Getting my hands dirty in Linux.

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…

6 thoughts on “Getting my hands dirty in Linux.

  1. Sounds good.  I have pretty much the same setup at my house.  The Linux box also does all my network masquerading, so I don’t have to buy a prepackaged router.

    Now, while you’re feeling adventurous and geeky, you should drop a second hard-drive in that box and start mirroring all your data.  If your current drive fails, I will laugh at you, point, and say “I told you so!!!”

  2. Linux RULES. I have both flavors at home: Mandrake 9.1 and Mandrake 10. 9.1 sees my wireless network—Mandrake 10 almost there. I spend about 90-percent wearing the Lin-tux for my local- and inter-net viewing and programming pleasure. You can’t beat the price of Mandrake, for a few dollars, a real operating system. The only other desktop or laptop I would want would be an Apple OSX machine.

    Support the military by bringing them home!

  3. The only reason I’m not considering replacing my router with the Linux box is because my router is wireless. This particular machine doesn’t have room for a second hard drive so mirroring is out for the time being as well. Once I get into a house and noise becomes less of an issue I’ll get more ambitious.

  4. Have you thought about using your linux box for your web server, instead of a particular hosting service?  That’s what I do.

    I pay for a relatively cheap business connection, which gives me about 20 gigs of transfers a month (my whole family and I use less than 10), and it doesn’t block the main ports (80, 25, etc) so that you can set up servers.

    So, I have my linux box as my file server, my web server where all of my stuff belongs (coppermine photo gallery, PHP Nuke, MT, webmail, etc), email, teamspeak server, game server, etc.

    It’s perfect.  The only thing it can’t do is play games, only host them (though not all of them).

    Go Linux

  5. I’m running SuSE Linux myself, both on my server box and on my main PC.  Windows was just gave me one too many BSOD.  I don’t play a lot of games on my PC, and the main game I do play (UT2004) comes with a Linux installer.

    Linux rules! 

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