One of the things I managed to accomplish last night that I’d been meaning to do for awhile was to turn my Linux box into a file and print server for our home network. I’ve had Linux installed on a spare PC for awhile now, but I don’t use it all that much for the simple reason that all the stuff I use a computer for (games, web design, etc.) is on my Windows PC. If I’m going to knuckle down and learn Linux beyond the little I already know from working on websites I knew I needed to find some use to put the Linux box to that would require actually doing more than installing the OS and then fiddling with bits until I got bored.
Well, Anne does most of the printing around here so the printer was hooked into her PC which means that if anyone else wants to print and Anne’s PC isn’t turned on then we need to start it up before we can do so. I’ve also got quite a collection of music in MP3 format on my PC which Anne and Courtney occasionally ask if they can have access to. While sitting up all night-long the other day it occurred to me that the box I was using for Linux was pretty quiet so I could afford to leave it turned on all the time without making sleep impossible. My and Anne’s computers are in our bedroom cause we live in a small two bedroom apartment so we don’t tend to leave our machines turned on all the time. Suddenly, I had a use for the Linux box.
So during that evening that I couldn’t sleep I restaged the Linux box with a fresh install of Mandrake 9.1 (not realizing that 10.0 was soon to be available) and told it to install the bits that would allow it to work as a file and print as well as web server (so I can develop websites locally without uploading to my hosting service all the time). I didn’t get around to trying to configure Samba until last night, though, and I had the good fortune to have Elwed on IM to coach me through it.
Turns out there wasn’t a lot to learn beyond where the Samba config file is located as the config file is amazingly well documented with comments and examples. A little experimentation and I suddenly had a working F&P server. Now, figuring out where to stick a folder that everyone could access was tricky as I’m not at all familiar with the nuances of how Linux decides to partition a system and/or why beyond the fact that the swap partition should be left alone. Elwed suggested putting it in /home and that’s what I did and it works great. Mapped a drive from my Windows PC over and started moving MP3s.
Next up was the printer, a HP DeskJet 930c. Plugged in the USB cable and… nothing happened. Not surprising, this is Linux. Pulled up Drakeprint, the Mandrake Linux printer configuration, and suddenly there was a flurry of activity as it figured out there was a printer connect and installed the drivers. Switch back to the PC and remap my printer and it works great. Went to Anne’s machine and mapped a drive to the music folder and changed her printer settings and she was all set. Still have to make the changes to Courtney’s PC, but she’s been away at her Aunts all week so no big rush there.
Needless to say I was feeling like quite the GeekStud by this point. Still am to a degree truth be told. I’m running Windows AND Linux and it’s actually DOING something! Woot! Oh, and pulling up a browser on the Windows box and typing in the Linux box’s IP address resulted in the default Apache webserver page displaying so I know that’s working as well. I tried explaining to Anne why I’m such a GeekStud to no great effect, though. She’s one of those I-don’t-care-how-you-do-it-as-long-as-it-works-and-I-can-still-print types.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in almost three years of marriage is that you never, ever, come between a woman and her printer…