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Apple now owns CUPS

Chances are if you print anything from your Mac, Linux desktop or server or Unix system you’re using CUPS (Common Unix Printing System). Now, in a surprising development, Michael R Sweet, CUPS’ creator, revealed on CUPS’ Web site that Apple had bought CUPS’ source code and other intellectual property.

CUPS is used for printing in almost all Linux distributions. This includes such major Linux distributions as Debian, Novell SUSE, Red Hat, PCLinuxOS and Ubuntu. It is also supported in most Unixes such as AIX, FreeBSD, HP/UX and it’s an option in OpenSolaris. Beginning with Mac OS X 10.2, Jaguar, CUPS became the basis for the Mac’s printing system.

Previously, CUPS and its trademarks had belonged to Easy Software Products. This company had been founded by Sweet to develop a 3D modeling program for real-time displays called ESP Modeler. The need to print these models led Sweet to develop ESP Print. When it became apparent that ESP Print was the more popular of the programs, Sweet turned his attention to it. From his work on ESP Print, came the concepts and technology that became CUPS.

Sweet licensed CUPS under the open-source GPL2/LGPL2. In his announcement of Apple buying CUPS, he said, “CUPS will still be released under the existing GPL2/LGPL2 licensing terms, and I will continue to develop and support CUPS at Apple.” In the past, Sweet also worked on other open source programs such as Ghostscript and Samba.

CUPS development, however, will not be his fulltime job at Apple. Sweet said that he will be “primarily working on non-CUPS projects.” Given his background, one presumes those will still be printer-related projects.

The CUPS name, logo and full spelled out name had been trademarked by Easy Software Products. Apple now owns these trademarks.

According to Sweet,”These names and logos may be used freely in any direct port or binary distribution of CUPS. To use them in derivative products, please contract Apple Inc. for written permission. Our intention is to protect the value of these trademarks and ensure that any derivative product meets the same high-quality standards as the original.”

Support for both the current and future versions of CUPS will remain as it has been. Thus, all of the major Linux distributors and Apple will continue to provide CUPS support for their customers. Free support provided by volunteers will continue to be available via the CUPS Newsgroups. Access to these is also available via mailing lists.

The next edition of CUPS, version 1.3, had been due out in June, but its release has been delayed. This release will include Kerberos authentication and DNS-SD (Domain Name Server-Service Discovery) Bonjour. The latter is an Apple sponsored zero-configuration network protocol. It enables Bonjour aware applications to automatically obtain IP address assignment without a DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server, name to address translation without a DNS server, and service discovery without a directory server.

CUPS uses IPP (Internet Printing Protocol) as its foundation for managing print jobs and queues. A system running CUPS can be used both as a printer server and as a client to another CUPS-based print server.

It also supports older Unix printing systems such as LPD (Line Printer Daemon) and the System V and Berkeley command-line interfaces In addition, CUPS can work with SMB (Server Message Block), and AppSocket, also known as JetDirect, protocols.

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