Over the weekend I bought an HP LaserJet 1012, the first printer I've had in years. Good printer at a great deal this week at Staples ($150).
I let the driver install with all of the default options. After rebooting (sigh...) I was prompted with the new XP SP2 Firewall dialog, asking me if I wanted to let “javaw / Unknown Publisher” open a port... No. On further investigation I found that the printer driver installed a set of tools that included:
- Java Runtime Environment 1.3
- Apache Tomcat
Instead of a lightweight client side app, the printer tools worked by installing a web server on my machine that runs at startup! In Task Manager the memory usage was reported as ~25MB Mem Usage / ~25MB VM size. Sure, the OS should be able to keep most of that paged out and minimize the end-user impact, but that strikes me as a bit hefty for an always-running background application for a print driver. It's also not very secure. I didn't find an obvious way to remove just the tools either, so I ended up nuking it from startup by removing the registry key under Run.
I suspect a few things are going on. The first is an effort to lower development costs. It's probably a lot easier and cheaper to find developers who can bang out Java and HTML than it is to find someone who can develop a client side app in C++ with a good UI and the same level of stability. The second is the cross-platform aspect. It's almost certainly easier to leverage Java and Apache to write this kind of tool so that it works on Windows, Linux, HPUX, OSX, etc. Finally, the tools may included some remote administration capabilities for print servers; I didn't poke around long enough to check. None of these are an excuse for installing this bloat on a home user's machine though. Oh, and when the user's machine slows down, the printer driver/tools crash or refuse to print, or something else goes wrong I wonder who gets the blame...
BTW: No, I didn't read the installation instructions or manual. Maybe they mention to not install the tools if you don't want all this stuff. 😉
(In other news, nVidia's video drivers now include a pop-up blocker for IE.)