Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

We have a resource area for guests to come to research. We also offer free printing.

This works fine from our desktops where the printer drivers are already installed. But when people bring their laptops and connect to our public wifi, it's very difficult for them to setup the printer. They have to find the IP of the printer, find drivers, get them installed, etc.

What can I do to simplify this process for our guests? I've heard of some libraries having a program you just download from their website to setup the printer, but don't know how it works exactly.

I've tried searching the internet for such solutions, but apparently haven't figured out the right keywords to bring anything useful up.

share|improve this question
The approach of requiring guests to download a program provided by you and run it on their own laptop is not a good practice. This only works for guests who ignore the security risks. And if the laptop was provided by their employer, then they would likely be violating security policies from their employer by downloading and running said program. – kasperd Dec 7 '14 at 13:29
@kasperd if the guests were security conscientious, they wouldn't be connecting to our free wifi in the first place. It's not like I'm forcing them to use our printer. – Grant Dec 7 '14 at 15:49
The free WiFi doesn't introduce any new attack points against the laptop. It just increases the number of people who could attack those weak points, which you should be addressing anyway. – kasperd Dec 7 '14 at 16:36
@kasperd Sure it does. If I were malicious, I would be capturing login cookies, running mitm attacks, etc. Free wifi can be very dangerous if you aren't careful. – Grant Dec 7 '14 at 19:47
Even if the connection was wired all the way, every ISP on the route will have multiple sysadmins, who could do the same thing, if they wanted to. Moreover by playing some tricks with BGP, it is possible to insert yourself into the path between selected endpoints. Appropriate measures against that is to ensure end-to-end integrity and confidentiality, and if you have done so, then public WiFi networks don't have to be a security risk. Using the internet can be very dangerous if you aren't careful. – kasperd Dec 7 '14 at 21:08
up vote 1 down vote accepted

The most generic way would be setting up a gateway which would take files in a commonly-used exchange format (PDF) through a means of transport (e-mail or a Windows share) and print them using internal printer drivers. You mostly will see such a setup done using Linux / CUPS, some printer models even will allow for direct PDF printing.

This of course would require users to create PDFs they want to print in the first place, but is the only generic / cross-platform way of getting rid of the driver issue.

Other than that, you could simplify the process of installing the printer by providing a publicly-announced print server which would expose the protocols moslty needed in your environment (Windows printer share, Bonjour) and possibly a meta-driver for non-postscript printers. Again, this seems like a good task for a Linux / CUPS setup.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.