Large Spool File / Printing error on HP

Nelladel
Nelladel used Ask the Experts™
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Good morning to you all,

I guess I'll first explain the issue and then the hardware involved in it.

We usually print image-heavy and effect-intensive (3D, shadows, etc.) presentations created in MS PowerPoint 2003 and 2007, adding up to usually from 40 - 60 pages (slides). The problem is when printing them on our network printer, it takes a HUGE amount of time to do so (some 30 - 60 minutes per presentation).

Now. I have read many solutions and have tried the following things:

1. Convert to PDF (which also takes a fair amount of time) and print in PDF.
2. Switch to a PS driver instead of the PCL6 that was being used.
3. Switch to a PCL5 driver instead of the PCL6 that was being used.
4. Update the printer firmware (from 20080220 to 20120105).
5. Disabling printer manager.
6. Activating print directly to printer.
7. Printing as image.

As I said, these are the details concerning the problem:

- PDF generated on Adobe Acrobat Professional 8 from a PowerPoint 2003/2007 presentation. Compatibilities tried: Acrobat 4 through 8. The file is 13,1 Mb.
- Printer: HP Color Laserjet CP2025n on a 100 Mb network (with the firmware specified above). These languages are installed: PCLXL (20040201), PS (20040201), PCL (20040201).
- Windows XP Professional 32

The "best" configuration I have found is:
- PDF from the PowerPoint presentation.
- Updated firmware.
- Postscript Universal Printing Language driver.

It adds up to some 20 Mb, however, when it reaches those slides contaning 3D effects or shadows, etc. stops (while having activated previously error reporting) and prints the following error:
ERROR: limitcheck
OFFENDING COMMAND: showpage
STACK:
(r)
(Sys/Start)
(Sys/Start)

Reading further on about these kind of issues have reached a point where my technical knowledge is not sufficient to know about what is being said (AKA, rasters, layers, grouped elements, prepress concepts, flattening...). So my question would be:

What is the main problem and how can it be solved? (Ok, those were 2 questions...)

Thank you very much in advanced,

Jorge.  

PS: Sorry about the wall of text!
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Raheman M. AbdulMessaging and Directory Services

Commented:
Have you tried the following:

1. Try to check the "Print to File" checkbox when you print to either the Adobe PDF printer, or the PostScript printer. This will generate a PostSript file on the disk. Then try to distill this PS file by opening it in Distiller.
2. you can try to convert the Postscript to PDF using a tool like Ghostscript just to see if the Postscript is OK. If this works, then you probably have found a bug in Distiller, if it also fails, it's a bug in the Postscript generation.
Raheman M. AbdulMessaging and Directory Services

Commented:
Alternatively try printing one page at a time and see the results.
Try to partition the file into smaller files and see printing them one if the same results.
Printing one page at a time should get around the problem. This page gives some suggestions on dealing with limitcheck errors:

http://www.prepressure.com/postscript/troubleshooting/errors/limitcheck
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Author

Commented:
First of all, thank you for your comments.

I have read coutless times that page (very informative, by the way), but any solution there is either proven useless in my context, or not viable (like, for instance, lowering the design complexity of the document.

It really is a tough roadblock which I cannot seem to get past. Yesterday I tried printing a 48-page pdf which was merely a scanned compilation of documents.
99% black text over white with an occasional logo or signature thrown in. Now, I realise that even a "simple scan" like that may contain hi-res images, however these printers, in my opinion, should not take literally half an hour (sometimes more) to print such a job. At least in my experience, older, less powerful printers didn't.

Printing one page at a time results in a coherent time, AKA: it takes 1/48th of the time it'd take the whole document to print. So no use doing it that way (which, by the way, would be kind of annoying for other documents adding up to 100+ pages). Also, partitioning the file has been tested with equally inefficient printing times.

I just can't understand what's the trouble with it. Testing the network connection to the printer gives no packet loss or high ping response.

We have tried deleting every "weird" font and tried with the simplest ones available, so no use going down that road.

Going to try that Distiller option, although I am not familiar with the software.

Any other ideas?

Thank you very much, once more.
Here's something that just might have an effect on your problem.

Go to the Advanced tab in printer Properties and click the "Start printing after last page is spooled" button. Also tick "Print spooled documents first" and untick "Enable advanced printing features".

Author

Commented:
Hello hdhondt,

I did try that. Tried almost every permutation of the checkboxes in that window (Start printing directly, start printing after last page is spooled, use printer manager, enabled and disables advanced printing features...). Nothing worked.

:(
Reading your question again I see you get the same problem printing direct from PowerPoint or converting to PDF first, and even when you select "Print as image"  in Acrobat. Those are 3 completely different ways of sending the data to the printer. With PP a structured page is sent, with Acrobat a flat page, and with Print as Image just a single image.

You've also tried 3 differerent drivers, which use completely different subsystems in the printer. Can I assume that PCL5 and PCL6 print OK, but very slowly?

One last question. When you print, is the time taken up in creating the spool file, or in processing by the printer? To check, double-click the printer symbol on the task bar while printing. While the spool file is being created you can see the size grow.

About the only other thing I can suggest is to try a different printer.

Author

Commented:
Hello hdhondt:

Yes, I have tried all 3 ways of sending the data to the printer, and all 3 drivers take up an unusual amount of time to print. However, PCL5 and PCL6 take up about double the time to print.

When printing from a pdf, PCL5 and PCL6 both take up a HUGE amount of time to print (lets say, for instance 1 hour for a 55 page presentation), while with the PS driver it takes some 20 - 25 minutes. The time taken is mainly printing, however, the 13Mb presentation grew to 1Gb+ on PCL6, so basically as it was printing it, it was also spooling.

Come to think about it, how do you consider spooling time?

I mean, when I open the Printer Manager, there's a XX.XX Mb / YY.YY Mb.
The YY.YY Mb loads up very fast when using PS drivers (some 5 seconds), however, the XX.XX Mb size takes up the same amount of time as the printer to print the job to get to YY.YY. (Not sure if I explained myself there).

If spooling is just the time it takes to build up that "final size", A.K.A.: The YY.YY Mb size, it's very fast.
If spooling is the time it takes for XX.XX to reach YY.YY is extremely slow.

Unluckily the other printer I can use (which is not a monstruous-super-powerful-printer) is a HP LaserJet 1515, which is EVEN SLOWER than this one.

I'll check tomorrow to see if there's any other printer lying around on some other floor.

By the way: Do you think it has anything to do with them being on a network? (I have checked packet loss and pinged the printer and everything seemed OK).

By the way 2: I tried printing to file and using Acrobat Distiller to create a new PDF from the .ps. Took the same amount of time to print as the original one.
> the 13Mb presentation grew to 1Gb+

That would appear to be your problem. Unless you have a very fast printer, it will take the printer a long time to process that. As the spool file grows to that size quickly, the PC sems to have no problem creating it.

Another issue I see is that I do not trust Windows when spool files grow above 500MB. I have no idea why, I do not know of any specific limit, but with anything bigger I expect problems - and that could be why you are getting the PS error.

I'm pretty certain the network is not the problem but, if you want to check, just plug the printer via USB into a PC.

Author

Commented:
Back at work.

The gargantuan spool file only occured on PCL6 (and probably 5, can't remember well now). When using Postscript the 13 Mb grows to just 20 Mb, which should be easily handled by the printer.

Will plug the printer to a PC via USB and check it out just to discard that option.

The best configuration I found was:
- Pdf file,
- PS Universal Printing Driver,
- 600 dpi (can't go any lower),
- Advanced printing features disabled,
- Start printing directly,
- updated firmware to the January version.
That built up a 20 Mb spool file which took to print (if it ever ended and didn't give a "Memory Low" message or spit out a PS pageshow limitcheck error) some 25-35 minutes.

I have looked for additional memory for the printer, however, there are two VERY different prices:

10 US Dollar in Amazon.com
356 Pounds Sterling in Printerland.co.uk

Anyway, I kind of refuse to believe that the printer can't handle a 13 Mb PowerPoint presentation. I mean, it's not like we're in the prepress business managing 1Gb .TIFFs...
Might be wrong, though...
With PostScript, the file size will not change if you change printer resolution. With PCL it will. It's one reason why I find PS far better for graphics intensive images.

20MB should not be a problem, and it should certainly not take that long to print.

Additional memory will not make any difference to the printing speed, especially with PostScript. Some documents may not print if there is not enough memory (again, especially with PCL) in which case a PS printer will print an error page. But the speed will not change, so if you do want to try extra memory, get the $10 one.

I've thought of another thing you could try: resetting the printer to factory defaults. However, as you've tried a different (even slower) printer, that probably won't help either.

In case it's a server problem, have you tried printing direct to the printer (with a Standard TCP/IP port on the client)?

I suppose it's possible your network is really slow, but you would have noticed that before.

Author

Commented:
Good morning once again,

The cold reset was done to the printer (before I started trying all of the stuff I posted above), to no avail.

if the presentation has "3D" effects on some texts and images (rotations, perspective, transparencies, etc...), adding (as I understood) extra layers to the document, can I "flatten" it mantaining its aspect?

Like for instance when you switch from a layered document in Photoshop to a .jpg. Or does the fact of converting it to .pdf makes it "as simple" as possible so there's no more to be done?

2 last things to try (or 3, counting the extra memory purchase):
- Try the document on a much faster printer (to see if the document itself isn't in some way excessively heavy).
- Print directly through a USB port (to discard the network possibility).

Any other option?

Sorry to be so insistent, it just baffles me how a 3 yr. old printer can't handle a 13 Mb pdf.

Thank you so much for the help provided up to now.

Author

Commented:
Digging a bit more through the net I found the following:

From http://mindmachine.co.uk/products/HP_CLJ_CP1210_CP1515N_CP1518Ni.html :

"96MB installed as standard. The installed memory will usually be sufficient for word processing documents with a few pictures printed using PCL. Memory might need extending to handle complicated full page photographs, or documents with multiple fonts, or where the HP PostScript Level 3 emulation is used. Extra memory can also speed up printing of multiple documents by reducing the time needed to re-rasterise each page."

The 2025n has 128 Mb memory instead of 96, so, do you think that the memory purchase will do the trick?
PDFs can have layers; that is why Acrobat sometimes displays a message when you click OK to print, saying it is flattening the document. If that does not happen, as far as I'm aware the document is already in a single layer. Certainly, when it is sent to the printer it is in 1 layer. JPGs also have only 1 layer.

Try selecting "Print as image" (from the Advanced button in Acrobat's print dialogue box) to see it that makes any difference. It will create a larger print file, but it should be very simple: just a single image.

Printers will give an error message when they require more memory. This is especially true for PostScript. PS is designed so that, if *any* error occurs, processing will stop immediately and the rest of the file will be discarded. Most drivers will download an "error handler" as part of the printfile, and it's the error handler that produces the error you listed in your question, although the info in it is from the printer's internal stack.

Extra memory will only improve the print speed under pretty unique circumstances, which I won't go into here. The link you gave talks about re-rasterising each page. Unfortunately, the driver will tell the printer to completely forget each page when it starts on the next, so the printer will always have to re-rasterise. That is one reason why print files can be so much bigger than the original doc (or ppt, etc). If the doc has multiple pages, with the same image on each, the driver will resend the image for every page.

So, as I said before, I do not think that extra memory will make any difference to the speed. As far as I'm concerned, extra memory available for printers is mostly to make some extra money for the manufacturer; they need it as the profit margin on printers is pretty small.

Author

Commented:
However, as I said some comments below (admittedly not very clearly) is that sometimes, the error is not in printing speed but comes out as an LCD panel message: "Memory is Low".

So that might be the reason why it clogs up in certain slides; too much stuff to handle.

Those are the two main problems: Sometimes it prints VERY VERY slow (the most common), and occasionaly, with some documents, spits out a "Memory is Low" message. The extra memory might solve the second one, whilst the first one still remains a mystery..
Speed won't be aided by Memory, but it may clear the memory low warnings, the $10 one makes more sense!

If it's printed in Black and White, how is print speed affected?

When the job is transmitted to the device, does it seem to send a reasonable level of data, then stop for a few seconds..or does it just run really slowly and steadily?

For the networking, have you tried forcing the port to half duplex?

On the driver, Have you changed the print processor from HPZ****** to WinPrint and tried that?

Sorry..one last thought..if you connect via USB whats the speed like?

Author

Commented:
News, news:

First of all, thanks David for joining in on the question.

I'll list all the possible solutions I tried and the outcome:

1. Printing in black & White from PDF: Grew up to 21.1 Mb. Printed 5/6 pages, stopped for a bit. Then printed 5/6 and stopped for a bit. This went on until an LCD "Memory is Low" message appeared.

2. About the question of data transmission: It DOES send a few pages each time. It's not (as it was before changing driver, firmware, etc.) a slow steady printing. 5 or 6, then stops for a few seconds, prints another 7, stops for a second...

3. Changing the port to half duplex: Did not change anything.

4. According to the print processor: It wasn't on HPZ***** but on hpcpp118. Switched to WinPrint and WHILE PRINTING ON BLACK & WHITE (didn't change back to colour...), it printed quite a few pages before stopping to clean (some 20 - 30 pages straight). Then, after the the cleaning process which lasted about a minute or two, started out again until an error page was printed out:
"The printer has insufficient memory available to handle the job". Please try one of the following options and try printing again:
- Choose optimise for portability" as an output format.
- In the device configuration panel, check that "Available PostScript Memory has the [AND HERE IT CUTS SO I CAN'T SEE WHAT'S NEXT].
- Reduce the number of fonts on the document.
- Print the document in parts.

Now, the 1st, 3rd and 4th I have either tried or are unacceptable. About the PostScript memory one: Searching through the net, I found a post on the HP official forums where they posted the breakdown of memory that should be assigned to PS according to the memory available on the printer, hence, I didn't change it.

5. Printing through USB: Astonishingly we haven't got a printer USB cable in the building... Already purchased one, so I'm waiting for that to reveal the outcome (which I sadly think it'll be the same).

6. Printing from PowerPoint as B&W: Memory is Low LCD Message and overall slow printing speed.

7. Printing "As Image" @ 150 colour resolution from PDF: This is where it got exciting: It took some 4-5 minutes to print the whole presentation. It printed in stacks of 4-7 pages each time and stopped for a few secods (to breathe, I guess...). The file grew to 150 Mb, which put me on the pessimistic road from the beginning, but after seeing the result, I can say that it's DEFINETLY THE BEST SOLUTION UP TO NOW.
However, I've seen that some of the colours present on the PDF document (as well as the printed version of it) are NOT the same as the ones on the PowerPoint presentation, although I believe that'd be matter for another Expert Question so as not to ask two different things on the same topic.
What baffles me is that I DID try to "print as image" as one of the first things to try out, so it must've been a sum of all the things changed:

- Printing from PDF, Updating Firmware, Using PS Driver, Printing as Image, Disable Advanced Printing Options, and whatever other thing I have tried in the last two weeks.

So, unless you have any other input regarding this last post, I guess we can call it a night. :)

Thank you guys so much for your patience and help,

Jorge.
Hi Nelladel

I'll just add a couple of comments about your last post - I can't at this stage think of anything else to improve things.

1. "stopping for a bit" is quite normal for graphics-intensive files, even for a powerful printer. Graphics commands can get quite involved and take a lot of printer processor time.

1. The PS memory message you got is what happens when the printer does indeed run out of memory (as per my previous post). This particular message is from the printer itself rather than generated by an error handler that is sent as part of the print job by the driver.

3. 200 dpi is the optimal resolution for images, 150 dpi is at the lower limit of acceptability. Anything beyond 300 dpi is a waste, and below 150 you'll start to see the pixels. However, for clean text etc, you need about 300 dpi.

4. Yes, colours will be (slightly or massively) different if you print from a PDF. The reason is that the PDF is created with a different driver, and every colour driver handles colours in its own way. There is no single best way to manipulate colours.

Anyway, I'm glad to see you can at least print the document. I did mention that "print as image" would create a larger print file. This is because the entire page is converted into one big bitmap, instead of sending lines, text, as well as images. With a PCL driver, the file would probably grow even bigger, especially at high printer resolution settings, as, unlike PS, PCL sends images at printer resolution.
Thanks, Nelladel

If anything further happens, please keep us posted.

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