scripts. Doing print accounting is easy by passing the %U option to a print command shell script. You could even make the print command detect the type of output and its size and send it to an appropriate printer.

Real debugging

If the above debug tips don't help, then maybe you need to bring in the bug guns, system tracing. See Tracing.txt in this directory.