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Alfresco CUPS dnsmasq freenx

Further Down the Road

Hmmm..I do seem to be taking a while with these blog entries. Well and I’ve no excuses as I am in between contracts and well, quite frankly, have nothing better to do.

This time I’ve been having interesting issues with my CUPS server. I’m the only one in the office which uses CUPS BTW. The remaining PC’s (aside from the Linux servers) talk directly to the network printers. Cups is great in my opinion, and it can only get better. There is perhaps some work on the Samba side to get it work better there. My Windows PC doesn’t get the printer icon in the task bar when I sent a job for example. I still have some problems with the printer drivers stored on the Samba server and I’ve essentially had to clear them out. More on this later.

The issue I have noticed is when bringing up the CUPS server home page. When our internet link went down, and we lost our DNS connection, The CUPS page came up very very slowly. And this is for a page which is for a local machine and should come up instantly. I did some digging and came up with the idea that perhaps CUPS was doing reverse DNS lookups. By default CUPS reverse DNS lookups is off, so it should not do them. To check this I installed dnsmasq onto our RAID & CUPS server.

dnsmasq is a very nice small DNS cache which runs on Linux machines. After I had this installed and setup my machine to use it I then accessed the CUPS page and then checked the log. Sure enough I could see the reverse name lookups. I posted the problem onto the CUPS home site (CUPS.org) and within a couple of days the developers noted the problem and updated their source code. The only problem is that I am on whatever came with Ubuntu 8.04 (CUPS 1.3.7) and the fix is in 1.4. i don’t know if the fix will be trickled down into patches for earlier versions but I’ll have to wait and see. CUPS doesn’t do binaries nor does it make RPM’s or Debian packages so I’ll have to rely on Ubuntu putting in a update to its repository.

Another nice tool which I’ve managed to install, and which has made my life simpler. A tool should do that shouldn’t it? I’ve now got freenx installed on my maine CentOS box. It was always a hassle to have to walk over to the CentOS machine and have to do any configuration or maintenence from there. Freenx (freenx.berlios.de) is a free available virtual desktop implementation of the nx server – the NX server is a commercial software from NOMACHINE in italy. It is spawned from sshd and uses a unique compression technology to speed the display on the client machine. It is not like VNC. VNC allows you to access the desktop of a machine. Freenx creates a virtual desktop – on a virtual X display and displays it on your client. This is similar to Windows Terminal Services. Perhaps overkill for what I needed, but then, if I’m at home and I need to get to the servers and I’ve not left a session running – VNC would not help me out.

The basic install of freenx was easy, but getting it configured was not. This is purely because there really are no documents at all. There are no man pages at all. You spend a lot of time searching the internet for help. The first thing that bit me was the key which freenx uses to authenticate the client before starting your session. The key needs to be copied to the client machine and loaded into the client. And, there are a few ways to generate this key – but usually the package install will generate one for you.

The second thing was the user authentication. I wasn’t sure if I needed to add users to the nxserver or it would use the Linux passdb to authenticate. I’m still not sure. Anyway I struggles through and did eventually get it going. It took me two days however. It works brilliantly! One thing that happens on my setup is that if I start a session for a user logged in at the console, I get errors about various applets failing. Not sure if that is freenx’s fault however.

In between this I have been flip flopping between building a product on Alfresco or on Sharepoint. I must say that I am much more confortable on Sharepoint because it is Microsoft and .Net and I can use VB or C++. Two languages and architectures I am fully comfortable with. Alfresco, on the other hand, is in java and uses tomcat and I would be starting from scratch. But, I have the feeling that its lower cost could be enticing to clients. From a cost perspective it would also be interesting to me. No need to licence a Windows Server and the Visual Studio tools.

I think I’ll have to base my choice on my clients. I’m going for the small legal office and building a document management system and records management just for them. I’m sure the cost saving of a open source product running on a open source OS on cheap hardware would appeal. Choice made? You tell me!

Categories
ASP.Net CUPS Printing SAMBA Windows Server

CUPS and SAMBA a match made in h…

In this entry I’ll be going on about the printers setup in the office. Currently there are two network printers, one Samsung and one MFP as Konica-Minolta BizHub 250. The printers are not currently controlled by a print server. Mainly because we don’t want the printers to rely on a single machine, which may be turned off and prevent printing to happen.

So as an experiment I setup a CUPS server on the small Linux box which would serve the Samsung. Getting CUPS going wasn’t hard, but gettin the printer driver on was hard. The printer driver didn’t show up during the setup, eventhough I am sure that there was a driver available. I also downloaded a setup from Samsung which didn’t go through 100%. End result I did get the printer going.

Getting the printing going from the other Linux (CentOS) machine I have. It instantly showed up in the printers listing. Being used to Windows I then attempted to setup the printer drivers. The Samsung install would not work on CentOS, but eventually I determined that a driver was not needed. Linux printing is quite clever!

Next up was getting my small Linux box to server the printer through SAMBA and also support Point’n Print. The printer was automatically exposed by SAMBA the moment I installed the CUPS driver. Point’n Print was a bit tricky to get working. It doesn’t help that I didn’t fully read the manual! I got the driver installed and got the Point’n Print to install the correct driver, but when I did a test page, Windows spooler and window manager crashed! Repeatedly, Because being a idiot I just kept trying it again and again.

I gave up on it and had to uninstall the drivers and files using the rpc interface (not a very well written piece of software BTW). And then after that I learn that I had to setup the printer information by manipulating the printer setting first. Saving the information and then using test page is supposed to work. By this time I had pulled out the Samsung CD and installed the driver from it.

It does seem to work reasonable except for a few niggles. If the printer is off the print queue get hung and jobs never get printed even after I turn the printer on. I have to kill the jobs and re-print, which doesn’t come in hang if I’ve printed off a webpage receipt. I also don’t get the printer queue properly displaying on the status bar. So far I’m only using CUPS as an experiment until I sort these issues.

I’ve got a potential contract who wants a mini e-commerce website built. Just an excuse to learn ASP.Net and try and get a demo working. I does work in the development environment, but attempting to install it onto IIS 5.0 gives a Metabase access error. I’m sorting that out…more next time.