USB Device Sharing: Solution for Old Printer Driver

I had a situation where we have a perfectly fine Epson Stylus Photo R2400 that is a few years old now but still a quality printer but we had been using it with 3 iMacs in a lab area. The Epson printer driver has some nicer features than the Gutenprint one that ships with the Apple drivers and we wanted to have the printer driver be set to that.

Via direct USB, the printer driver worked fine. The Epson driver was developed for PPC I believe and since it is such an old printer, it probably is the last version we will see. Rosetta also needs to be installed to handle it, but that is pretty-much automatic. So direct USB is fine and if you do printer sharing on the iMac that has a direct USB connection, you could get the machine that was piggy-backing on the sharing iMac to work with AppleTalk. But, when we upgraded to 10.6.x we lost AppleTalk on those iMacs and we lost the Epson driver nice stuff on two of the three computers. Sharing via Bonjour or IP did not work for the Epson driver, so we had to figure another solution out or re-purpose the printer.

So, enter the IOGEAR GUB431 4-Port USB Automatic Printer Switch


It can be used without software, but the software is a critical piece because it can be set to do automatic switching. After setup, we got the old R2400 going and the three iMacs into the switch. Each iMac sees the native USB so the driver is happy and shows all the options the users like and the USB switch is smart enough to handle switching between the computers when a print job is dished to it. The default software setup is to have the computer printing grab hold and own the printer for 3 minutes then let go, but I changed the settings so it would automatically let go when needed by other iMacs. It seems to be working well and we will keep testing it with users to see if it can handle what we need. I like the solution and well worth a try to keep a perfectly good piece of hardware going even if the vendor might have some driver issues across the network. We could have tried a print server on ethernet, but I was hesitant to try it since printer sharing wasn’t even working. To clarify, one could print via Bonjour printer sharing, but NOT with the extra driver features Epson bakes-in to the USB type of connection which is a major deal for us.

The device has Mac and Windows software and seems very solid. So far, so good.

For more info checkout