I have a question for my system administrator readers. And maybe the rest of you as well.

I run a web server on my laptop that hosts about 8 test sites. Nothing special: mostly test and development sites for various public sites, but from time to time I think, "shit, wouldn't it be nice if I could just give someone a link to this." My solution is generally to copy whatever it is that I'm working on up to the server that runs this website, and while that generally work just fine, it could be better.

So here's what I'm thinking:

I'd like to be able to hook my laptop up to the internet and be able to let people access (some) of the content running on this web server. I don't want it to be automatic, or open my entire machine to the world (though... I could secure it, I suppose.) The options I've considered.

  • I set up a VPN that I can connect to the public server (that hosts this website) from the laptop, and I have a virtual host (or set of virtual hosts) that proxy requests to the laptop. Wherever I am, it works. I'm not worried about the bandwidth or the strain on the server given the usage pattern I'm expecting.

    • Pros: Simple, Secure, works even if I'm on a weird local network. Potentially useful for other kinds of nifty hacking including tunneling all traffic through the VPN on insecure connections.
    • Cons: Way complex, and I'm not sure if it will work. I'll need to set up VPN software. And it's total overkill.
  • Some sort of scripted dynamic DNS solution, probably involving running my own DNS server.

    • Pros: less proxy madness. Pretty simple.
    • Cons: running a DNS server. Won't work on some (most) local networks.
  • There has to be some sort of alternate approach using a minimalist tunneling solution. There are a few of them, I think they're nifty, and it would probably be perfect. I'm just not sure what it is.

    ...and then half the night later, I finished deploying the VPN. I have to say that I'm really pleased with it:

  • It can (and has) replaced my ssh tunnels for sending email. That's pretty great.

  • The web server stuff works, though I don't have anything really up there yet. I feel like I need some sort of access restriction method, but I don't really like any of the options. HTTP Auth is annoying rather than protective, SSL is terribly imperfect and fussy, host based control isn't very tight.

  • I think I will be able to finally sacrifice a laptop to the "homeserver" because aside from dis/re-enabling the "sleep on laptop close" function. If needed it'll be dead simple to convert a sever laptop to a mobile laptop.