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!