Canon P-150 and Linux

The time is ripe for a blog methinks, and what better way to start it than a rant about proprietary drivers from a large multinational and a product review (all in one!).

I set out to find a suitable scanner for developing OCR software related to accounting and invoice processing. Since using Windows is a big no-no for me personally (due to many reasons), I knew that the project would become "interesting" very quickly. Another factor contributing to the problem was that my task was outside the regular hobbyist needs, which limits the amount of pre-existing information available via googling.

The scanner I was looking for would preferably have all of these features (in this order):
  • Linux drivers
  • Support duplex scanning (a lot of paper invoices in Finland are printed on both sides)
  • Support multiple page feeding without operator intervention
  • Take as little space on the desktop as possible.
  • Be not too expensive.
  • Be relatively easy to find in Finland
Now, since I'd really like to support HP in their Linux support (hplip), that was the natural starting point for my enquiries. Sadly, there doesn't seem anything from HP that I could choose upon. Also, in the document imaging category, the price range gets up quite quickly and it then becomes quite hard to find reviews and comparisons of devices on the web.

After some time spent googling and reading semiautomated link-hording review-sites (always fun), I ended up with Canon P-150. It fits the bill for all of my requirements, and at least some of the existing reviews had positive outcomes.

Now, I've fought many a battle with Canon and their Linux "support" over the years. So, I knew that even if that they market that a "SANE compatible Linux driver" is available, I took it with some grain of salt. But they have a driver at least, how bad can it be?

Using a scale of 0-10 where 0 means that the vendor is a complete Microsoft-lackey to 10 being .. well, I don't really know what, I'd like to write Intel or HP here, but really, even they're closer to 6-7 on this scale. So, let's assume 10 means a vendor that supports Linux on all their products that they sell or at least provide complete documentation on how to implement 100% support on Linux. None of the product vendors in the current mass market fit this bill.

So, back to Canon. Previously I'd set them in somewhere 3-4 on average Linux support.

Using a spare day (it's still my holiday), I bought the scanner and started playing with it. True to the existing reviews, the scanner is quite compact and does seem like a nice piece of hardware.

Some sore points about the product (none of which were show-stoppers for me):
  • Using a gloss finished black plastic parts is bad. While it definitely adds to the wow-factor, having your fingerprints all over the device does not.
  • The guides on the device are all plastic. While this won't be a problem for stationary device use, it might become a problem if you lug the device around or decide to pack it away from the desktop. This will probably end up breaking the guides in the end.
  • You might need two USB ports to power the device. I've only used on USB port so far and haven't tested whether the scanning is any faster with more power over the USB.
(2010-07-26 update after scanning about 500 two-sided paper sheets at 600DPI, B&W): The ADF needs serious hand-holding. It's not possible to leave the scanner working on it's own. Especially the first page to be scanned and the last page need manual "twiggling" in order to be fed into the mechanism. Having more papers helps, but this is a serious drawback in the ADF. Another issue is that now and then the scanner decides to go into "ADF jammed" state (or just sits there while it has fed a bit of the next page), and will not come out of it short of a full power-cycle. So, I wouldn't recommend this scanner for automated pipelines, since an operator is necessary at all times. Which is a shame, the scanner otherwise has performed quite nicely.

Now, back to Linux.

The drivers that are available from Canon support site (which are relatively easy to find), come in zipped files.

Inside the ZIP (d1024mux.zip) you'll find a deb, rpm and source tarball for both P-150 and DR-150 for the SANE backend.

Some issues with the current drivers (1.00 - 0.02, which is the first release and I doubt there will be a subsequent release):
  • The deb and RPM files are for 32-bit mode only. While the 64-bit Linux distros support running mixed binaries easily nowadays, having only 32-bit drivers is an issue for SANE backends. The backend will be loaded via dlopen (as an .so file), so it can't be used in a 64-bit program (utilizing SANE). This means that you can't use the binary packages if you're running a 64-bit Linux (without doing all kinds of irritating operations first).
  • The Debian packaging control file is done wrong. It uses temporary paths as the file members, and the end result is dpkg -L spewing out paths that just aren't there (most of the files are placed under /opt/Canon/ at install time).
  • The source tarball is also interesting. It is a mixture of proprietary binary only code, pre-built binary components and source code. How nice.
So, assuming you're running a 64-bit host, what to do? I wish I could say "easy", but.. I guess SANE doesn't really support proprietary binary drivers so the process is easy to muck up like Canon has.

So, the process goes more or less like this (assuming a Debian-like target):
  1. Retrieve the source tarball for sane-backends-1.0.19. This is the version that is mentioned in the somewhat terse README from Canon.
  2. Extract it in parallel directory with "cndrvsane-p150-1.00-0.2". Yes, it needs to be parallel, since the makefile rules within the cndrvsane use a relative path addressing (../../sane-backends-1.0.19).. How nice.
  3. configure and make the sane-backends first. Do not install. Also, my build din't actually even finish, but it doesn't seem to matter. The only thing that is necessary from this step is the sane backends config.h and the dependency files (courtesy of libtool, our "helper").
  4. Switch to the cndrvsane source directory
  5. run configure
  6. fakeroot make -f debian/rules binary
  7. This should result in the proper deb file that can be installed. The file list will still be wrong as per the original deb, but at least the architecture is mostly correct. Most of the files will install under /opt/Canon.
  8. Make a symlink from /usr/local/lib/canondr to /opt/Canon/lib/canondr . Based on stracing (with -f) scanimage, this is the path under which the backends are accessed for some reason and the symlink is not otherwise made properly (I was too lazy to fix the deb control files, and it shouldn't be my job).
The proprietary bit is the 32-bit binary called "canondr_backendp150". It's an application written in C++ and links against libpthread. What are the odds of it being deadlock free? Your guess is as good as any. Since the backend will run in a separate process from your SANE frontend, it can stay 32-bit (as long as your system can run 32-bit C++ programs).

The client and library shim parts are under GPL (although the file copyright headers do suggest that Canon reserves all rights to them, which to my mind is just plain wrong, especially since the shims don't seem to do much of anything except pass the stuff onto the backend). IANAL.

What's left is writing up a proper udev rule for the scanner and then playing with the scanner using scanimage. Other pages cover this well enough, so good luck with that (just remember to switch off the scanner from the auto-connect mode).

The only feature that I've been unable to use so far, is the top-panel button. Seems like there are two principal ways of doing this:
  • scanbuttond, which uses libusb to poll the button states using its own backend code which has been reverse engineered from USB traffic dumps. The project seems dead, or at least in deep hibernation. Needless to say it doesn't support P-150.
  • kscannerbuttons, which uses --wait-for-button functions in existing SANE backends. Since the proprietary P-150 backend doesn't support this option, kscannerbuttons can't be used.
Parting words to Canon:
It would be so much easier for me to recommend your products without your shenanigans with Linux support. Even having a public contact point for Linux issues would be nice, so I could report the issues. Heck, I could even send you patches if you'd just give me a chance.

So, Canon stays in the 3-4 category for now (it could be worse).


  1. You are extremely generous giving them a 3-4 - it took me a week and over 300 package changes to get this to work in suse and then it worked for a couple of weeks before a completely innocent update wrecked it. Canon's "support" is beyond awful, I like to say the politely told me to screw myself but they weren't even polite.

    Canon have gone out of their way to make this awkward, they want to be able to point to "linux support" but they don't actually want anyone to use the scanner in linux.

    The steps they'd need to make to make it usable are completely trivial but they are immovable.

    Avoid this product like the plague - it is easier and quicker to keep feeding your flatbed scanner than try this.

  2. Thanks for putting this information down ...

    I'm looking for a scanner like this one, but i really don't know what to buy.
    As i'm running all my computers on linux (64 bits), the linux compatibility is important for me.
    As far as i know, nor the Plustek MobileOffice D428 and neither the Fujitsu Snapscan have linux support...
    I really don't know what to buy (i don't want to spend a lot of money and time for in the end not having a fully automated procedure - scanning automatically a lot of pages at the same time, pdfizing all of them and sending them to a backup gmail account).

  3. matt: indeed, 3-4 is quite generous. however, this is the rating across Canon's "product" portfolio. Some of their devices actually work "ok" with Linux, but lack of serious Linux commitment translates in low quality (and don't get me started on the TCP/IP stack implementation in their copiers).

    Serge: sadly, I can't really recommend anything. I run away from anything from Fujitsu, have too many bad experiences with any device from them. They somehow always manage to muck up any "standard" device, so I'm done with them. As for the PDF-pipeline, it could probably be done without too much effort with some shell scripts and googling (PDF isn't really interesting to me, I prefer G4 Tiffs). However, the ADF on the Canon P-150 is seriously lacking for fully automated use. Also, the lack of automatic detection of paper in the ADF (at sw-level) or even the "scan"-button is somewhat of a problem. If you have a chance to buy the scanner with the option to return it if it doesn't perform to your expectations, I might even recommend trying P-150. As to Plustek, I really have no idea. I tend to shy away from more "fringe"-devices coming from smaller mass market targetting companies as they don't normally support Linux at all (which seems to be the case with Plustek).

    However, if anyone will find a suitable document scanner that fits my requirements, I'd be willing to do additional research.

  4. Aleksandr, I have problems with step 5 in your procedure. Namely, there is no configure file in cndrvsane-p150-1.00-0.2 and autoreconf -i returns mistake. Could you explain better this step?

    1. I also seem to be stuck with this, any help would be greatly appreciated

    2. there is an configure.ac file, that can be translated via autoconf to a regular configure file. but this still throws some errors and won't work.
      but it might be a step in the right direction.

      see: http://www.edwardrosten.com/code/autoconf/
      # autoconf configure.ac > configure
      # chmod +x configure
      # ./configure

  5. Well, I've made all steps successfully. Now if I run sane-fine-scanner it returns

    found USB scanner (vendor=0x1083, product=0x162c) at libusb:001:009

    And after scanimage -L it returns

    No scanners were identified. If you were expecting something different,
    check that the scanner is plugged in, turned on and detected by the
    sane-find-scanner tool (if appropriate). Please read the documentation
    which came with this software (README, FAQ, manpages).

    Do you have any idea, what is wrong?

  6. I managed to get this working on openSUSE 12.1 after quite a bit of head-scratching. However, I can only get duplex scans with scanimage. xsane and simple-scan only produce the first page. Has anyone else had better success?

    1. well i had to select scanning 2 pages in xsane to scan duplex... but this is only working on 32bit ubuntu... no luck on 64bit until now...

  7. Hi everyone,

    Sorry to revive an old thread, but I have just bought a P-150 (not looking too much into the linux "support"). I am new to Linux.

    I am struggling to follow the instructions to get this working. Could someone please expand on what commands I need to put in terminal for steps 3,5,6 (ie all the make and configure steps).

  8. Thanks for the writeup - seems to be the ONLY in-depth look at using the Canon P-150 in Linux 64-bit.

    I've managed to get the package to install and even managed to get it recognized by scanimage -L and xsane after a bit of head-against-the-wall work. Never got the dang thing to scan, though - every time, I get an I/0 error and the thing never makes a buzz. Straced it and saw that it wasn't locating libsane-libusb.so.1 so I pointed that to the canondr-libusb.so.1, but that just ended up with 'Operation not permitted' errors when running scanimage -T.

    I wasn't able to get scanimage -L to even list this device until I added the entry I found in /opt/Canon/etc/sane.d/canondr.conf to /etc/sane.d/canon_dr.conf and added lines for option vendor-name, model-name, and version-name. It seems like there's a disconnect between the driver-created canondr.conf and the sane-created canon_dr.conf files.

    I feel like I'm close, but yet so far...

    Has anyone had better luck with this thing recently that could help? I'm ready to hang my hat and go buy a Fujitsu S1500...

    1. I feel not alone...
      I have the same issue...
      $ sudo scanimage -T -v
      WARNING: Unhandled message: interface=(null), path=(null), member=(null)
      scanimage: open of device canondr:libusb:002:004 failed: Error during device I/O

      Any progress on your side ?

    2. Woohoo I did a successful scan!!
      I had to do :
      $ sudo cp -R /opt/Canon/ /
      $ sudo chmod +x canondr_backendp150
      $ sudo chmod +x /lib/c canondr_backendp150

  9. I was able to get the P-150 working under Ubuntu 12.04 using this article, but it's a no go for me in 13.10. I'm getting that same error:

    scanimage: open of device canondr:libusb:002:004 failed: Error during device I/O

    Interestingly scanimage -L lists the device but can't scan from it, but sane-find-scanner can't even find it.

  10. Hello to all, and thanks for this ideas.
    Do you think that is posible to make a how to do (step by step) to instale canon P-150 in ubuntu 14.4 (64 bits)?
    Thanks for your help.

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