Rackspace Encomium

There is nothing like configuring your own server to start getting a real understanding of how the guts of LAMP works. I’ve configured a lot of servers, but never built an entire Apache server from scratch before. Rackspace offers a cloud server for as little as $10 a month.

One of the first things you’ll want to do is create a server instance. I chose Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat (somewhat reflexively) as a server image. Rackspace builds the image and sends you an email when it’s done. You’ll use those credentials to login…but what next?

Though you can use the JavaScript console at Rackspace, the best move is to install SSH and create a user with sudoing privileges. This is where I started to get into areas that I wasn’t familiar with. I hadn’t configured SSH before, and Ubuntu creates users with the relevant permissions on graphical installation.

I would start giving instructions, but the truth is that I learned the most by
tracking down the instructions myself. So, I’ll instead give a list of the things you’ll need to do.

  1. Install and configure SSH. Alter the standard port from 22 to something else so you don’t get hit by bots.
  2. Add a user with a home directory.
  3. Add that user to sudoers.
  4. Log out from the Rackspace console.
  5. Use either a bash shell from a NIX box or download Putty for use from a Windows machine.
  6. Krusader or Dolphin will work fine for file transport from NIX; download WinSCP for SFTP (secure file transfer protocol).
  7. Login using your shell and your new user. Use nano as a text editor for your work; it’s simplest. Install LAMP, Open SSL, and any other packages you want…but LAMP will do it. Use Tasksel–it’s the simplest way to install the full server.
  8. Use one of your spare domain names or a subdomain (blank.yourdomain.com), and point it to the IP address of your shiny new server.
  9. Configure
    your Apache Virtual Hosts (use sites-available and sites-enabled) to catch the incoming requests. That means to point requests for blank.yourdomain.com to a directory on your server, typically /var/www, but you can choose any. I’ve got sites in my home directory under individual names.
  10. Transfer files for any site using your SFTP or SCP protocols.
  11. Try hitting the site.

It’s rather simple, but it will take a while to configure. It’s fun to learn, but will be complicated, and is best treated as a hobby until you’ve got the security down. I’m also happy to answer questions.

How to batch scan using Xsane

If you’re like me, you can’t throw important documents away, but there’s no easy way to scan old records, tax documents, and all the crap you’re supposed to save for 7 or 10 years…or however long taxes are supposed to stick around. Unfortunately, batch scanning with Xsane using an ADF (auto document feeder) is not even remotely intuitive.

Here’s how to do it (I have an HP Officejet 6500, a relatively common all-in-one printer using hplip for drivers):

(1) Open Xsane. Choose the correct printer/scanner; it’s likely to be the top one in the list.

(2) There’s a tiny ticker field in the top left corner of the main Xsane window with no label on it. Set that to 40 or so (however many documents your ADF can take at a time, plus 5 or 10). You do that because if you leave it set at 1, Xsane will assume that you only want to scan the first document in the ADF. This way it knows to look for 40, and will quit afterwards. The
other alternative is to set it at 30 or so, and push the scan button again after it’s stopped (if there are documents still in the ADF).

(3) Set the dropdown on the top right to “Multipage”. Ignore “batch scan” and the advanced settings.

(4) Create a working directory, and be sure to chmod and chown that directory recursively.*

(5) Create the multipage project in that directory. Set the output to PDF (if that’s what you want. PDF is probably best for archiving documents).

(6) Put a load of documents into your ADF, and hit ‘scan’ in the main Xsane window.

(7) Once they’re done, either load more and keep hitting the scan button to do batches of documents, or hit the “save multipage file” button at the bottom of the multipage project window.


*You may have issues using the multipage project mode in Xsane if you don’t have proper read/write permissions set on your directory.

Open a terminal.

Enter at the prompt: sudo
chmod -R a+rwx /yourHome/yourWorkingDirectory

Enter at the prompt: sudo chown -R yourUserName /yourHome/yourWorkingDirectory

Get emailed a portion of classic literature each day.

Ok, so I am feeling guilty over not reading enough GOOD books.

So, I devised a cunning plan whereby I am emailed a portion of a classic book each day. I started with the Iliad. I know that I’ll clear my emails every single day because a cluttered inbox irritates me…so this is the perfect motivational tool. I wrote each of these scripts (with occasional help from the lovely folks who hang out with me in Programming Talk at the Ubuntu Forums), and this is the way I did this.

(1) Download a book you want to read. I suggest starting with something like the Iliad or Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Poetry is a great way to start; it’s episodic and fun. Head to Gutenberg.org to find text versions of any book you want. Other suggestions: the Aeneid, any Shakespeare play, the Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, etc.

(2) Drop it into a folder, renaming it ‘[whatever].txt’. In my example, I’m dividing the Metamorphoses.

(3) Navigate to
that folder at the CL.

(4) Run this script to divide the book up into 300 line segments (or, if there is no paragraph break at 300 lines, the script will add more lines until a paragraph break is reached. That way, you don’t end up getting half a soliloquy). Obviously, if you want to read more or less each day, change the number of lines to however much you want:

sed -i 's/\r$//' metamorphoses.txt
while read line
if [[ $linecounter -gt 300 && -z "$line" || -z "$output_file" ]]; then
formatted_bookcounter=$(printf "%03d" $bookcounter)
echo "...starting segment $output_file"
echo "Metamorphoses - segment $formatted_bookcounter" > $output_file
echo "===================" >> $output_file
echo "" >> $output_file
echo "$line" >> $output_file
ndone < metamorphoses.txt

(5) In your folder, delete the big file. You should now have several (or possibly several dozen or hundreds) of much smaller files, numbered consecutively.

(6) Then, run this script (Adds a subject header to each of the files in your folder) :

for f in $FILES ; do
sed -i '1s/^/Subject:Your Daily Book Part, Tarah.\n/' "$f"
cat "$f"

(7) Then, add this script to wherever you store your scripts. It sorts the files in your pet directory by number, gets the first one (i.e. 'metamorphoses024.txt') mails it to you, then deletes that file. Then, the next time the script is run, it will get 'metamorphoses025.txt' as the first file in the directory. Call it 'bookmailer.sh' or whatever. NB: you must have msmtp installed to make this work. Ensure it's reachable through your path. Any other command line emailer will also work; I know how to use msmtp, so that's what I do. Plus, I use
Kubuntu, so it's available at the repos.

cd /home/tarahmarie/Documents/MyEbooks/aaa/
FILE=$(ls | sort -n | head -1)
cat $FILE | msmtp -a gmail youremailaddress@gmail.com
\rm `ls | sort -n | head -1`

(8) Execute 'bookmailer.sh' at the CL to ensure it works. If, in a few seconds, you get an email containing the subject line 'Your Daily Book Part, WhoeverYouAre', then the command is working. If you're having any problems, ensure that you have permissions to each of these scripts, and that they're marked 'executable'.

(9) Add 'bookmailer.sh' to your system's list of scheduled commands. I use kcron, so I set 'bookmailer.sh' to be executed each day at 8AM.

(10) Feel superior to other humans for the fact that you're reading a 'good' book every day. This is DEFINITELY how I'm going to get all the way through War and Peace. Eventually. Let us not even speak of Remembrance of Things Past. I will CONQUER you, Proust, ole buddy.