A customer asked me to implement for him a simple fax serving solution.
Here's what he wanted:
A central received fax repository.
A way to send, as simple as possible (the classic fax-printer scenario).
I vaguely remembered knowing that Linux could do that, so I said yes. Then I started trying to figure out how to do it.
The 500lb gorilla of linux fax software is of course Hylafax. And it's just about as pretty and cuddly as a 500lb gorilla, too!
Put it simply: waaaaaay too much software for the goal.
Hylafax is a very complex software package, and while it does have some tools to make management simple, it would probably have forced me to support this thing forever. And that's not mi idea of fun.
Not to mention that I couldn't find CentOS/RHEL4 packages (not too big a problem, but annoying).
Then I spent 10 hours trying to make it pick up the phone. And I started being annoyed.
So, I started looking for simpler stuff, and the second gorilla seems to be mgetty+sendfax.
The more I read about it, the more I liked it, and I finally implemented using it.
The good news:
It's really simple. I was receiving faxes in 5 minutes.
It was way less fidgety about modem setup than Hylafax.
The fax quality was very good (probably not their merit, but it was nice).
Now, the bad news:
How pathetic: ok, here is how you make it work:
Setup mgetty+sendfax enough that you can make it send from the CLI.
Setup samba enough that you can do a shared printer from the windows side.
The shared printer should print to printfax.pl (look at the germglish page).
On the windows side, start respond and then when you print to the fax, the fax server hooks to the client's port 5555, and respond show a huge popup asking for the number, recipient, and sender.
Explain to your client that where it says "name" he should put his email address. There is no way to save that address so it's not asked again.
After the fax is sent, the user gets an email (if he filled the form correctly) with the report.
The alternative notification mechanism is winpopup. Which isn't there in XP anymore anyway.
Amazingly, it does work fairly well, and the client is not terribly annoyed. I would be, though.
So, what can be done:
Now that there is a PyQt4/Win32 I may write a respond replacement.
Maybe printfax.pl can be extended/replaced to give report information to that respond replacement.
Sounds like a nice fun project... NOT! But it is a fairly simple, necessary one.
So I will probably do it. Or else, I may have to learn how to properly use HylaFax.