Snow Leopard Missing Driver Workaround

drivers Aug 29, 2009

As I reported previously, one of the casualties of upgrading to Snow Leopard was the loss of my Canon ImagePROGRAF W6400 large format printer. As a professional photographer, this was a bad thing. Not fatal by any means, as I could submit my prints to a service for printing, but I lost my ability to produce single large prints and proofs.apple-driver-hell.jpg

Apple users are now about to experience the awe and mystery of Driver Hell. As OEMs drag their feet to produce 64-bit drivers, many will be left stranded without access to their esoteric bits of kit.

I got around my problem like this (YMMV):If you keep Snow Leopard in default mode (32-bit kernel + KEXTs) you will still have access to VM software like Parallels 4.0 Desktop (I have not tested VMWare Fusion nor VirtualBox yet). Here you can load up a previous version of the Mac OS or a current version of Windows. I loaded Windows 7 x64 Ultimate. The trick was to set the VM’s network adapter to be bridged, making sure that it picks up an IP from your network’s DHCP server (if I lost you with all of this jargon, fear not. Pictures will follow.)

parallels network.tiff

Then, install the drivers for your missing device. In my case, Canon had released 64-bit Vista drivers earlier this year which are compatible with Windows 7 x64.

But what to print with? I could share the printer and mount it on my Mac (as long as the VM is up) but that wouldn’t solve the problem of missing Mac drivers. I could install Windows versions of the software I use to process photos (Lightroom, Photoshop, etc) but that can get expensive if you don’t have extra licenses laying about.

Enter Qimage.

Qimage is a Windows based RIP (Raster Image Processor) + Printing Tool. A competitive product on the Mac is Bluecubit ImageNest, but as I lack drivers on the Mac side for now, ImageNest can’t help me yet. When I need to print on the large-format printer, I fire up the VM (which automatically creates a shared drive on my Mac desktop,) export my image to TIFF, save it to the shared folder, switch to the VM and print the image using Qimage.

parallels qimage.tiff

If Canon doesn’t screw up producing Snow Leopard drivers or decides that it won’t support older devices like the W6400 (which would be even lamer than screwing up the drivers), this solution works, and (if you purchase the studio version of Qimage) you can use multiple cores to power your printing.

I will keep you posted on how this works out.

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