Using Amanda for Backups

[AMANDA]( as the name says, is an advanced disk archiver or, more simply, a backup program. It’s a really useful program, let down by something approaching the worst documentation out there. I’ve had about 4 attempts on and off for about the same number of years at using it and deciphering the documentation. Finally I got it to work, but it should not be that hard. Who knows, maybe in
another 4 years I won’t hate Wiki documentation? Naah.

This document shows you what files you need to create, their format and how to use some of the programs. It’s probably only a brief get you started type of document, but at least you should be able to start. I have tested this setup on a bunch of [Debian]( GNU/Linux servers but it should be reasonably similar for other systems.

Speaking of my systems, what I’m writing here works for me with my setup. It’s quite likely it will work for you, but you should verify and test everything. If something is not quite right and you lose all your valuable
files because something is wrong in here, you should of tested it properly yourself. In any case, a non-tested backup system is almost as useless as a non-working one.

#Determine your backup regime and other details
The first step is to decide what you want to backup. Do you want to do everything? Just home files? The variety is quite large and it is just a matter of working out how to tell AMANDA how to do it. AMANDA works
in chunks of partitions, so if you have everything in one partition as / then that’s one big chunk. All is not lost however as you can use some tricks to exclude some type of files or directories.

For my setup, I backup all of /, most of /var except logs and cache and /home with the exception of some junk. The method for backing up all of a partition can be done differently than backing up part of it. I’m not
sure, but I think its quicker to backup all of a partition when you can.

Next, think of a name to call the backup regime. I call mine “normal” and thats what I’ll use here. AMANDA calls the name “the config” in the manual pages. It’s just a label for the set of configuration files.

#Determining tapetype

The configuration file (see next section) will need to know the tapetype. If you don’t know what drive model you have, you can often get some information about the device in the **/proc/scsi/scsi** file. My file shows my ancient Sony tape drive.

Attached devices:
Host: scsi0 Channel: 00 Id: 01 Lun: 00
  Vendor: SONY     Model: SDT-5000&
nbsp;        Rev: 3.30
  Type:   Sequential-Access    &nbs
p;           ANSI SC
SI revision: 02

The tapetype is a bunch of parameters about your tape drive and they are different for
every device. Have a look at [AMANDA tapetype list]( to see if yours is there.

Failing that, use the **amtapetype** program. Be warned, it will take a long time for this program to work. When I mean a long time, I’m talking about 2 hours or so. That’s roughly how long it took for me.

To run it, type:

server# amtapetype /dev/nst0

and then wait, and wait… Eventually you’ll get something that you can cut and paste into your amanda.conf /dev/st0 is the device the tapedrive uses, try that one first if you have a SCSI tape drive.

#Main configuration file – amanda.conf
Most configuration information goes into the amanda.conf configuration file. The configuration files are kept into a place /etc/amanda/*configname* which for me is /etc/amanda/normal.

org "Example Company"   # Title of report
mailto "root"           # recipients of report, space separated
dumpuser "backup"       # the user to run dumps under
inparallel 4            # maximum dumpers that will run in parallel
netusage  600           # maximum net bandwidth for Amanda, in KB per sec

# a filesystem is due for a full backup once every  days
dumpcycle 4 weeks       # the number of days in the normal dump cycle
tapecycle 8 tapes       # the number of tapes in rotation

bumpsize 20 MB          # minimum savings (threshold) to bump level 1 > 2
bumpdays     1          # minimum days at each level
bumpmult     4          # threshold = bumpsize * (level-1)**bumpmult

runtapes     1
tapedev "/dev/nst0"     # Linux @ tuck, important: norewinding

tapetype SDT-5000               # what kind of tape it is (see tapetypes below)
labelstr "^MY-TAPE-[0-9][0-9]*$"        # label constraint regex: all tapes must match

diskdir "/var/tmp"              # where the holding disk is
disksize 1000 MB                        # how much space can we use on it
infofile "/var/lib/amanda/normal/curinfo"       # database filename
logfile  "/var/log/amanda/normal/log"   # log filename

# where the index files live
indexdir "/var/lib/amanda/normal/index"

define tapetype SDT-5000 {
    comment "Sony SDT-5000"
    length 1584 mbytes
    filemark 0 kbytes
    speed 271 kps
define dumptype comp-home-tar {
    program "GNUTAR"
    comment "home partition dump with tar"
    options compress-fast, index, exclude-list "/etc/amanda/normal/home.exclude"
   priority medium

define dumptype comp-var-tar {
    program "GNUTAR"
    comment "var partition dump with tar"
    options compress-fast, index, exclude-list "/etc/amanda/normal/var.exclude"
    priority high

So what do all those lines mean? You can leave most of them what they are
in this example. Read the amanda(8) manual page for information about
what each of the lines does. I’ll only point out some of the more significant
or tricky ones here.

I have runtapes set to 1 because it is a single tape
drive and not some fancy multi-drive tape jukebox.
This is the Unix device that the tape is found. Try
/dev/nst0 first as its a good default. Use dmesg to find the device if
that doesn’t work.
This refers to a label that is defined further along
in the configuration file.
All tape labels have to match this regular expression. AMA
NDA wont recognize it otherwise.
A directory where AMANDA can temporarily store its files
before they are put onto the tape, not sure if /var/tmp is a good idea or not.
The amount of space that AMANDA can use in the previously
given diskdir.
infofile, logfile, indexdir
Filenames for storing information and
status of your backups. All these directories for these files need to exist,
see below.

The tapetype definition have been previously explained. It’s either going to be a cut and paste from a website or the output of amtapetype.

The dumptypes depart from the usual ones you see in the amanda documentation. I am using tar here because then I can select what files and directories I want in the archive. The two dumptypes are identical except for the priority and the exclude-list.

#disklist config file
The disklist file is found in */etc/amanda/normal/* directory and it lists what disks on what hosts are to be backed up using what backup format. Each line has three entries separated by whitespace: hostname, drive or partition and dumptype. The dumptype is one of the ones that was defined in the configuration file amanda.conf. My disklist looks like:

# disklist for normal backups
# Located at /etc/amanda/normal/disklist
localhost /var  comp-var-tar
localhost /home comp-home-tar

Reading both this file and the amanda.conf file, you can see that this means /var is backed up using tar and gzip and it will use the exclusion file var.exclude and /home is backed up also using tar and gzip but with the
exclusion file home.exclude.

#The tar exclude files
I create two exclude files, one for each partition type I am backing up. The contents of these exclude files are a file or directory name, one per line. You may want to read the GNU tar info files about what can go here, its just using the –exclude-from flag. My var.exclude excludes logs, debian packages, cached processed manual pages and temporary files, it looks like this:


#Creating directories and files
There are a fair few directories and files that AMANDA needs to have setup with the correct permissions before it will work. The easiest way to document this is to show you the commands used. Remember that my config name is “normal” and a lot of these directories are defined in the amanda.conf file as is the user.

server# chown backup.backup /etc/amanda/normal
server# chmod 770 /etc/amanda/normal
server# touch /etc/amanda/normal/tapelist
server# chown backup.backup /etc/amanda/normal/*
server# chmod 500 /etc/amanda/normal/*
server# touch /var/lib/amanda/amandates
server# chown backup.backup /var/lib/amanda/amandates
server# mkdir /var/lib/amanda/normal
server# mkdir /var/lib/amanda/normal/index
server# chown -R backup.backup /var/lib/amanda/normal
server# chmod -R 770 /var/lib/amanda/normal
server# mkdir /var/log/amanda/normal
server# chown backup.backup /var/log/amanda/normal
server# chmod 770 /var/log/amanda/normal

#Making a new AMANDA tape
You will now need to make a new tape and label it. Put the tape in the drive and use the command

> amlabel normal MY-TAPE-01

Remember the label has to match the regular expression you have in the amanda.conf file. If all goes well, in a minute or two you will have a tape ready.

#Checking the configuration
AMANDA has a checking program, called amcheck, that makes sure everything is ready to go for the backup. The example output given below shows most things are ok, but I need to change a tape (and run amlabel on it) because I’ve already used this tape.

# su backup
$ amcheck normal
Amanda Tape Server Host Check
Holding disk /var/tmp: 6349516 KB disk space available, that's plenty
ERROR: cannot overwrite active tape MY-TAPE-01
       (expecting a new tape)
NOTE: skipping tape-writable test
Server check took 9.027 seconds

Amanda Backup Client Hosts Check
Client check: 1 host checked in 0.032 seconds, 0 problems found

(brought to you by Amanda 2.4.4)

#To do the backup
After all that setup and testing, the backup itself is, well, pretty boring. To start it, as the backup user type /usr/sbin/amdump normal. You probably want this in a crontab so it is done regularly. After some time whoever was mentioned in the mailto line in the amanda.conf file will get an email about the backup.

#Recovering a file
To test the backup, you really need to test that you can restore a file. To do this I cd to /tmp and then run the amrecover utility. The amrecover program looks a lot like a ftp client and is pretty easy to use. Once again, it needs the config name so to run it, type amrecover normal. It may not know what host you want to go to, so set the host with the sethost command.

amrecover> sethost localhost
200 Dump host set to localhost.

Next you need to tell the recover program what disk you are trying to recover. We’ll select the /home directory here.

amrecover>; setdisk /home
Scanning /var/tmp...
20030618: found Amanda directory.
200 Disk set to /home.

We’ve found the disk and the host, now to wander around the filesystem and find the file. The file we are after is /home/csmall/myfile.txt. We’ve already at /home with the setdisk command, so now it is just a matter of cd into the csmall directory, add the file myfile.txt to the recovery list and then issue the extract command to start the recovery process.

amrecover> cd csmall
amrecover> add myfile.txt
Added /csmall/myfile.txt
amrecover> extract

Extracting files using tape drive /dev/nst0 on host localhost.
The following tapes are needed: MY-TAPE-01

Restoring files into directory /var/tmp
Continue [?/Y/n]?

The restore program has found the file you are after and what tapes are needed to restore the file. If there were many files there may be multiple tapes required. It will now ask you to continue and after pressing
enter it will pause while you load the required tape into the drive. Pressing enter again will restore the file. It may take an hour or so to get it.

Extracting files using tape drive /dev/nst0 on host localhost.
Load tape MY-TAPE-01 now
Continue [?/Y/n/s/t]?


The result should be now a restored csmall/myfile.txt in your current directory. If that’s the case, the restore test has succeeded.

Creating an APT archive

[apt]( is a very important and useful tool that is used mainly for [Debian]( GNU/Linux computers to download and install packages. It has the ability of sorting out the dependencies for packages and downloading from multiple sites.

For various reasons, people want to run their own apt archive that is separate from the rest of the Debian package distribution system. This gives a much better way of distributing binary and source packages that just a plain FTP or HTTP site.

For this document, I have used my archive hosted on Internode as the example. Apparently there is a way of doing this using the new pool method. I couldn’t get it to work and junked it and went back to the old way which was putting the packages under dist. It seems a lot cleaner and the reasons for having /pool/ don’t really apply for small archives.

To understand how apt (or Debian for that matter) sorts its files, you need to understand the various ways files are catalogued. This will help in deciding what to call the various directories.

– The distribution of Debian. Can either be a code-word like woody, sid or sarge or a type like stable, testing or unstable. For my archive I use unstable. Not that some places DIST is the directory dist/distname such as dist/unstable.
– The section determines what is the state of the package and is determined by the copyright. DFSG-free packages go into the main section.
– What architecture is the package built for?

#Directory Layout
Apt requires a certain type of directory layout to work. The directories can either be real directories or symlinks. This is what my archive looks like:


The binaries are found in the sub-directory *./apt/dists/unstable/main/binary-i386/* while the source packages are found in *./apt/dists/unstable/main/source/*

#apt-ftparchive configuration file
The most difficult part of the whole exercise is trying to get this configuration file right. It’s badly documented and has no real examples combined with the fact if something doesn’t work you don’t know why.
I call mine archive.conf but it doesn’t really matter what it is called as long as you use the same name when you run the programs in the next steps. After much trial and error, I have the following configuration file, explanations of what the lines do follows.

Dir {
  ArchiveDir "/home/example/myarchive/apt";

BinDirectory "dists/unstable" {
  Packages "dists/unstable/main/binary-i386/Packages";
  SrcPackages "dists/unstable/main/source/Sources";
The absolute path to the top of the archive from the server’s point of view. This directory will have the dists directory in it. Now if you are building the files on one machine but uploading them to another (like I do) then the directory is the directory for the building machine.
This is the directory of the dist, that directory only has the main symlink in it.
The location of the Packages file. The full path will be

The location of the Source Packages file. The full path
will be $ArchiveDir/$BinDirectory/main/$Packages

#Adding Packages
To add packages, put the .deb files into the binary-i386 directory and the orig.tar.gz, .dsc and diff.gz files into the source directory.

#Running apt-ftparchive
To update or create the Packages filenames, you need to run apt-ftparchive. The programs scans for packages and creates the right paths in the Packages file for them.

$ apt-ftparchive generate archive.conf
 dists/unstable: 2 files 3017kB 0s
Done Packages, Starting contents.
Done. 3017kB in 2 archives. Took 0s

Notice it has found 2 files and 2 archives, which means it is working because that was the number of packages I had in my archive. You should also have a Packages and Packages.gz in the binary-i386 directory.

#Uploading the archive
If you are using the same computer for creating the archive then you are done. If not then then you need to move the files onto the server. How you do this depends on what the server has available. Ideally, they
have scp or rsync which makes it very easy. My ISP only has FTP which means I need something like [lftp](href=” to do the copying.

 $ lftp -c 'open -u myusername ; mirror -n -R apt apt'

This command recursively copies files from the local apt directory to the remote apt directory on the ftp server. See the lftp manual page for details.

#sources.list changes
Now you have a working archive, you need to change your /etc/apt/sources.list file so that apt knows to get packages from your archive. It looks like just another archive.

deb unstable main

#My Makefile
The following is my Makefile that sits at the top directory (the same directory that the apt subdirectory sits in on the local computer) that I use to make the various files.

  -mv incoming/*_i386.deb apt/dists/unstable/main/binary-i386/
  -mv incoming/*.dsc incoming/*.diff.gz incoming/*.orig.tar.gz apt/dists/unstable/main/source/
  apt-ftparchive generate archive.conf

  lftp -c 'open -u myself ; mirror -n -R apt apt'

Filtering base64 encoded spam

I hate spam, though I get an awful lot of it. About 1/3 of my email is spam, though on a bad day the ratio can be reversed. If you want to see just how much spam I get, I’ve used to have a nice graph of spam. To get rid of it I use a lot of filters. One of these is the Postfix¬†Body Checks¬†feature. This feature allows you to match lines in the body of the email and reject them at the server. I use Perl Compatible Regular Expression (PCRE) matching for the lines.

Recently though, I noticed a lot of spam, usually about Viagra, that was passing through my spam traps. I noticed the emails all talk about a small set of webservers, so I’ll just filter on the urls. It didn’t work.
SpamAssassin in the end gave me the hint.

X-Spam-Status: No, hits=0.0 required=5.0

It was base64 encoded email! That’s why my simple PCRE text matches would not work. So I needed to use something else.

This page is about how to filter on base64 text that appears in emails. I have used examples of PCRE and postfix but you can use this anywhere else, with the appropriate adjustments of where the files go and their syntax.

How to filter

A standard filter line in a postfix body_check file looks something like this:


This is the old iframe hack that some spammers use to sneak URLs into your email.They are nice and clear and we just reject them. All we have to do now is change the stuff between the “toothpicks” // to what we want.

Here’s an example spam I got today, its offering the usual garbage this shonks usually offer. Remember if they don’t advertise ethically, it is often a sign of their entire operation.

In this case, I’ve decided I cannot be bothered getting any emails that advertise stuff on, I get enough junk already and it’s probably a front for spammers anyway, so I’ll filter on that domain. You need to make the string reasonably long as you are effectively cutting off parts of it.

Debian systems have this program called mimencode, some of you might have mmencode, which is part of the Metamail package. This does the base64 encoding for you.

So all you need to do is take the string you want filtered on, put it into mimencode and then put the resulting string into the postfix configuration. You need to do this three times, deleting a character at the front each time because base64 is done by cutting the strings up into groups of three characters each and you don’t know in advance if the your string is going to start at position 1,2 or 3.

gonzo$ echo -n "" | mimencode
gonzo$ echo -n "ttp://" | mimencode
gonzo$ echo -n "tp://" | mimencode

Next you need to remove part of the encoded string at the end. Remember that 3 characters are encoded into 4 symbols. So character one contributes to symbol 1 and 2, two to 2 and 3 and three to 3 and 4. The = means the string was not a multiple of 3 and it needs padding. If the encoded string has no =, you can use it as-is, otherwise remove all = plus one more character at the end of the string. Remember that you are cutting off up to two characters from your regular expression from both ends so be careful it is still meaningful. The last string for example is only matching “tp://” which still looks ok.

Finally, you can join the strings using the regular expression “or” symbol. Also be careful to escape any strings that use special regular expression characters. Base64 can have plus ‘+’ and slash ‘/’ which need
escaping with a backslash .


I have a bypass line in my setup so usually any lines that are base64 encoded are bypassed, so if you have the same thing make sure this line goes before your bypass line or it will never match. We also need to tell postfix to use case sensitive matching because it is base64 hash we are matching and not the real string itself, so we use the i flag after the last slash . The relevant lines in the body_checks file are now:

/(HR0cDovL3d3dy5zZWxsdGhydW5ldC5uZXQv|dHRwOi8vd3d3LnNlbGx0aHJ1bmV0Lm5ldC|dHA6Ly93d3cuc2VsbHRocnVuZXQubmV0L)/i REJECT Spamvertised website
# don't bother checking each line of attachments
/^[0-9a-z+/=]{60,}s*$/                OK

To test it, I use pcregrep and mimencode again, on the mail file. This will show in clear text the spamming line and gives you an idea that it should work.

$ pcregrep 'dHRwOi8vd3d3LnNlbGx0aHJ1bmV0Lm5ldC' /var/mail/csmall  | mimencode -u">&ltl;im//

Bridging firewalls for ADSL Connections

For a long time I’ve had the 56k (hah – If I’m lucky) dialup. Between the modem and my local network was a nice Linux firewall, all was good. Then I changed my connection to ADSL from [Internode][], that was good too. I soon found out that I couldn’t put my firewall in as-is, that was bad.

##Why Bridging?
The problem is that, like a lot of other DSL networks out there, [Internode][] sees your LAN and their network device at the telephone exchange like its one big Ethernet LAN. Normal firewalls expect two different blocks of IP addresses (or subnets) on their “outside” and “inside” interfaces, eg network number 10 on the inside and 42 on the outside. The problem is with the given setup, network 42 is both on the outside and inside, a real problem for a standard firewall.

A bridging firewall expects all its interfaces on the same network. It looks a lot like an Ethernet switch or a hub and in-fact with no firewall rules it behaves exactly like that. The tricky thing is that it has to act like a switch when passing packets but act like a router when its deciding if it should be passing that packet at all.

It should be mentioned that you only need a bridging firewall when you want the computers on your local network to all have real live addresses (so no NAT) and your ISP is not expecting you to have a router there.

##Kernel Patches and changes
The standard Linux kernel has firewalling in it, it also has bridging code, so we’re set right? That depends on what version kernel you have. For 2.4.x kernels you need a patch, but the newer 2.6.x kernels have ebtables (which is the project that swallowed up the iptables+bridge code) so no patching is needed.

I a 2.4.x kernel, the bridge code needs a modification so it goes and “asks” the firewall code if it is OK to forward a packet. Without that patch, your bridge code will happily send any packets that come along.

##Compiling 2.4.x kernels

Now it used to be quite easy as there was only one source of the firewall-bridge linking code. However the code used to sit with the bridge project at sourceforge but has now moved in with the ebtables project also at sourceforge. The following table may make it easier to understand what patch you need

Kernel version Patch
2.4.18 bridge-nf-0.0.7-against-2.4.18.diff
2.4.21 ebtables-brnf-3_vs_2.4.21.diff.gz
2.4.22 ebtables-brnf-2_vs_2.4.22.diff.gz

The 2.4.21 kernel patch didn’t work cleanly and I needed to manually fix a few files to get it to patch and compile, the good news is the 2.4.22 kernel patch did work cleanly for a stock 2.4.22 kernel.

* net/Makefile : Add “bridge/netfilter” to the mod-subdirs line
* net/ipv4/ip_output.c : Add 4 lines from the rej file. Note that in the last file the pointer handle “skb2” is now called “to” and “skb” is called “from” so make sure you make those adjustments when you do your hand-patching.
* net/bridge/br_netfilter.c : Uses old route table functions and a structure that doesnt have pmtu any more. Use the patch at .

You probably should also read the documentation with respect to the different patches. Earlier patches have their Bridge document Page while the newer patches are a poorer cousin to ebtables itself on the newer site but you might dredge up something on the ebtables dcoumentation page

For compiling, I enabled bridging, netfilter, iptables and the bridge netfilter support. The kernel compiled fine and I then installed it on the firewall.

##Compiling 2.6.x kernels
At the time of this writing, I was unable to use the physdev feature of iptables, which means the bridging firewall was unable to use iptables where the physical interface needed to be specified, iptables gave an invalid argument every time I used -m physdev, I rolled back to kernel 2.4.22.

As previously mentioned, the 2.6.x kernels have ebtables built in, so there is no need for patching. ebtables used to be just for filtering based on layer-2 information, such as ethernet MAC addresses but it now allows the Linux bridge to look at the same things ipfilter can see. Some 2.6 kernel and iptables setups cannot handle the physdev module, so you might need ebtables anyway.

There’s two ways of filtering IP packets in 2.6 kernels. You can use ipfilters which can see bridged packets and you can use ebtables which has some limited support of IP. Unless there is a good reason, go with the iptables, it has a lot more features for IP packets.

For compiling, I enabled bridging, netfilter, iptables and iptables physdev. If you want ebtables support too enable , ebtables, ebt: filter table, ebt: log support and ebt: IP filter support. These are found in the networking options submenu of the kernel configuration.

##Helper Programs
You will need two helper programs for your firewall. They both don’t need patching which is wonderful! The first is iptables for manipulating the firewall rules and the second is bridge-utils which makes the bridges. If you want to use ebtables too, get it as well.

I run the Debian distribution so to download the two required packages was a matter of a apt-get command and I was done. If you don’t run Debian I’m sure you’ll find the programs for your distribution somewhere.

It’s remarkably simple to make a bridging firewall. You make the bridge, then you add firewall rules in. I was pleasantly surprised by this; the hardest thing for me was to get a second Ethernet card working in my stupid hardware that has flakey ISA buses and a PCI slot that makes anything in it misbehave, luckily I had 3 other sensible PCI slots.

To make a bridge, I use the following commands:

myfirewall# brctl addbr br0
myfirewall# brctl addif br0 eth0
myfirewall# brctl addif br0 eth1

That was it, one working bridge! This meant that any packets that needed to cross the bridge were allowed through. Next I had to add some firewall rules in. What to put into a firewall is explained much better elsewhere, look at the iptables reference given above.

The way the interfaces are handled changes in the kernels. For 2.4 kernels, you use the standard iptables input and output (-i and -o ) flags to specify what your incoming and outgoing interfaces should be. For 2.6 kernels you need to use the physical device module. So whever you see a rule that has -i or -o flags, replace them with -m physdev –physdev-in or -m physdev –physdev-out to specify which interface you want (this is what breaks on my system). If you use -i and -o it will mis-match because iptables thinks the input and output interfaces are whatever you call the bridge (br0 if you use my example).

Pretty simple stuff. I hope it was helpful for you. If there is a part that doesn’t make any sense or you’d like me to explain it better drop me a line at the address below.
Very simple iptables rules example

Here is a very simple example of iptables ruleset. It won’t do very much except allow everyone from the inside network to connect and for the reply packets to come back. It’s based on Rusty’s quick example. It assumes your external interface is eth0. First is the 2.4 kernel example:

iptables -N FORWARD
iptables -A FORWARD -m state --state ESTABLISHED,RELATED -j ACCEPT
iptables -A FORWARD -m state --state NEW -i ! eth0 -j ACCEPT
iptables -A FORWARD -j DROP

Next is the 2.6 kernel example. The only change is the line specifying what interface we accept new connections from.

iptables -N FORWARD
iptables -A FORWARD -m state --state ESTABLISHED,RELATED -j ACCEPT
iptables -A FORWARD -m state --state NEW -m physdev --physdev-in ! eth0 -j ACCEPT
iptables -A FORWARD -j DROP

##NATing on a Bridging Firewall
It may seem strange that if you have a bridging firewall, why would you use NAT and in fact how can you use it. The answer is you may have several IP address but more computers. Put the servers into the DMZ with real addresses and NAT the PCs.

The setup I have has the hosts with the real and private addresses on the same physical network. This is generally a bad idea and is called multi-netting. If you can, put the private hosts on a third ethernet card.

With multi-netting, you get the bizzare situation where everything revolves around a single interface and the firewall is part bridge, part router, based on what IP address it sees.

The first thing to do is give the bridge interface (br0 in the example) two IP addresses. It needs to be in both the public and private networks to do the routing and NATing. If you are going the three interface method, the third interface gets the private address and the bridge interface gets the public one.

Next, you need to add some firewall rules to do the NAT itself. This is reasonably standard. You will need to qualify the rule with the private LAN address so you don’t NAT the public IP addresses too. The example assumes the external IP address is

iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -s --to

Finally protect your firewall, it now unfortunately has a public IP address so it can do NAT. You may want to make sure that your daemons, such as SSH, only listen to your private IP addresses. Also some firewall rules such as the following can help. Other than traffic already established, the firewall only accepts traffic to itself if it is from the private LAN IP range and it came from the internal interface and it is destined to the firewall itself. It also accepts traffic on the loopback interface but drops the rest.

iptables -F INPUT
iptables -A INPUT -j ACCEPT -m state --state ESTABLISHED,RELATED
iptables -A INPUT -j ACCEPT -s -i eth1 -d
iptables -A INPUT -j ACCEPT -i lo
iptables -A INPUT -j DROP


Printing using LPRng and Foomatic

For many years I have been using LPRng as my printer spooler. It is not the easiest one to use, but has a lot of features and is used in heavy-duty situations such as the main spoolers for University student printers.

In the early days, all printouts were simple ASCII text and all printers understood simple ASCII text, so there were no problems. Now printouts can be a number of forms, such as PDF, Postscript, png, jpg, tex plus many
others. Not only that, all printers have a different way of explaining how to print complex figures or graphics, or just even change the colour. A printing filter is the program that, say, converts the PDF command “now use red and write a line like this” into a language the printer itself understands. The filters have to also work out what thing is being sent to it; is that a PDF coming down the line or a Postscript file? Maybe it is nroff text?

The first filter I used was magicfilter. I then tried turboprint, which is non-free and also whatever lprngtool uses. I now use the foomatic scripts, which appear to be the most successful.

This document describes how I setup my LPRng program running on a Debian GNU/Linux system to talk to my Epson Stylus Color 600 that is attached to a networked print server (some Netgear thingy). The instructions should work for other distributions and of course with the exception of a different
ppd file.

You may also want to read another LPRng installation document too.

Basic Setup

The general idea is to use the Foomatic program called foomatic-rip as the LPRng input filter. This filter will convert the incoming file into something my Epson understands correctly. Ideally, I just tell my system “print this” and it does it, without any further input.

The steps in setting the printing up are:

  1. Getting the right packages
  2. Finding your printer PPD
  3. Checking your ghostscript works
  4. Installing and customizing the PPD
  5. Change or create printcap file
  6. Testing

Getting the right packages

There are some packages you will need, or are quite useful to have. I just
apt-get install ‘ed them and they all went in fine. Some of the files are
dependent on what printer you have and what drivers it will be using.

The printer spooler. You could use other printer spoolers, but they are setup differently.
This holds the printer filters. Most importantly,
it is the package with foomatic-rip.
Ghostscript comes in a variety of flavours. I needed this
flavour because it had the output device I needed. Make sure you check you get t
he right one for you.

Fonts for Ghostscript. Handy package to have.
Converts ASCII text into postscript.
Converts lots of things into postscript.

Finding your printer PPD

The PPD file is a Postscript Printer Description. It describes your printer to the postscript and ghostscript programs. You need to get this first before doing anything else because this will determine if your printer
is supported and also what other packages you might need.

Previously you could get the PPD from Linux website. But they have changed things around so they are no longer available.
You have to get them out of the printer database, the problem is they are shipped in xml.

A program called foomatic-ppdfile is the magic gap filler between XML and ppd. It can be used to find what PPD to use and how to generate them. For example, I try to find my Epson Stylus Color 600, with

$ foomatic-ppdfile -P ‘Epson.*Color 600’
Epson Stylus Color 600 Id=’Epson-Stylus_Color_600′ Driver=’gimp-print’ Compatibl
eDrivers=’gutenprint-ijs.5.0 gimp-print omni stc600ih.upp stc600p.upp stc600pl.u
pp stcolor stp ‘

The Id= is used to extract the printer definition. Generally there are many drivers you can use for each printer, check the Linux printing website for details of each.

For my printer, the default driver is called gimp-print, but I don’t have that one. foomatic-ppdfile complains:

$ foomatic-ppdfile -p ‘Epson-Stylus_Color_600’ > /etc/lprng/Epson-Stylus_

There is neither a custom PPD file nor the driver database entry contains suffic
ient data to build a PPD file.

If you get that message, try another printer driver. gutenprint is the new name of gimp-print, so we can use that:

$ foomatic-ppdfile -d gutenprint-ijs.5.0 -p ‘Epson-Stylus_Color_600’ > /

Checking your ghostscript works

Debian ships various ghostscript interpreters. The question is which is
the right one for you? Most printer drivers will need either the Gimp-Print
driver but a lot of the HP printers will need the ijs driver. The trick
is to look at the PPD file. For example, my file has the following lines:

*FoomaticRIPCommandLine: “gs -q -dPARANOIDSAFER -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -sDE&&

VICE=stp %A%Z -sOutputFile=- -”

The important thing is unfortunately line-wrapped but it is trying to say -sDEVI
CE=stp. This is your output device and may or may not be supported by your
version of ghostscript. Grep for it with the command.

gonzo$ gs -h | grep stp
   uniprint xes cups ijs omni stp nullpage

You can see that we grepped for stp and there is a string showing
stp. If your ghostscript doesn’t show the right driver for you, try one of
the other ghostscripts (gs, gs-aladdin, gs-esp). Also be careful as gs is
an alternative and you might have the wrong one pointing in the alternatives
file. To check you can do the following:

gonzo$ gs -h | head -2
ESP Ghostscript 7.05.6 (2003-02-05)
Copyright (C) 2002 artofcode LLC, Benicia, CA.  All rights reserved.
gonzo$ ls -l /usr/bin/gs
lrwxr-xr-x    1 root    root        &nb
sp; 20 May  2  2002 /usr/bin/gs -> /etc/alternatives/gs
gonzo$ ls -l /etc/alternatives/gs
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root    root        &nb
sp; 15 Aug  9 15:16 /etc/alternatives/gs -> /usr/bin/gs-esp

Installing and customizing the PPD

It doesn’t really matter where you put your PPD file. You just specify it
in the printcap so the foomatic-rip file can find it. I put mine in
/etc/lprng but it is really up to you where to put it.

I also needed to adjust my PPD. Like most of the world, I do not have
Letter sized paper but A4. The PPD uses the default of Letter and making
sure you remember to type “-Z PagerSize=A4” every time you print gets old

Fortunately it is easy to fix it. Find the two lines that start with
*DefaultPageSize: and *DefaultPageRegion: and change them both from Letter
to A4. I’m sure someone who understands Postscript (I don’t) can explain
why you need to change both but the printing complains if you only change one.

Also remember to change the permissions so the printer filter program can
read the file. I had it setup originally so it couldn’t and then wondered
why my filters thought they had a “Raw” printer.

Change or create printcap file

The printcap file will need to be created or changed so that it uses the
input filter (if= clause) of foomatic-rip. In turn the filter has to be
told it is run from LPRng and the location of the PPD file. The rest of
the information is the usual thing you would see for a remote printer.

epson600|Epson Stylus Color 600:
    :[email protected]:
    :filter_options= –lprng $Z /etc/lprng/Epson-Stylus_Color_600-gute


Foomatic has a special flag that spits out all the other flags you can use.
It’s a good test to see if everything is working ok. The command is just

gonzo$ echo x | lpr -Z docs

The file you try to print is irrelevant, just make sure it exists. You
should then get a few pages of documents showing all the flags you can use
to change the printing. The -Z docs flag means to print the documentation
of the driver rather than the file itself. The foomatic documentation talks
about using the demo file of /proc/cpuinfo but I get “nothing to print”

If you do not get some document with the title “Documentation for (printer
name) (printer driver)” then check the permissions of the PPD file and
also the printcap file. If all else fails, edit the file
/etc/foomatic/filter.conf and change the relevant line to filter: 1.
The debug will then be found in /tmp/foomatic-rip.log. Do not keep the
debugging on all the time as it is a security risk.

Central print servers and multiple queues

In another installation I had a HP OfficeJet 155 which was used by several
pc Linux clients. I wanted several “printers” depending if the user wanted
draft or colour. The -Z flags seemed a little too hard.

The idea is to have multiple printers on the central print server which then
bounces to a real print queue which spools off the jobs. Do not have all
the “printers” going directly to the real printer as it generally handles
contention badly.

The central printcap just adjusts what extra -Z options are appended and
then bounces the job to the real print queue which spools all jobs through
the filter and onto the printer.

    :[email protected]







hpoj155| HP OfficeJet D155xi remote printer
    :filter_options= –lprng $Z /etc/foomatic/lpd/HP-OfficeJ

The print queues are now setup on the main server. Next is to make it
easier on the client pcs by setting up the queues and the aliases.
I called my queues hpoj155* so that if another printer comes along. It makes
big and confusing printer names so I created two lots of printer queues on
the clients. One with the printer name and one without. The first name
in the printcap is the one that is used by default.

        :client:lp=hpoj155%[email protected]:force_loc
[email protected]

        :client:lp=%[email protected]:[email protected]

That way users can just print to -P colourduplex and it understands that
it should go to the hpoj155 queue and that the printout is in colour and
duplex mode. The user doesn’t need to know what magic -Z flags are
required for this to happen either. They are different for different
printer types.