Skip to main content

Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

The state of simple Linux fax server software

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:

  • It's old soft­­ware. Check the we­b­­page and look at the bro­ken links and an­­cient re­leas­es.

  • The win­­dows client sup­­port was pa­­thet­ic.

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:

  1. Now that there is a PyQt4/Win32 I may write a re­spond re­­place­­men­t.

  2. 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.

Greg / 2006-04-30 02:03:

I have been waiting for a simple fax server solution on linux for a long time. PLease, please, please do something about this,

Roberto Alsina / 2006-04-30 03:21:

Well, I have something almost cooked (mostly a webapp using cherrypy).

The bad news is mgetty+sendfax doesn't seem to support class1 faxes, which are the modern cheap ones.

But maybe something can be done, since efax supports class1 modems.

Here's how it looks now:

Aurélien Bompard / 2006-05-01 10:48:

Another possible solution : you setup a mail subdomain (like The client sends a mail with the PDF fax to, and the attached PDF gets converted and sent by a script.
You'll need something like PDFCreator on the Windows side (available on sourceforge) to easily convert documents to PDF (it creates a virtual printer, based on ghostscript).
And you'll need to control the mail server of your client.
But in the end, it should be pretty easy to maintain.

employment background check / 2011-12-27 23:32:

Well, the write-up is truly the freshest on this laudable topic. 

Contents © 2000-2024 Roberto Alsina