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Almost as soon as AirPrint became available we all wanted to print from our iOS devices.

First we tried an application which turns any Mac into an iOS print server using printer sharing. That application works well for my home needs, but found that with more than a few printers shared, I had to regularly reboot the Mac. It seemed to have some trouble switching between printers with multiple users.

Still several churches seem to be doing well using Mac applications like Printopia or FingerPrint.

We decided to try the Lantronix xPrintServer for about $150. This is a stand alone device that says it will automatically detect all of your network printers and auto configure itself for you. It uses UNIX CUPS, which is pretty stable. Upon reviewing the web site We learned that this device could support most of our printers, even some older ones.

It is an impressive looking device. It isn’t a whole lot larger than an iPhone 4. Of course it didn’t automatically find all of our printers either. The documentation it comes with isn’t very clear, but it has a way for it to help you find its web GUI and IP address (it uses DHCP).

Before you plug it in to anything start with this:

  • Be sure you are plugged into a port that is on a subnet that has printers.
  • Lantronix technical support confirmed our assumption that it the xPrintServer does not currently have a way to auto-detect or configure a proxy.
  • If you have a proxy, you need to know the IP address of the device so you can open up port 80 for that address in your firewall to allow it to download the latest drivers from the web site. It only needs to do this once, then you can remove that rule.
  • Once it has configured the printers on that subnet, you can move the device to all the subnets your printers are on and have it rescan until you have the ones you want.
  • Once you have your printers you need to move it to the wifi VLAN that your iOS devices use.

Some other things to note is that you will want to test print to those printers because some of the drivers don’t work properly. I suspect it still needs postscript printing, which aren’t supported by all printers.

Another thing to consider is that like the printer sharing software we tried first, the xPrint Server can handle only one print job at a time. It does seem to switch between printers well, but someday we could possibly need more xPrint Servers. Their web site says to have one for each subnet, but as I’ve noted above we learned that isn’t true, it just isn’t automatic.

Paul, our engineer from BEMA Information Technologies helped me figure most of this out since I got stuck after getting to the web GUI.  He was able to speak geek to Lantronix technical support.