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I know that zeroconf does automatic service location on the local network. But what does it mean? For example there is a printer (printing is the service that it does). This printer choose randomly an IP for itself. It asks other devices if this IP is already occupied. If not, the printer occupies this IP. Then printer says to "everybody" that "printing" service is associated with this IP. Is it "automatic service location"? Or I got something wrong?

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You've basically got it right.

Zeroconf does three things:

  • Assigns and manages IP addresses on the local network. So yes, your printer gets a unique address.
  • Manages local names associated with those IP's. So you would be able to address your printer as "printer.local", for example.
  • Allows services to advertise themselves for use on the local network. So yes, your printer would say "I'm available for printing over here at 'printer.local'!".
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and a 4th component: detecting the available services in the network (which is actually the "location") ... so a program can ask the "network": "is there a printer .. somewhere?" –  akira Apr 25 '10 at 8:12
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