ICSI Speech FAQ:
10.1 How do I prepare and print a poster?

Answer by: dpwe - 2000-08-13

Poster sessions are increasingly popular at conferences and workshops as a more adaptive way to give researchers a chance to share their ideas. As a result, group members frequently need to produce 3 foot by 6 foot posters (or thereabouts) to display at these sessions.

Happily, we have access to the perfect poster-printing technology -- the 36-inch wide HP DesignJet 650C inkjet printer belonging to John Wawrzynek's group in Soda Hall on campus. This can print images 3 foot wide and of arbitrary length, since the paper comes from a roll.

Less happily, we have a history of difficulties in successfully printing to this device. There are two main problems: Preparing a suitable file, and delivering that file to the printer.

Preparing postcript files for the HP DesignJet 650C

The printer accepts postscript files, but preparing the file is tricky because of course this is not a standard paper size. Most software will allow you specify paper size somehow (and typically this information is embedded in the postscript), but there is an issue getting the portrait/landscape orientation correct. If you are unlucky, you can end up with a 36" strip from the left side of your poster (which has been printed rotated by 90 degrees). The safest thing is to start from a template which has been successfully printed before. Barry Chen (byc) successfully produced our recent group description poster, so he might have such a thing.

The safest solution is to use a program with a printer driver specific to the HP 650C. The NT machines and the Macintosh have this capacity; I'm not sure whether it is actually installed on the NT machines; if not, it ought to be.

To prepare your poster, you can use any kind of page design software. Personally, I prefer Adobe Illustrator (on the Mac or NT machines), but it takes a certain amount of learning and getting used to. Another alternative is FrameMaker: this has the advantage of being available on the Unix machines, but since we upgraded to the most recent version (5.5.6?), there have been problems generating postscript output suitable for the HP 650C. I'm not sure if anyone has done this successfully.

In any case, the general procedure is to prepare your poster, then print it out using either an HP-specific driver, or manually specifying the size of the poster paper, and collecting the result as a postscript file to be transferred to the printer.

Printing out your postscript file

The HP printer is in the Wawrzynek lab in Soda Hall (room 440?). It is connected to the network via Ethernet; the printer also has AppleTalk and (I think) parallel port connections.

Conceptually the simplest way to print a ready-prepared postscript file would be to FTP the file onto a machine on the local network, then print from that machine to the plotter. In the past, it has been possible to hook up with a collaborator with a Unix account on that network, FTP the file from ICSI, then just "lpr -Pplot-440 file.ps". (I'm not sure if the plotter was called plot-440, but it was something like that). Recently, I haven't seen this method work.

Most of the machines close to the plotter have now become NT workstations. In theory, you could FTP the file onto one of them, then copy it to the printer (somehow - you need someone with PC/Windows experience to tell you how). However, these machines appear not to be on the network, or at least not in a way that I could figure out. There may be an issue of shared IP addresses causing conflicts.

The reason I don't know the details of these alternatives is because all the recent times I've printed a poster, I've simply taken my old Apple Powerbook laptop up to the printer, and connected it directly via an AppleTalk (LocalTalk) cable, then printed directly from Illustrator to the printer. This works flawlessly, but relies on having a laptop with an AppleTalk connector - which even my current laptop doesn't have. So this isn't such a useful option.

Jeff Bilmes recently successfully printed a poster on the plotter. I think he used the parallel port from his NT laptop, but that's hearsay. However, it might be worth investigating.

I'm hoping that someone else will either add to this FAQ or write an alternative answer of their own detailing a foolproof recipe for printing posters.

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