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Old 09-12-2010, 02:19 AM   #1
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Default Setting up a server

Hi,

I am trying to set up a server in my house using a fairly old PC (2.4Ghz AMD Athlon XP processor, 1.75gb RAM, 200gb HDD) and I would like some advice with how to get it to do what I would like it to do.

Ideally the server would be used primarily for my family to back up their important files to, as well as being able to stream media from. In order to to keep individuals peoples files safe though, I would like a logon system so that I can controll what people have access to. The main PCs on the network (each of my family member's private PCs boot from their hard drive, and at the moment I cannot change that, although I might be able to when the upgrade to win 7)

Also, I would like to be able to boot some computers from the network, although im not sure what this requires, as I would like it boot PCs without a HDD in from it, but I think this requires cloning the computer then getting it to boot from that image. I would be greatful if someone could talk me though this.

Finnally, Does anyone have any tips on which OS to use? As a student I have access to Windows Server 2008 R2 for free, so this is an option. I have also been looking at ubuntu server edition, and im torn between the two. What are the difference between the two, and the benifits of each one in tearms of what I want to do.

Thanx

Aaron
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Old 09-14-2010, 05:36 PM   #2
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Default Re: Setting up a server

Don't scoff at the price, and go pick up a copy of Windows Home Server for $99. It's worth every penny, and will do everything you're asking the system to do here, in addition to providing RDP access, web access to your files, and plugins for more features. I even have Apache running on mine so that I can run my own web services, along with WebcamXP for security monitoring. It's a robust little OS and will run great on your hardware.

I also have a 2008 R2 box and it's great for the enterprise level stuff, but WHS can do out of the box what would take you hours of setup in 2008 R2.
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Old 09-15-2010, 10:30 AM   #3
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Default Re: Setting up a server

I'd have to agree on this one with og. He's right on.
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Old 09-15-2010, 12:39 PM   #4
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Default Re: Setting up a server

Personally, I would chose linux over windows any day, providing Linux could do what I want it to do. So if you're up for a project, and have lots of spare time to setup every aspect of what you're trying to achieve, then i'd say to you Ubuntu Server or CentOS (which has a longer release support, 3yrs if i remember accurately). If you're looking for something that won't be as much troublesome then Windows will be your safest route.

Good Luck. Cheers
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Old 09-15-2010, 07:41 PM   #5
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Default Re: Setting up a server

I'd choose Linux over Windows for this any day as well - but then again, I'm used to setting these sorts of systems up, running them and fixing problems with them without thinking about starting X.

If you want a hassle free ride then Windows is the way forward without a doubt. If you're after the most solid, efficient, reliable and configurable option out there then Linux wins hands down - but you'll most likely need to invest many hours in learning how it all works and how to fix it if it breaks.
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Old 09-16-2010, 04:46 PM   #6
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Default Re: Setting up a server

I love people that sing Linux's praises to high heaven but don't even look at Windows.

The fact of the matter is that Windows is more stable today than it has ever been, and in most cases now, can rival the security and stability of Linux setups. This is practical and hands on experience talking too.

My WHS and Win Server 2k8 R2 boxes at home have been up for 90+ days without a single hiccup, and I built them out of desktop parts.

Devil's advocate here, Linux is a compelling third party purpose built system. My reasoning for this is my experience with Mandriva and the ZoneMinder app for security, and more loosely since it's a BSD product, pfsense.

But people who flat out deny Windows because it's Windows are missing out on a great deal of software that can do a lot of things these days.

I'm not trying to sway you either way, I stated my opinion on the fact, and there are some nice Linux solutions out there as well, but as stated, setup can be a hassle. You ultimately have to pick what will work for you, and go with it. If you like to tinker, Linux is definitely a good choice. If you want to just set it up and forget about it, Windows is great for that. Solid, reliable, and configurable is not just a linux trait any longer. Your OS is only going to be as strong as the system you build it on.
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Old 09-16-2010, 07:46 PM   #7
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Default Re: Setting up a server

Quote:
My WHS and Win Server 2k8 R2 boxes at home have been up for 90+ days without a single hiccup, and I built them out of desktop parts.
I've had Linux / Unix boxes up YEARS without a single hiccup. If I felt the need to reboot I would've done, but they stayed updated, solid and reliable without ever needing to reach for the reset button. 90 days is actually a rather short amount of uptime.

I have looked at Windows and I've used it as well. And yes, for what it does it's good - it gets you up and running in next to no time and provides a very friendly way to configure things and get started with an interface that everyone's used to. And for most people that's all they need.

But Linux does offer plenty of pluses. Efficiency is a key one, and while it's often scoffed at these days as "not worth looking at" we're increasingly seeing low powered, energy saving boxes being used where you really want as little wastage as possible. I've had full, working Samba / FTP / SFTP / CUPS servers up and running in <50MB of RAM using Linux - and using well under a GB of hard drive space. Many have reduced those figures further - I had no need so never did, but try getting anywhere near that on a Windows system performing the equivalent tasks. Yes, you get a nice GUI with Windows, but that's not something you *need* to run a server - as someone who's comfortable working with a shell alone, I just find it a complete waste of resources.

Windows is getting better on the reliability front these days, but especially under heavy load with limited resources it can really get itself in a pickle and need a restart. I've never, ever encountered this on Unix or Linux; at the worst a kill -9 was needed, but never a complete restart of the machine.

Quote:
But people who flat out deny Windows because it's Windows are missing out on a great deal of software that can do a lot of things these days.
I'd beg to differ on this one - in fact I'd say if anything, on the server front, it's the other way around. Firefly and CUPS are the two examples that spring to mind, CUPS in particular is a hugely extensive print server which beats anything I've seen on the Windows front hands down.

Configurable? Well both Windows and Linux are configurable, they've just got different ways of doing it. I prefer the standard properties file approach where everything is just documented in the same place rather than having to go through endless windows trying to find the 1 damn option I need. But I guess that boils down to personal preference.

The other major plus to Linux is security. It's sandboxed model is just inherently, well better than the classic Windows "let's run everything as admin!" It's designed from the ground up to give much finer grained access than Windows, and its applications were designed from day 1 to run without superuser privileges (again, unlike Windows.) I'm not saying Windows is insecure, the security on its servers these days is actually pretty good - but sorry, it's just never going to be as good as a solid, built from the ground up sandboxed system.

I'm not trying to say don't use Windows, heck I'm using it right now and it's working fine and doing what I need it to! But there are still a number of compelling reasons for running Linux on a server over Windows, especially if you're comfortable working with the shell and / or are tight on resources.
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Old 09-17-2010, 09:51 AM   #8
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Default Re: Setting up a server

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Originally Posted by berry120 View Post
I've had Linux / Unix boxes up YEARS without a single hiccup.
I've had windows boxes up years too...
of course the problem there is that when you've had a windows box up for years what it actually means is that it's not been patched for years.

the same is kind of true of Linux. if you've had a machine up for years it does infer that the kernel hasn't been updated.

Quote:
But Linux does offer plenty of pluses. Efficiency is a key one, and while it's often scoffed at these days as "not worth looking at" we're increasingly seeing low powered, energy saving boxes being used where you really want as little wastage as possible.
indeed I've posted in the social lounge about a machine i've got, it's actually a hard disk recorder for TV, it's ultra low power (about 9 watts), but because it's built on linux it's somehow turned into a file server and a web server and all kinds of other things, I suppose it's because I can do these things...

but yes, I'd offer a challenge to anyone out there to get a decent and secure version of windows running on a machine with only a 200MHz processor whilst server and print services...


Quote:
I'd beg to differ on this one - in fact I'd say if anything, on the server front, it's the other way around. Firefly and CUPS are the two examples that spring to mind, CUPS in particular is a hugely extensive print server which beats anything I've seen on the Windows front hands down.
I don't think that's the point that he was talking about.
if you flat out deny that windows should be used for anything the it's inevitable that you do miss out on a lot of software,
the same is true in reverse, if you never even see linux, then you never even see the software offerings...

what i would say is this...
in SOME places the software offerings on windows are better than linux, in SOME places the opposite is true.

Other times there is pretty much nothing between them in terms of functionality or security, or resource use, it's just a matter of preference.
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Old 09-17-2010, 10:35 AM   #9
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Default Re: Setting up a server

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if you've had a machine up for years it does infer that the kernel hasn't been updated.
Couple of things on this - firstly the current 2.6 revision of the kernel is as solid as a rock. The updates are generally just patches to drivers that may or may not be needed - something a production system can easily live without. This is in contrast to the vast majority of Windows updates which have to restart to fix security issues, some of which are pretty major. Yes, there are security updates to Linux systems as well but they're pretty much all outside the core kernel these days - and thus such systems don't need a reboot before they're secure.

Having said that, there's also ksplice which can apply patches to the kernel in memory (without a reboot) - so if any critical patches do come along, they can still be applied without bringing the box down.

Quote:
if you flat out deny that windows should be used for anything the it's inevitable that you do miss out on a lot of software,
the same is true in reverse, if you never even see linux, then you never even see the software offerings...
Completely - I just thought we were talking in the context of pure server applications where I'd argue Linux actually has the edge these days (especially if we're talking in terms of free open source implementations.) Windows wins hands down in a lot of other categories, I'm not arguing on that one.

Quote:
Other times there is pretty much nothing between them in terms of functionality or security, or resource use, it's just a matter of preference.
Again, completely agree - there's times when it just comes down to what you're most comfortable working with, and that may well be the case here.

What I've been trying to point out here is that while Windows works well as a server for a lot of things these days (and yes for most people it'd do the job fine) there's still many reasons and plenty of situations where Linux is the preferable, or sometimes even the only sensible option. The other thing to consider is what you'd learn by setting up a Linux box. Yes some just want to get up and running ASAP but if you're after a career in this industry (as many people on here seem to be) then learning how to use a shell effectively and learning how to set up apache, CUPS, samba etc. on Linux stably and properly is a big plus.
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Old 09-17-2010, 02:37 PM   #10
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Default Re: Setting up a server

If you guys are going to nitpick the finer points of what I said, be my guest. Years of operational time in a private residence without any sort of substantial backup power system other than a UPS, sometimes years isn't possible.

Linux users will never change. They're almost like Apple users, one step down from technical evangelism with an ego to match. Only they would take the meaning behind my words to paint them in a negative light.

Quote:
Originally Posted by root
but yes, I'd offer a challenge to anyone out there to get a decent and secure version of windows running on a machine with only a 200MHz processor whilst server and print services...
My father. Windows NT on a Pentium Pro 200. He uses it for everything I use my 2k8 box for. I just choose to play with the latest OS because I can.

My point stands. You cannot compare Windows to Linux like you could when Linux was getting its start. Linux is now just as much of a detriment to security and stability as Windows is. A report issued recently shows that they both have security pitfalls, so saying one is better than the other is foolish and in some cases, dangerous to your client(s). Linux was created out of a perceived necessity and grew into its own product. I love some of the applications that it can be used in, but I distrust anyone who says it is still better than Windows. In some cases, absolutely, but not on all the fronts people are still living in the past for.
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