by Dan Gharrity
A few years ago, students asked about the possibility of printing from their laptops to the lab printers instead of having to find a lab computer to login, locate a nearby printer, and then print their documents. The short answer was “yes,” but of course the process was not that easy. Since that time, LTS has conducted research to find a feasible solution that would more easily fit the student need, which has included investigating over 15 different applications and companies.
During this same period of time, mobile devices have moved well beyond laptops and into other technologies. We saw this technology coming, but we did not grasp the speed and scope that these devices would reach. Today’s student is more likely to carry a smartphone or similar handheld mobile device than a laptop, so we had to adjust and accelerate our research.
I spent much of the last 10 months exploring and narrowing down the viable solutions to this change, and was astounded by the costs! The product that best fit our current needs as well as future needs was listed at a cost exceeding $30,000 to implement and between $6,500 and $15,000 per year to maintain—and that did not even include maintaining the printers!
The least expensive packaged solution was in the neighborhood of $10,000 and had a reasonable $3,500 per year in maintenance costs, but it required far too much hands-on programming and upkeep to deliver the required results.
As we were discussing this after a phone conference with the reps for the more expensive product, Eric Stevens took it upon himself to look for an in-house application that we could write and tailor to our needs. About 2 months ago he called and had me test something that he had gotten a trial copy of. We played with this app for a bit, Eric did some final tweaking and tuning, and we now have a functional mobile printing app that fills our needs perfectly (as perfectly as anything in the computer/networking/server does, anyway).
A month back we met with the ITC committee for the Student Senate to pitch our application and ask for their approval (and dollars) to run a pilot program. The ITC committee loved the idea and took it to the full senate, where the proposal received approval. With the approval and funding now in place, we will be placing four printer stations complete with release stations on campus for the campus community to use starting over Winterim. The locations will be in the following buildings:
- McIntyre Library
- Towers Dorm
- Davies Center
- Haas Fine Arts
The exact locations in these buildings have not been settled yet but will be announced when they are.
So, the big question is—how does it work? The mobile printing is as easy as sending an email, in fact, that is all you have to do! You send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, attach the document(s) you need to print, and send it. You will receive a notification email back with a link to log into MPrint.uwec.edu, where you can select your document and the printer that you want to print to—easy as that! Once your job has been processed you will receive another email letting you know the job has been sent to the printer. As with conventional printing, you will still need to supply your own paper with lab printers.
For more information about this process, view LTS Online Help documentation on Printing from Mobile Devices.