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Author Archives: Chris
This is a short behind the scenes blog post about our new Live Demo. We’ve always striven to minimize the barrier-to-entry to adopting PaperCut. We’ve worked hard since day one (1999) to offer an application that’s easy to install and to evaluate (direct downloads, unlimited feature trials, full support during trial). However there has always been one barrier we’ve been unable to “engineer out” – that is the install itself! To get a full feel of PaperCut you need to invest the time to download and install on your production server, or set up a test system. Not any more!
PaperCut is now available as a live demo, allowing any prospective system administrator to take the core print management features for a test drive. For the non-browser features such as print policy popups (on the workstation), we’ve put together a set of complementing YouTube videos. If you have a few moments, take it for a drive here.
Want to know what’s happening behind the scenes of Live Demo? Here’s a summary of the setup:
- It’s a standard PaperCut install on Linux backed by MySQL.
- The server is hosted on a IaaS Linux VM instance at Rackspace.
- The install is preloaded with sample data generated from randomized US census names and many of the print document names we had fun making up!
- Videos were captured with the help of Camtasia Studio
The Live Demo project has not only produced benefits for those doing evaluations, but it’s also helped out all our existing customers. We’ve spent quite a bit of time optimizing PaperCut for cloud servers – servers with higher-than-local round trip latencies. Improvements include:
- More aggressive HTTP caching
- HTML, CSS and JS gzip compression
These performance gains, among others, have made their way into the latest releases. We have a few sites that now host their PaperCut installs on servers hosted in remote data centers (aka private clouds ). These sites will should see some good performance improvements in the administration and user interfaces.
If you have any other ideas on how we can make it even easier to get a feel for PaperCut, please let us know in the comments.
Warning to regular readers – this post is “Geek Factor 10”
At PaperCut we use continuous integration to monitor the quality of our codebase. It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally someone makes a mistake and the build gets broken. It’s important this is detected and rectified early so other members of the dev team are not inconvenienced.
Traditional Lava Lamps, and of course email, are the tools of choice to notify a team that the build is broken. However, lava lamps, just like pink curtains and shag pile, don’t really fit into the culture here at PaperCut. We thought we could do better, and so a new open source project called Retaliation was born!
Retaliation is a Jenkins CI build monitor that automatically coordinates a foam missile counter-attack against the developer who breaks the build. It does this by playing a pre-programmed control sequence to a USB Foam Missile Launcher to target the offending code monkey. Check out the video to see Tom take one in the back of the head all because of a missing semicolon!
At a deeper level Retaliation is more than just a “simple python script”. It’s a radical rethink into how to manage software development teams and the software development lifecycle. It works on a deep psychological level to offer vast productivity improvements. The primal threat of mutually assured destruction lurking in every coder’s psyche ensures that even your sloppiest developers will never forget to check in that missing file again!
Like all good apps Retaliation has testimonials that sing its praise…
Retaliation brought us the productivity improvement pair programming promised but could never deliver! We’ve seen a 13.37% decrease in build breakage since its implementation.
Will, Chief Code Hacker
Honestly, would you work in a dev team with a lava lamp build notifier? What next? Nyan Cat mouse mats? Real coders work under the threat of Retaliation!
Matt, Coding Machine
Does what it says on the box. I’ve seen improvements in my team and we haven’t even installed it yet! Just the threat has kicked my team’s coding into line!
Tom, Head Code Captain
It’s great to see that Chris’ skills in reverse engineering printer binary protocols has not gone to waste. He’s been able to apply this skill to a new field in reverse engineering Foam Missile Launcher system USB protocols! Coding print management software may not be the most glamorous job, however it just got that bit more sexy now that Retaliation is involved!
iPad Printing Print Control Options in the PaperCut tour. It’s all been prototyped and is currently with the software development team to be included in a point release of PaperCut version 11 at no extra cost. We’ll keep you posted.With the release of iOS 4.2, finally Apple iPads and iPhones can print! Of course the this possibility opens up many questions, particularly from network administrators managing printing in schools, colleges and Universities. How do I control AirPrint printing and prevent a student free-for-all? It’s been such a popular question and hot topic on our support queue that we’ve started work straight away on an iPad print control option. The aim is to ensure all of PaperCut’s core features such as print quotas, print control, and print cost allocation to accounts are all available to users using iPads and iPhones. Our approach builds on AirPrint by providing IP address based authentication on top of the Mac OS X server AirPrint exposed print queues (via CUPS and Bonjour/mDNS). Read more about PaperCut’s
Writing blog posts are hard for us “computer geeks” in the PaperCut development team. We’re able to string together lines of source code like we’ve been doing it since we were born, but asking us to join enough English words into sentences and paragraphs to construct a blog post… now that’s a different story. All the grammatical rules, spelling, making things interesting… it’s bound to end in disaster!
So like all good software developers we decided there must be a better way. After some use-case analysis, story boarding and excessive coffee consumption we’ve determined that the answer is twitter – also known as micro-blogging. Twitter limits us to 140 characters. Surely we can’t write anything boring or grammatically incorrect in such short posts (ed: we do our best)
Yes, we’ve decided to take the plunge start tweeting. In the spirit of twitter we’ll keep you updated on all things PaperCut: The important (new software releases), the relevant (which features we’re working on), and the not so important (what we’re having for lunch on Fridays!).
If you’re on twitter, follow us on @PaperCutDev and join in the fun. Oh, don’t worry, we’re not abandoning macro-blogging just yet. You’ll need to put up with computer geek grammar, spelling and exciting posts about the 10 benefits of print audit software in business for a little bit longer!
… now I assume I should tweet this blog post?
It’s been two months since our last release. One of the longest gaps we’ve had between releases for a long while. This is however to be expected as this is our largest release yet! It’s also one of our most innovative, pushing new ideas and concepts. This release contains many big ticket items voted for in the last few rounds of voting:
- Watermarking and job attribution
- Document digital signatures
- Print policy popups
- Multiple personal accounts
- New printing impact desktop widget
- … and much much more.
New & noteworthy in this release:
Watermarking, Job Attribution and Digital Signatures
Adding text such as a user name to the bottom of a page in a print job was one of our most voted for features through 2009 and 2010. We’ve taken this request and added some of our own innovative ideas to create the new watermarking and job attribution feature. It is now possible to add dynamically constructed text to the bottom of each page (e.g. username), set different font sizes, gray-level and position on page.
We’ve also extended the watermark to include support for digital signatures using a cryptographic HMAC based on SHA1 or MD5. Every document may have a unique signature which can be used to verify the origin and author of any print job. We’ve gathered feedback from a number of our larger corporate and government customers to design this feature and are very excited about the new document tracking possibilities it opens. Our view is that print management software should more than just tracking & reporting and we’re working hard to innovate is all areas.
Watermarking is currently listed as an experimental feature and currently only supports PostScript printers. Peter is working on PCL support and this is targeted for a subsequent release.
- users are reminded via a popup to print duplex (and must opt-in to print simplex)
- printing emails is discouraged
- printing web pages in color is discouraged
Multiple Personal Accounts
Users can now have more than one personal account. At a simple level, this can be used in education environments to separate free print quotas from cash payments, for example, allowing simpler management and reporting. At a more advanced level, multiple personal accounts can be combined with print scripting to allow different departments to manage their own pot of funds and determine on which devices this pot can be used. This feature has been developed in conjunction with Cambridge University in the UK with the aim of satisfying their complex inter-college and inter-department environment.
Ad hoc bulk user actions
Ad hoc bulk user actions has been one of the top voted for features for the past few months. Priyanka has done a great job and she’s worked had to get this into this release.
A new environmental impact desktop widget
We’ve worked with Do Something, the non-profit organization supporting the Paper-Less Alliance, to bring this innovative desktop widget to PaperCut (see screenshot above). The aim of this widget is to help organizations reduce paper by arming users with information. Users can also benchmark their use against the organization average. You can download the widget here.
The widget is also used a fund-raiser. Organizations looking at deploying this widget are encouraged to make a donation of $0.99 per user with all proceeds going through to Do Something to help implement paper saving and environmental initiatives.
Re-sending data after connection failure
We’ve added new code to handle exceptional cases such as network connections failing between servers – for example when PaperCut is used over a WAN. If the connection temporarily fails, PaperCut can now be configured to locally record transactions and re-send them across when the connection comes back up. Read more here.
We hope you enjoy the bag full of new features. We love hearing your feedback so if you have any comments or suggestions please do let us know. For the full list of changes see the release history and get your downloads here. We’ll keep you posted about features for the next release on our blog and twitter feeds.
Twitter and email asking about the 10.5 release. We’re running a little late behind schedule, however this is for good reason. This is likely to be our largest release in terms of features yet. Hence testing and feature finalization is taking a little longer than expected. Some of the highlights in the release include:We’ve recently had a few people contact us via
Multiple Personal Accounts:
Re-sending data after connection failure:
The ability to add some text to the bottom of every page printed. This text is configurable in terms of content, font-size and color. Typical uses include:
- adding student names or student numbers to the bottom of their print jobs
- writing job metadata in the footer such as print time, printer, document name, etc.
- add a digital signature (SHA1 or MD5 HMAC) to all pages allowing you to track documents and verify authenticity/originality/source.
Multiple Personal Accounts:
It will now be possible for users to have more than one personal accounts. This feature has been developed in conjunction with Cambridge University in the UK. A typical use would be splitting student cash payments and free print quotas into separate buckets to make refund management easier. However in large organizations such as Cambridge it can be used, in conjunction with print scripting, to allow different departments/groups/colleges to manage their own print credits on their own printers.
Re-sending data after connection failure:
We’ve added new code to handle exceptional cases such as network connections failing between servers. For example say you have PaperCut installed on a business WAN with print servers spread across geographic regions. If the connection temporarily fails between offices, PaperCut can now be configured to locally record transactions and re-send them across when the connection comes back up.
All the three features listed above have been on the top of the vote list for many months. It will be great to have them released. And don’t forget that we’ll always include in many, many minor improvements and bug fixes.
We’re working hard to get the release out next week and will keep you posted on progress via our twitter feed.
The regular readers of our blog will have noticed a few off-topic posts slipping in from time to time. The common theme is coffee and beer. As a group of passionate computer programmers and tech geeks it’s no surprise that we have developed a strong
corporate coffee culture. Coffee is our secret weapon! Over the past 10 years we’ve changed programming languages, compilers, and development practices, but one factor has remained constant: Coffee. It must be the pillar for PaperCut’s success.
Coffee is very much part of our culture. The company funds a continuous flow of lattes, cappuccinos and macchiatos (Hendrik’s favorite) all arriving from the coffee shop directly opposite the office. Most of us have espresso machines at home (e.g. Rancilio Silva) and discussions on brewing techniques seem to pop up in developer meeting agendas unannounced.
Recently management decided that attending a formal coffee barista course would be a good idea. Traditional businesses would have called this a “cooperate team building exercise”, however for us it’s “core competency training” The whole Melbourne development team (minus Tom) spent a day at a coffee training academy learning the finer points of coffee production.
- The art of wasting lots of milk perfecting the perfect froth.
- The amount of coffee one must waste to calibrate the ideal 25 second espresso pour.
- Latte art: The art of convincing someone that the shape on the top of their coffee was deliberate.
- How to make beverages unknown to computer programmers (chai lattes, and hot chocolates)
The day finished off with a competition. We paired up into teams and had to make 8 coffee variants in 8 minutes. Congratulations to Matt and Jason who took out the title.
To take a slight deviation, my favorite pieces of coffee trivia:
- The magic number on Java
- The embedded framework we target for our HP embedded MFP development is called Chai
Overall it was a very fun day. We even got to walk away with a formal certificate – we’re now qualified Baristas! If we all get sick of writing print management software we now at least have a fall back option – open a Cafe!
Thanks to Jason for the great images!
For the past month Tom and I have been quietly working away on our new website. It was satisfying to push it live today (Sunday night US time). The new site is quite a change for us. It’s the first time we’ve used an external designer. Here are a few screen-shots showing how our site has evolved over the last ten years:
PaperCut Circa 2000
PaperCut Circa 2004
PaperCut Circa 2009
PaperCut Circa 2010 (Today)
I see that the Internet has two quite different styles:
1. The “Corporate Look” – conservative sites painted with fancy stock images (often from istockphoto.com). If we were to adopt this style I suppose we’d have some attractively dressed person standing smiling next to a printer )
2. The “Web 2.0 Look” - punchy colors, wide open spaces, and a focus on content / message rather than visual gloss – like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
As PaperCut has grown over the years, we’ve expanded from being a solution exclusively for education to one focused on all areas from schools, to SME, to large business. Increasingly PaperCut is presented at management-level in corporate organizations. Despite this “enterprise shift”, we still felt that the Web 2.0 look better fitted with our technical-focused culture. We felt it was important to have a website that reflects who we are and the way we work. We’re quite proud that we’re an engineering driven organization run by young developers and want to make this clear through our website.
The visual design of the new website was done by one of the lead web designers behind Kazaa – in its day one of the Internet’s most popular sites (and one that will undoubtedly also go down in history for notorious reasons!). He’s done lots of work with leading Web 2.0 companies and I think has done a great job for us. We hope you like the new design. We’ve kept with our green theme (in both color and environmental impact aspect), and also put more focus on our name rather than our starting-to-look-dated XP style icon.
At a technical level the site is also a departure from the norm. We’ve decided to cast away the shackles of IE6 (darn Microsoft!) and now target the last web technologies (It still “works” in IE6 but is not visually ideal). We’ve also making extensive use of CSS and JQuery. One of the design goals was to have the home page load as fast as our older site. We’ve come close to this with the help of a few tricks. For example you’ll notice the progressive image loading on the home page – the content renders really quickly, while the glowing tree loads in later in the background (this tree constitutes about half of the page download and is done last and faded in with a JQuery effect). Some other technical highlights include:
- Designed for larger screens (not many system administrators are running 1024 monitors on their desktop these days!)
- Leverages CSS font kerning and shadow
- We’ve used cutting-edge CSS styling attributes available in Firefox and Webkit based browsers such as rounded corners on DIV elements (emulated in IE using curvycorners.js)
- JQuery is downloaded off GoogleAPI’s CDN. Many sites are now using this so these resources are already in people’s local cache.
- Some Apache .htaccess tweaks to more effectively leverage local browser caching.
- Renders on the iPad and iPhone!
Hope you all enjoy the behind the scenes story and welcome the new look! I should also mention that the blog/news section which you are reading now is not yet skinned in the new style!
We’re working on a new website design and the moment and I’ve been crafting some new content for the home page. We’ve always proclaimed that PaperCut is in use in over 60 countries, but this was based on figures back in 2006. I was wondering if we’d add any more to the list over the years. So during a cup of coffee today I jumped into the license system and with a bit of UNIX command-line magic and came up with the new list. We’ve now cracked 100! As a computer programmer, it’s great to know that your software is helping save paper in so many countries.
I was pretty good at Geography in high school but one name on the list stumped me. Where is Benin? Well, now I know! Thanks to Africa Rice in Benin for helping us add one more to the list.
Afghanistan, American Samoa, Antigua And Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, COTE D’YVOIRE, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad And Tobago, Turkey , Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic Of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, U.S. Virgin Islands, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zimbabwe
Many of these countries are supported under our Developing World program. If you’re an education organization in the developing world, please contact us to discuss options.
As you all can tell from reading our blog, PaperCut is very much an engineering driven organization. What does this mean? Well, in short, our company is stacked full of engineers and computer geeks! We love computers, love programming, and love working with smart customers. Our engineering team (as opposed to a marketing team) controls our company direction and priorities.
Marketing, although still important, does take a back seat here at PaperCut. We don’t have any marketing staff at all! Over the years we’ve found that nothing has helped sell PaperCut more than simply “making it better”! Instead of spending money on glossy magazine ads, we re-invest into a better PaperCut. Having the best technology and relying on word-of-mouth is our model. Our advertising is you.
Most of the word-of-mouth support is just that – you talking to fellow IT system administrators. Occasionally however it takes a different form such as this this great article on Tech Republic, or this blog post by Ken over at ChangeForge. We also can’t forget the EduGeek tribe.
We also love reading about how our handywork is used. It might be:
- talk about the environment
- going green and being responsible
- feedback on how students respond to PaperCut
- a frank college magazine editorial
- pictures of our software on copiers
- proof that PaperCut makes a difference
- or attempting to read about PaperCut in languages I don’t understand!
And as an engineer there is also nothing more rewarding than seeing your latest work being appreciated. In 2009 we began a formal voting process to prioritize our development. Thousands of our users voted and Web Print quickly hit the number one spot. We pushed it up the priority list and got it does as quickly as we could. It’s great to see so many people now benefiting from this work! (Print scripting is our latest feature, so if you have any good ideas or feedback here, please share)
From all the engineers here at PaperCut, a big thanks to our marketing team – YOU!