Well, over the weekend I got to have a play with a new HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus (the name is a bit of a mouthful to say the least) and its ePrint functionality. To recap, ePrint basically allows you to send an e-mail from any web connected device in order to print to your ePrint capable printer.
On face value, people might be alarmed that any old person could print to your printer maliciously and unnecessarily deplete your ink and paper but HP have built in safeguards into the system.
Firstly, the e-mail address assigned to your computer is a random strong of letters and numbers. Whilst it’d be hard to remember off the top of your head it does go some way to prevent people guessing the address and spamming it or spambots from finding it easily (unless you publish the address online of course, which would be bad).
Secondly, users can optionally restrict the address from which e-mails are accepted. You do have to specify all of the addresses manually and you can’t add wildcards (like *@yahoo.com for example to allow all e-mail addresses at the yahoo.com domain to send e-mail to your printer). This could be painful to maintain for printers that will be used by a large number of people or by people that may only need to use it once and then never again.
Finally, the HP ePrint service checks the domain name in your e-mail address for an SPF record (Sender Policy Framework). This was introduced last decade to help combat spam but has had slow adoption over the years but is gaining popularity through services such as Google Mail and general ISP e-mail servers. To put it simply, if e-mail for a given domain doesn’t have an SPF record authorising a particular mail server to handle mail for that given domain it will be rejected. The downside of this setup is that people with legitimate e-mail but with incorrect SPF records for the domain will have problems until their SPF record is fixed up (which can be a bit puzzling for most).
Provided an e-mail can run the gaunlet successfully, the print job should come out of the printer very quickly (print jobs started in under ten seconds in my testing). If you add an attachment that will also print out provided it is in the supported list.
As for the real world applications of ePrint, I guess we could be limited by our imagination but I reckon it’s a great way to print things on the go whilst away from the printer when you are in a hurry (like itineraries or tickets) or for visitors to print things out on your printer without having to install drivers.
Of course, there are funny things you can do too but that’s an entirely different matter 🙂