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I have a Linux server that needs to offer some services to an intranet. There will often be users that are not too familiar with using their laptops in a network environment, and so I'd like to announce the services they can use in an intuitive way. Ideally, when they connect their machines to the network, they'll see the services they can use and their OS will be informed about available printers etc.

For

  1. a publicly accessible folder for file sharing (Samba, NFS or sshfs based)
  2. some web-based tools like status monitors
  3. CUPS-driven printers
  4. networked scanners,

what would be the best way to do this? I'm open to any suggestions and not settled on any specific technology here.

For my specific application, security is of little concern, but feel free to discuss security implications of any suggestions.

For announcing Samba shares to Apple machines, there's already an answer here, but I don't think avahi/Bonjour will be able to solve everything else. Also, I'm not a Windows user, but I suppose there's already some similar protocol from Microsoft that works better with Windows clients.

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3 Answers 3

The easiest way would likely be to publish DNS and search domains via DHCP and make sure that people can get to a nice documentation page just by typing helpinto their browser. In this page, you can then list your resources and how to access them from their machine.

Then you just have to make sure people know about this...

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Thanks for the reply! Offering "meta" pages via the internal DNS is a very interesting idea, and I think I have several uses for it. However, I was looking for a more automated solution because if I have to hand out info sheets that tell people to use "help" in their browser, I might just as well hand out everything I'd write on that help page as a printout... –  jstarek Feb 1 '11 at 7:13

You can advertise particular web pages via Bonjour to Macs (Bookmarks > Bonjour in Safari) and Windows with Bonjour (Bonjour button in IE). This answer gives the general approach, add a <txt-record> to advertise a page below the root of a web server. I could go into more detail if you like.

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In the meantime, I've been experimenting with both approaches. James, your idea works nicely, if only the major browser vendors made their Bonjour bookmarks more visible... However, I still don't like the fact that Windows users have to go and install Bonjour manually. Is there really no similar technology in the Windows world that comes with every Windows installation? –  jstarek Feb 10 '11 at 10:22

You should look into the various methods for Zero-configuration networking (zeroconf).

In particular, you'll get two main families (which you should be able to use side by side):

  • mDNS and DNS-DS, which tend to be better integrated with Linux and OSX clients. One way to advertise your service this way is to set up Avahi on your server (see the answer you've already linked to). Windows clients should be able to see these devices if they install Bonjour (available from Apple and installed with Safari, as far as I know), but Windows doesn't support this out of the box.

  • UPnP and SSDP. SSDP is more or less an equivalent to DNS-DS. This is natively supported on Windows clients. I'm not sure whether there is any de-facto Linux "standard" server for it (like Avahi would be), but it seems integrated in a number of applications that require it (e.g. media servers), so you may find useful libraries to implement what you need from there.

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