Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Install a scanner in debian (and problem solving in general)

My scanner worked for years with Ubuntu, after a fairly simple procedure of downloading some firmware from the manufacturer's website, and, as far as I remember, simply placing in in a specific directory in Ubuntu.
Recently I'd installed Debian Lenny, and yesterday I needed to get the scanner working again. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember exactly what I'd done in Ubuntu or where I'd found the instructions. I tried a Google search. This was the advice from the first link I found:

Did a make menuconfig and added USB-scanner support to the kernel
Damn! That sounds hard! I sure I didn't do anything that difficult before.

In fact, installing the scanner in Debian wasn't too difficult in the end. After quite a bit more Googling, I found an installation guide for Debian [Update: the link seems to be dead, but the document is now available at SourceForge.], the "backend" for my scanner and the correct firmware.

The problem with the advice above is that it dates from 2002 and is no longer appropriate. This is illustrative of a pitfall when using Google to look for answers to problems in Linux- a lot of the solutions offered my be out of date, no longer appropriate, and quite simply the wrong thing to do.

Two tips are:
  • Limit a wed search to the last year to look for current advice,
  • Look for general guides like the Debian NewbieDocs [Now at SourceForge] guide above, and check it's still current.


  1. Why don't you try upgrade-ing to Squeeze and installing simple-scan. That this, I think this procedure could be the same one as on ubuntu. Squeeze will definitely be the "most simple" Debian so far.

    However I recommend using netinstall instead of using Alpha Squeeze 1 installer.

  2. I intend to upgrade when Squeeze becomes the stable release- my scanner works fine now, as does everything else I've tried so far in Lenny, except for Compiz, but that's something I can live without until Squeeze. A lot of the packages are a little dated, but again. I can live with them for a few months.

    I was thinking about trying Testing but my CD drive seems to be on the way out, and I'm worried that if I wipe my present installation, I might not be able to reinstall anything- it's been touch and go on a few recent "distro-hopping" installs.

    With Squeeze coming out soon, the risk didn't seem worth it.

  3. Hi there,
    I have Debian OS and Simple scan installed. I am trying to scan with CanoScan LiDE 20 by Canon, but no success.
    The OS tetects the scanner, but it does not start scanning.
    Where is the problem?

  4. Have you tried working through the "How to install a scanner in Debian GNU-Linux using Sane" guide I link to (now at SourceForge)? This gives you some diagnostic and test tools.

    The backend for your scanner seems to be "plustek".


    Try "man sane-plustek" and see if that helps.

  5. This may be relevant:


    Can you scan as root?

  6. I am quite new at Linux in general, so I will need some time, but I will check everything, FreewheelinFrank.
    Thanks for the help!