well, i got a new printer, hurrah. i hate printers. printers are irritating. if they work, they work. if they go wrong (drivers, hardware etc), it's a _complete_ pain in the neck to fix.
my fun-and-games began when recompiling the kernel. the _actual_ problem was that you have to mkdev a device number of 180 in /dev, which i only discovered later by activating (kernel compile) mounting (/dev/devfs) devfs and doing ls -al /dev/devfs/bus/usb/lp0 AAAAGH.
2.4.4 usb support is crap, it failed to create the device. 2.4.7 created the device but i didn't know about device number 180, so downloaded patches 2.4.10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17, 2.4.14-2.5.0 and 2.5.1. compiled up multiple kernels, got on with the job of running several.
lost all my pcmcia options and i forgot about pcmcia serial support _and_ i forgot about ppp async ARGH. rediscovered them.
discovered devfs - experimental device filesystem support, in 2.5.1, hurrah! it showed me the device number! cat 'hello you stupid printer^L' > /dev/devfs/bus/usb/lp0 hurrah! it worked!
okay, *groan* so there was nothing wrong with 2.4.7, 2.4.10, 12 _or_ 2.5.1. now to recapture my lost settings, including my pcmcia 3c574/serial card...
anyway, the upshot is that i am now the proud owner of a _working_ and cute and very small portable Canon BJC55 deskjet printer. it sings to me when you put the new cartridge in [which is why it's cute - you think i'd call a printer 'cute' otherwise??? :) ] as it tests it.
i have no idea how to print graphics on it, and lpd doesn't recognise it properly, but i don't actually care. cat file.txt > /dev/usblp0 is good enough for me!
i can now print out "stuff" like invoices and faxes and statements for people, which i am ever so pleased about. of course... everyone else i talk to takes this kind of thing totally for granted [well _duur_ of _course_ you can print stuff out these days, this _is_ the modern age you backwards philistine twerp!]
remember the story i told last year about the royal navy in 1850 commissioning sea charts to be a) calculated accurately b) _printed_ accurately, after the royal navy discovered that 1 in 3 charts had copying (yes, copying) errors. an error in the third decimal place on sea charts can result in being off-course by hundreds of miles.
anyway: we seem to have the calculating bit down pat, but the printing is still leaving a lot to be desired... :)
[update: _now_ i read raph's latest diary entry *grin*]