Mac OS X printing woes: nothing like a good old restart

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
July 3rd, 2003 • 5:13 pm

I probably have a printer setup that’s not exactly orthodox for Mac OS X: I’m still using an 8-year-old HP LaserJet 5 MP which works like a charm and has never required any kind of maintenance.

Of course back in 1995 this printer was LocalTalk-only, and I never purchased an Ethernet-based print server. Instead, I bought an AsantéTalk box, which converts the LocalTalk connection INTO an Ethernet port and usually works like a charm.

Like most common laser printers (and unlike many inkjet printers), the 5 MP was supported by Mac OS X from the get-go. So I never had any driver problems.

The only problem I’ve ever had with this setup is with the AsantéTalk box itself after a power outage. The box has some kind of “automatic sensing” feature that enables it to detect whatever AppleTalk devices are present on the network and thus establish the connection between them. After a power outage, these settings are typically lost, and, in ORDER for the AsantéTalk to reset itself properly, I have to turn all my equipment on except for the AsantéTalk itself, wait until everything is running, and then power up the AsantéTalk.

This is called a “power-up cycle” and, because the AsantéTalk is the last device to be turned on, when it goes through the cycle of finding all AppleTalk devices, it finds them, including the printer. This can take up to a minute, during which I can see some activity in the lights on the box itself. After that, things work again.

However, if I forget to do this power-up cycle first and try to print from one of my Macs when the AsantéTalk has not been reset, the printing process fails, with Mac OS X’s Print Center saying that “the printer cannot be found” or staying stuck at the “opening connection” stages.

Once this has happened, however, it’s not enough to do the power-up cycle with the AsantéTalk. This happened to me again this morning. After the power-up cycle, Mac OS X on the affected machine still stays stuck at the “opening connection” stage. If I go to “Add Printer” and look at what printers are available via the AppleTalk protocol, the HP 5 MP appears in the list, which means that the power-up cycle has worked and the printer is available on the network again. But Mac OS X on that particular machine where I tried to print something when the printer was not available still can’t establish a connection to it.

I’ve tried re-adding the printer to the list of printers in Print Center. I’ve tried logging out and logging back in. It still doesn’t work.

The only thing that works is to actually restart Mac OS X on the machine. I don’t know why. All I can see is that, during the starting up sequence (before Mac OS X gets to the Login window), one of the steps is “Starting printing services…”. So I suspect that, when I try to print something and the HP 5 MP is not available because the AsantéTalk has “forgotten” about it due to a power outage, this somehow causes Mac OS X’s “printing services” to stop working — and the only way I know to get them going again is to restart the machine.

It’s rather annoying. You’d think that Mac OS X would be able to get things going again by itself, or that there would be a “Restart Printing Services” in the Print Center utility or something. (There might be a way to achieve this in the Terminal without restarting Mac OS X.)

7 Responses to “Mac OS X printing woes: nothing like a good old restart”

  1. Pierre Igot says:

    You’ll find more information on my AsantéTalk woes here. Would be a shame to get rid of your 5 MP if it’s working fine like mine. My sense is that LocalTalk-to-Ethernet works better than LocalTalk-to-USB.

  2. Dave says:

    I’ve got the same problem only I am going from LocalTalk straight to USB using a special cable. No power outages that I can recall but lately my printer gets stuck in the Opening Connection stage all the time. It prints1document fine, but then gets stuck the next time I try to print something. Only a restart seems to fix this. The only thing I can think of is that I recently updated to System 10.3.2. I feel your pain. I guess this is the cost of trying to be cheap and stick with tried and true old equipment. I can only get a few bucks on ebay for my trusty 5 MP so it’s not really worth selling it but I just can’t live with this situation for too much longer.

  3. Peter McGarvey says:


    I have the same problem with my 5MP. But have had it with OS9 and OSX. It started when I moved from an old powerbook to a cube with OS9 and had to replace the localtalk connection with a USB to Parallel port cable. It only prints once or not at all. New drivers from HP did not help. I used some 3’rd pary driversand software from MacJet but they were not postscript and the resolution was low.

    Now I moved to OSX and the problem remains but my macjet software does not work anymore. Very frustrating. If I start a printing in classic mode with my macjet software I can load other jobs on in OSX and it works fine for a while then nothing.

    I found some information on a linux site that says many HP drivers do not have a “standard” mac USB interface and sometimes do not establish a connection. The problem we seem to have. No solution yet though unless you use linux. Maybe I need an ethernet connection. Grrrr.

    Peter McGarvey

  4. Pierre Igot says:

    Yes, it would probably be a better idea to try a LocalTalk-Ethernet or Parallel-Ethernet solution.

  5. robert says:

    10.3 goofed up the USB “backend” for printing. This will be fixed in 10.3.3 due out anytime now or you can copy over the old usb backend file from a 10.2.8 installation and that will fix it too. Search the web for ‘usb’ and ‘backend’ and ‘os x’ for an article on this problem. -robert

  6. Ed says:

    I’m kind of curious how you (Dave) got a LocalTalk printer working through a USB adaptor. To my knowledge, there is no way to get a LocalTalk printer working in OS X, *EXCEPT* through a LocalTalk-to-Ethernet converter, like this AsanteTalk. If anyone knows a way to get a LocalTalk printer working in OS X without resorting to an Ethernet converter, I’d appreciate any information. (I have a couple older LaserWriters that work great in OS 9, but I’d like to get them working natively in OS X so I don’t need an ‘extra’ OS 9 computer running just to share 2 printers.)

  7. Dan says:

    I have the same problem.

    Restart should not be necessary – just unplug and plug the USB cable after each printout.

    Still it is annoying – I had this problem in all osX versions. I am not sure that a “downgrade” would solve the problem.

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