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I have a non-root account on a shared server, on which the system administrators do not support printing because of past experience with stalled and runaway jobs. For the same reason, they do not allow installation of a user-land spooler. How can I set up printing without a local queue?

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It may be easier (and more polite) to ask the system administrator nicely if they could set printing up for you. If you have a good reason for it, they should be quite happy to do it, and there's less risk of them breaking it (intentionally or otherwise) later on. – Scott Jan 10 '11 at 15:40
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Ask your system administrators to install the client parts of CUPS. (You didn't say which Linux you use, so I can't tell you which package names that would be...)

This will allow you printing without local spooling, provided that a remote CUPS print server allows you access:

lpstat -h -p

will then return you the names of available printers on

lpoptions -h -l -p printer33

will show you which printjob options printer33 on that host has on offer.

lp -h -d printer33 -o [your options go here] filename

will print filename.

You can also create a file ~/.cups/client.conf with this content:


This way all the GUI print dialogs would know where to look for printers and printoptions, and where to spool their jobs to.

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I would suggest you start by asking your system administrator (or a more experienced user of the system in question) how to print. If it turns out that printing really isn't set up yet, ask them very nicely if they could please look into it.

(I'm assuming, of course, that your question means "Is there a way for a user without root access to set up printing?")

If printing isn't set up and your sysadmin can't find the time to set it up, then presumably the printer you want to print to is on the network -- it would be pointless to connect a printer directly to a server and then not configure the server to print to it -- and so you could presumably install everything necessary to print to it under your home directory, but it would probably be quite a lot of work to build it all, and it would probably be a bit fragile. (Hence, it should be your last resort.)

A better plan might be to set up a VM in which to discover precisely what must be done to make your printer work from a system running the distro and version that the server is running, and ask your administrator if they could please just do those few things?

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I'm not completely sure what your set up is. You shouldn't need a spooler (or print server e.g. CUPS) on a machine that doesn't have a printer attached (you would simply submit jobs to the actual print server via something like the Internet Printing Protocol), and a machine with a printer attached would be useless without a spooler. Does the server have a printer attached or is it elsewhere on the network?

That said, if your sysadmin has explicitly said not to do something, don't go trying to do things behind their back - that's a great way to get BOFH mode on. You must talk them round. Explain to them why you need to be able to print on that server (I don't mean "to do my job" - something more specific like "I can only get output from program X by printing"). At the moment you're requesting a particular solution (i.e. enable printing). Try to get right down to the root of your problem - what is it that not being able to print is preventing you doing, and why is that bad? If you present this problem to your system administrator, they may be able to suggest a different solution that solves your problem without causing them extra headaches like printing did. Alternatively, it may help them see that printing is indeed the only solution, and cause them to seek out fixes to the problems they had previously.

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A solution that worked for both me and system administrators was remote printing through ssh:

cat |ssh remoteHost "lpr -PfooPrinter"
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