The print queue



  • Not really a major WTF, but just an example of typical user behavior:

    While at the university recently, I went into a computer lab to print out a few pages.  Usually, the Linux workstations in the labs tend to be left on, but there had been a blackout in the area the day before, and, it being summer and pretty quiet at the campus, nobody had bothered to turn most of the workstations back on.  Since I didn't feel like waiting for a workstation to boot up and fsck itself either, I just picked one of the few that had already been turned on, even though it was a bit out of the way and not the one I'd usually pick.

    Anyway, mindful of the recent blackout, I check that the printer in the lab is indeed online: it is, and seems to be working fine for the few other people present.  Proceeding to print my document, I notice a vaguely generic error message listed next to the local printer's entry in the printer selection menu, but decide to try printing anyway since the printer in question appears to be working for others; I figure it must be just some leftover confusion from the recent power outage.

    I select the right printer entry, click "print", and... nothing.  No error message either on the workstation or on the printer, but no printout either.  Suspecting some silly user error on my part, like accidentally clicking "cancel" instead, I do what any normal user would do: try printing again.  Still nothing.

    At this point, I would've done the next obvious "normal user" thing and just tried a different workstation, a different printer, or both.  However, the document I'd been trying to print contained some semi-private information such as my SSN, so I decided to try canceling the print job first, lest it pop out of the printer some time later after I'd left. As it turns out, this was a bit harder than an average user could be expected to do: instead of just finding the printer icon in the taskbar and clicking it, like you'd do on a typical Windows system, I had to open the KDE menu and select "System" -> "Printing".  Not that hard, but apparently just enough of a speed bump, as we'll see.

    In the resulting list, I indeed found my print job and cancelled it.  However, I then took another look at the queue listing: surely all these 450 or so print jobs couldn't all be pending?  Apparently, yes, they could.  For one printer.  From one workstation.  At the top of the list was one job with its status listed as "Error" instead of "Queued".  Curious, I right-clicked the job and brought up the properties dialog: "job submit time: 12 January 2008".

    So, apparently, some six and a half months ago someone had tried to print something from the workstation; something had gone wrong, and the print job had gotten stuck in the queue.  Ever since then, based on my quick glance at the queue, everyone else who had tried to print to that printer from that workstation had done more or less the same thing I'd almost done: try again, maybe even twice, then decide that "it just ain't working" and try again from a different workstation, to a different printer, or just leave.  And no-one had ever checked the print queue.

    I fired off a quick problem ticked to the IT staff.  Ten minutes later the queue had been purged.



  • @vyznev said:

    As it turns out, this was a bit harder than an average user could be expected to do: instead of just finding the printer icon in the taskbar and clicking it, like you'd do on a typical Windows system, I had to open the KDE menu and select "System" -> "Printing".  Not that hard, but apparently just enough of a speed bump, as we'll see.

    <flamebait type="too obvious" instructions="please ignore">...and this is why GNOME has print queue notification in notification area.</flamebait> =)

    Seriously, though, reminds me of one of the days in the university when someone had apparently done "cat somerandomhuge.exe | lpr -Ptheprintereveryoneused" and no one was out there to watch for things.


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