21 January 2008

Your own web-hosting dogfood

I've had a little project going on for the last few months. It is gotbsd.net, a site for downloading FreeBSD ISO's via BitTorrent. The subject of this entire project should really be a post of its own (... one day). But, the short story is that I think BitTorrent is a great way to distribute large files and when the Project's official torrent site was taken off-line, I thought hey, FreeBSD should have a torrent site -- I'll make one! For that, I needed to run a tracker, and for that I needed a dedicated server. That costs a little bit of money.

Recently, the Project has re-started an official torrent site. Of course, I think that's a great idea, but it leaves gotbsd.net out in the cold! So, I've got this domain, I don't want to just abandon it outright, but I can't keep paying for a dedicated server either, since its last, slim hope of paying for itself is long gone. The answer is to go without the tracker and move this to an inexpensive web host, maybe with some re-purposing later.

Now the trick is this, a site dedicated to FreeBSD really needs to run on FreeBSD. So, let the search begin. First stop: Netcraft. Everyone loves to play the "my favorite OS is the most reliable" game, and Netcraft's monthly reliability reports are a favorite arena. From there, I gathered this list of FreeBSD based web-hosting providers, along with their top ten rankings (if any) of the previous three months:
www.ipowerweb.com *,7,

"ipowerweb" is a tricky one. Like many web hosting companies, they sell services under more than one name, also selling under the name "ipower". I used Netcraft's site report (link), to validate a lot of these (granted, all that really tells you is what the company's home page is running and it doesn't guarantee that's what they're selling). "ipower.com" seems to have recently switched off of FreeBSD to the commercial F5 Big-IP operating system. "ipowerweb.com" is still on FreeBSD. But, they're definitely the same company, so are they moving away from FreeBSD?

Swishmail is an interesting company, but they provide a variety of services and their web hosting is too expensive for what I want. Globat, BTW, I didn't find on Netcraft, but I did use the site report to verify that they're FreeBSD. 3FN looks pretty darn good; they have good prices and a good selection of different plans. ... There are so many! I'm still looking at the rest, but will try to update this page with anything interesting that I find out.

The Project's main web site, I recall, also has a page that lists vendors. I wanted to check that, too. I was expecting to find a lot of the same names, but I didn't (just Swishmail). All of the below mention "web hosting" in their summary on the list of "Internet Service Providers" on freebsd.org:

I only ran through these very quickly to see which were up, but Host Department is one that caught my eye and I'm definitely going back to check out. There was one which I left off the list as it was in an inactive state. Negimaki gets asterisks because they're doing something specialized with photo galleries it looks like. And, "s4servers" (Seiretto) gets a big asterisk because the first thing you see on their page is "Choose linux or Windows". :/ I was going to drop them entirely, but I hit them with the Netcraft site report and both of their home pages are running FreeBSD. Go and figure.


08 January 2008

Printing from Windows to CUPS

This is too good to wait on, even though it's late and I'm a little tired. May fill in more later. I have a printer. I hate the Windows drivers that come with it, they're full of ads, obnoxious automated update pop-ups, they hog a lot of memory and CPU, etc. That's alright, I usually use FreeBSD anyway and CUPS ends up working great. I had to find the linux drivers for my particular printer in another port (hpijs or hplip (YMMV)), but was not a big deal. I'm printing over the network from FreeBSD. Everybody's happy.

But, I have a Windows machine for the kids and now they're constantly wanting to print things for school. Sometimes they can use the FreeBSD machine, but sometimes it's not convenient. What I want is for the FreeBSD machine to be a print server to the Windows machine.

So, I know!, Windows means samba and there's a port named "cups-samba". This must be just what I'm looking for. ... Well, it was kind of what I was looking for. But, it was too much trying to do things the Windows way. A little painful. What I discovered in digging around was that I didn't need cups-samba or even samba. CUPS by default leaves a port open for printing and you can use IPP to print directly to a CUPS printer via the network, even from Windows, and using generic, Windows Postscript printer drivers already on your Windows machine (probably).

My breakthrough came from a Gentoo wiki (here) where I found this great wisdom on the subject:

I don't understand why this HOWTO includes Samba functionality. It seems to me to be an inappropriate security risk, especially if your goals are simply what this HOWTO is addressing -- setting up a printer on a Gentoo box using CUPS, and using that printer natively with Windows.

Using IPP, you can axe everything in this HOWTO regarding printing via Samba. CUPS setup as per the HOWTO looks good. I use [OPTION 1] setup in my mixed-OS environment:

[OPTION 1] Generic PS Driver using MS Publisher Imagesetter driver

Windows: run Add Printer, select "Connect to a printer on the Internet..." and enter the URL for your printer (http://<computer-ip>:631/printers/<cups-printer-name>). When it asks for a printer manufacturer, select "Generic", and the printer "MS Publisher Imagesetter".

There's not much more to say. It worked perfectly. I printed out a little sudoku puzzle to test it.

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