Turning the printer on and off automatically #automation

🕥︎ - 2021-04-29

The second idea I had for the usb relays I bought was to turn my printer on and off automatically, as is is located in a place where access to the power button means getting on the floor and twisting underneath a desk. Also the printer lights that are annoying, even when it goes into "hibernation" mode, so I want it turned off when not in use.

I have an access point which has a usb port, and since the access point is always on and it is in the vicinity of the printer, it's a good candidate for controlling the relay.

I connected the usb-cable to the access point and installed the crelay package, which supports my usb controlled relay, and then I connected the power cable to the printer. The access point runs OpenWrt so packages like this are readily available.

So now I can turn the printer on by ssh'ing to the access point and running the command crelay 1 ON. Turning it off is similarly simple. I copied the contents of /root/.ssh/id_rsa.pub on my computer to /etc/dropbear/authorized_keys on the access point to allow non-interactive ssh access.

On my computer, I'm using CUPS for printing; after a bit of searching I found and installed the Tea4CUPS package, and added these two lines to /etc/cups/tea4cups.conf:

prehook_power : ssh accesspoint.koldfront.dk crelay 1 ON
posthook_power : echo /usr/local/bin/printer_off "$TEAPRINTERNAME" | at now + 5 minutes

and preprended tea4cups: to the DeviceURI in /etc/cups/printers.conf.

The prehook runs when a new print jobs enters the queue, and turns the printer on (if the printer is already on, there is no change).

The posthook runs every time a print job finishes, so what I have it do is to run a little script 5 minutes later. The script checks if the print queue is empty and if it is, it turns the printer off. If it isn't, it uses at(1) to run itself after 5 more minutes, and so on, until the print queue finally is empty. This is the script:


# printer_off - Turn printer off if queue is empty. If not, try again
#               in 5 minutes.

if lpq -P "$1" | grep -q 'no entries'; then
    ssh accesspoint.koldfront.dk crelay 1 OFF
    echo "$*" | at now + 5 minues

What I like about this hook solution is that the printer is turned off when a job is created, and there is no polling/busy looping to detect jobs appearing in the print queue.

Recently an article on this subject caught my eye: "Home Assistant Printer Power Management". It might be interesting to contrast the two solutions.

What I didn't do: run things in docker containers, run a message queue, run a script that calls lpq every minute. Not to mention setting up HomeAssistant.

My script is 10 lines + 3 config lines for the hooks, compared to 104 lines of script + 25 lines of YAML.

If you are already running HomeAssistant, it might be nicer to integrate the printer into it. But also a lot more complicated, it seems.

Add comment

To avoid spam many websites make you fill out a CAPTCHA, or log in via an account at a corporation such as Twitter, Facebook, Google or even Microsoft GitHub.

I have chosen to use a more old school method of spam prevention.

To post a comment here, you need to:

¹ Such as Thunderbird, Pan, slrn or Gnus (part of Emacs).

Or, you can fill in this form: