HOWTO: April 2004 Archives

VDS/VPS Hosting

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Well, the move to my new server is complete. I decided a few weeks ago to migrate my 5 domains, spread over 2 hosting platforms, to a single Virtual Dedicated/Private Server (VDS/VPS) hosted by TekTonic. I realized I had been paying a premium for host management services I could perfectly well do myself and was also getting very frustrated at my lack of control over my accounts.

I opted for TekTonic's $15 (now $20 it seems) entry-level 'Fast Start' plan which gives me full root access to a Linux distribution of my choice with 3GB of space, 64MB of RAM and 50GB of transfer a month. A VDS gives all the benefits of a true dedicated server, but without the up-front costs. If I decide I need more memory, space, CPU or bandwidth, I just tack on a few extra dollars a month and I get it. I only pay for what I need. For instance, TekTonic offers an additional 3GB of storage for $5 extra a month.

While signing up I didn't realize I could have chosen my OS distribution and so ended up with RedHat 9. The OS ate up almost 1GB right off the bat which didn't sit well with my plan to have lots of space for photos. I re-read mt sign-up emails and discovered that I could reset my OS anytime I wanted. I found the page that let me do this, selected Debian 'woody' from a pulldown menu, clicked OK, clicked OK to confirm that I knew this would wipe the previous distribution clean, and then 30 seconds later I had a fully functional Debian Linux server awaiting me with root access. Debian's small installation only took up around 200MB of space leaving me with over 2.5GB free to do with as I wished. I was very happy.

Part of what makes going the VDS route so cheap is that you have to setup everything yourself. For me this was a positive and not a negative. The server came with Apache up and running, but as far as firewalls, SQL servers, pop servers, imap servers, webmail applications, email accounts, etc, I was on my own. I discovered all sorts of great tutorials describing how to setup and secure a Debian install and I diligently followed many of the steps to get where I am now.

I learned about how xinetd works as a super-server and starts up the appropriate service (smtp, pop, imap) as it is needed, thereby freeing resources which would otherwise be tied up in idle daemons.

I learned about Debian's kickass apt-get utility to easily download, unpack and upgrade/install current and new software packages. And of course the apt-cache utility for keyword searching across all available packages and their descriptions. These both make installing new software very manageable and invaluable for keeping installed software up-to-date.

I learned about Apache config, virtual servers, DNS propagation, webmail integration, SQL backups, cron config, ssh config, port scanning, security analysis, mail relay tests etc etc etc. I fully immersed myself and lived to write this weblog entry. I can now participate (if I at felt inclined) in the Slashdot Linux evangelism like a true veteran.

Here is a shortlist of sites I found useful during this process:
  • Web Host Guide - A high-level overview of terminology and available options to expect when you start shopping around for a hosting company. If you have little to no experience with having your website hosted somewhere, you should likely start here.
  • WebHostingTalk - A large group of forums where you can find all sorts of discussions and critiques about all aspects of Web Hosting. An excellent place to search for any companies you are planning to give money to.
  • debian.org - The main site itself and it's copius amount of documentation.
  • HOWTO - Securing Debian - An excellent document describing all the fundamentals of making your Debian install secure. Gives pros and cons on different approaches and lots of suggestions on applications and config files to investigate further. This was my main starting point.
  • Web Access Logs - Config, Rotation and Analysis - A detailed description of different approaches to logging along with sample scripts to help with rotation and analysis.
  • Apache - Virtual Host Setup - If you'll have more than one domain pointing to your server, or you want to easily serve different content by sub-domain, this document provides examples of common Apache setups.
  • Linux Services - A great tutorial to learn about what services are running on your server, what ports they are listening to and how to disable any you don't need.
  • POP3 + stunnel = POP3s - How to setup SSH and stunnel with POP3 for a secure POP3 connection.
  • Jay's Iptables Firewall - A handy wrapper to ease the configuration of a firewall.
  • Sygate online port scan - A site offering to give your site a quick free port scan. See what it looks like from both sides of the scan.
So far the VDS approach is working well for me. It gives me the full control that I was craving in my hosting environment and I save a fair bit in the process. If you have a hosting change in your near future, hopefully the above links and text will be helpful in determining what you need and how to go about setting it up. Have fun!

HOWTO: WUSB11 and Windows XP

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HOWTO Successfully Install the Linksys WUSB11 v2.5 Wireless Adapter under Windows XP

Dylan Parker - March 2004 - wusb11 (at) warmbrain (dot) com

Note: These instructions should be followed at your own risk. They have worked well for me but I can't promise you anything. The information was gleaned from various sources including Linksys.com, USENET newsgroups and various mailing lists. You are fully responsible for your own actions. Don't yell at me.

Getting Ready

All operations assume you are logged in with Administrator privileges. If you have made previous failed attempts to install this adapter, you will first need to uninstall the hardware from the operating system and delete the old drivers. See below for how to do this.

Uninstalling the Hardware

If you have previously installed the adapter and are now trying to uninstall it, you need to plug the adapter back in to the USB port so that Windows XP will let you uninstall it.

Right click on 'My Computer' and select 'Manage' and then click on 'Device Manager'. If you see the Linksys Wireless adapter appearing in the 'Network Adapters' section, then right click on the entry and select 'Uninstall'. Then click Ok. After it has uninstalled, unplug the Linksys Wireless Adapter from your USB port.

Deleting Old Drivers

Search all of your local harddrives for a file named LSWLUSB.SYS and LSWLUSBX.sys. The installed versions of this file will reside somewhere under your C:\WINDOWS directory, but if it also exists in other locations then you need to deal with them as well.

Delete all files that you find matching those two names. If you are nervous about deleting them then create a new temporary directory somewhere and place them in there. The important thing is that they aren't sitting somewhere that Windows XP has used them before.

Once you are satisfied you have rid of yourself of the old drivers, move onto getting the new drivers.

Getting the Right Drivers

Depending on the path you take through Linksys' support pages you can end up downloading different sets of drivers claiming to work with Windows XP. Most do not. The ones you want are located here: ftp://ftp.linksys.com/pub/network/wusb11v25.zip

For whatever reason, if you download the .exe version of that file (supposed to have the same files) it has been packed without the needed WinXP files. Go figure.

Unzip the files into a temp directory. Delete everything except the WinXP directory. If you don't see the WinXP directory, then make sure you downloaded the correct zip file. Inside the WinXP directory should be two files: LSWLUSB.INF and LSWLUSBX.SYS.

We deleted all the other files so that there isn't even the chance that Windows will accidentally find any other drivers.

Installing the Hardware and New Drivers

Plug your adapter into the USB port. Windows should detect the adapter, see that it is currently not installed and try to install it. It should also at this point discover that it doesn't have the right drivers and ask you for them.

If Windows XP manages to install the adapter without ever asking you for drivers or locations of drivers then go back to the 'Uninstalling the Hardware' step again and make sure to follow the exact directions in the 'Deleting Old Drivers' section.

When the hardware installation wizard prompts you about drivers, click the 'Search for the best driver in these locations' radio button. De-select the 'Search removable media (floppy, CD-ROM...)' checkbox. Select the 'Include this location in the search:' checkbox and type in the path to that WinXP folder that has the new drivers (eg c:\temp\wusb11\WinXP). Click Next.

If it complains that the drivers are not signed, click 'Continue Anyway'. Click OK until it finishes. The correct adapter and drivers are now installed.

Configuring the Adapter

The adapter needs to be configured manually and not through the Wireless Zero Config service interface. To do this, go to the Start_Menu-> Settings-> Network_Connections and open the Wireless Network Connection associated with your WUSB11 adapter. Click the 'Properties' button. Click the 'Configure' button underneith where it lists your adapter. Click the 'Advanced' tab.

My settings are as follows:

  Authentication Algorithm = Automatic based on WEP setting
  Channel                  = (use same as your wireless hub/router)
  Encryption               = Disabled
  Fragmentation Threshold  = 2432
  Maximum Listen Interval  = 3
  Network Type             = Infrastructure
  Power Save Mode          = Disabled
  Preamble Mode            = Auto
  RTS Threshold            = 2432
  SSID                     = (use same as your wireless hub/router)  
  Transmit Rate            = Fully Auto

Click OK a number of times until all settings are saved. Then Reboot.

Note: I am describing an unencrypted wireless connection above. It is generally not advised to have your home wireless network setup as unencrypted. This typically means that anyone around your house can 'borrow' a connection with their computer without any special information. Also, it means all communication over the wireless network can potentially be eavesdropped on. Bank info, site passwords, corporate authentication etc etc. It is usually useful though to first setup an unencrypted wireless network to convince yourself that all of your equipment works.

Connecting to an Encrypted Network:

We still need to configure the adapter manually, but since the manual approach doesn't allow for the specification of an encryption key we need to poke at a few things through the Wireless Zero Config service interface.

Start by right-clicking on the Wireless Network Connection icon in your system tray in the far right of your taskbar. Select 'View Available Wireless Networks'. Click the 'Advanced' button. Select the encrypted network you are trying to connect to in the 'Available Networks' list. Click the 'Configure' button. Click the 'Data Encryption (WEP enabled)' checkbox. Type the same encryption key used on your wireless hub/router into the 'Network Key' field. Confirm it by typing it again. Click OK a number of times and then configure your adapter manually as described above.

Two settings were different for me:
  Authentication Algorithm = WECA Compliant (maybe 'auto' works?)
  Encryption               = 128 bit (same bit # as router/hub)
Click OK a number of times until all settings are saved. Then Reboot.

Turn off Wireless Zero Config Service after Booting

Each time you boot, you should find your network connection up and working, and then after a few minutes it starts acting flaky and losing contact. This happens because of the Wireless Zero Config service. You need to stop it.

You can't just disable the service though, because it apparently needs to be running to form the initial connection with the wireless hub/router. Once it has connected though, it can be safely stopped.

To stop the Wireless Zero Config service, go to the Start_Menu-> Settings-> Control_Panel-> Administrative_Tools-> Services. Scroll down the list until you find 'Wireless Zero Config'. Right-click it and select 'Stop'. Once off, it will no longer interfere with your live connection. If if your router goes down or gets rebooted, when it comes back up your adapter should reconnect successfully.

It sucks but the service needs to be up for the reboot, then stopped once a connection has been made. An automated startup .BAT script would likely make this seamless, but I haven't played with a setup like that yet. It's possible that it would be run too early before the connection had a chance to fully burn in. Let me know if you find something that works.

Conclusion

Hopefully you are now up and running with a WUSB11 adapter under WinXP that isn't crapping out every 2 minutes.

Although this method has worked for me successfully, it is not without its down points.
  • The Wireless Zero Config service needs to run then stopped after each reboot.
  • Changing wireless networks is a pain in the ass and involves manually configuring the adapter each time. Yuck. Changes involving encrypted networks get even uglier as you need to bounce between the Wireless Zero Config service interface and the manual adapter config. I just don't change it and leave my computer running all the time.
That's all. Good luck with your configuring.

Dylan

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the HOWTO category from April 2004.

HOWTO: May 2004 is the next archive.

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