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Old 09-12-2010, 01:19 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, 04:36 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, 09:30 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, 11:39 AM   #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, 06:41 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, 03:46 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, 06:46 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.

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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, 08:51 AM   #8
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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, 09:35 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.

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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, 01:37 PM   #10
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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:
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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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Old 09-17-2010, 08:03 PM   #11
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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.
Woah there buddy. Have another read of my posts and you'll see I clearly state Windows is a viable option. I'm just pointing out the plus sides to Linux, plus sides which often go unnoticed by many. You want to use Windows then be my guest, I'm certainly not one of the "Linux is 1337 and everyone should use it for everything" crowd. I'm one of the "use the best tool for the job" crowd, and as such I'm pointing out why Windows isn't always the best tool for the job.

If you think it is, then sorry but I'm afraid you fall squarely into the category that you point at the Linux crowd (and the Mac one - where did they come into it?!) Serious question, have you ever used Linux for any serious server work? I.e. not just casual home use. My work often involves setting up various servers and hammering them to high heaven - I use Linux as a base OS because from experience I simply find it the best tool for the job. I'm no fanboy, if Windows held up better I'd be using that without a doubt.

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My father. Windows NT on a Pentium Pro 200.
That's all well and good if you're using it in a trusted, low traffic environment, but that's an awfully old OS now. Exposing it to an untrusted environment would be silly, and would you really be happy hammering that hardware with an old version of NT on there?! The point I was making is I can run some of the latest Linux distros, fully patched and secure, just tweaked a little on stupidly low end hardware, and it holds up against some serious hammering. Even the flashy Beryl desktop effects can run perfectly well with KDE on machines that XP can sometimes struggle on...

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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).
Can you provide a link to this report? I'd be interested to read it. Saying that they "both have security pitfalls" is a bit of a vague statement in itself - Windows 7 and Windows 95 both have security pitfalls, but would you feel equally safe using them both online?!

Quote:
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.
Linux is now better than it was when it started, exponentially better on all counts - believe me trying to install Mandrake or Redhat back in the day was a flippin nightmare, and that was just the installer! And geez, just as much of a detriment to security and stability as Windows - what makes you say that?! It'd be nice to have some examples to back these points up, or at least show where you're coming from. People using Windows still gladly accept they have to log in as an account with admin rights whenever they want to do anything, or hit the "allow" button on a UAC prompt constantly whenever it pops up because "that's just what you do." Besides, UAC is pretty fatally flawed anyway. Compare that to Linux's security model where, with any intelligence you NEVER log in as root and only ever su / sudo to root level access briefly when a particular application requires it (which, unlike Windows, it rarely does.) If you want me to explain more about why it's better, then I gladly will... but in short it was designed from the ground up as a much more fine grained access system with much less potential for rogue processes to trash any important files.

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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.
I'm not sure what you mean by living in the past - Linux has become much more of a contender in recent years, not less. You seem to be shouting it down as much as you can for server work which IMO is one of its biggest strengths. If you hate it for server work, what would you say it's better for? I distrust anyone who says any OS is flat out better than any other for any possible task. Despite Ubuntu getting there, Windows is still more user friendly, has better support and is quicker to set up in the vast majority of cases. For some work I'd say Solaris was far better than Linux - in fact if it had better support then I'd use it over Linux pretty much hands down!

If you want to shout Linux down for a particular reason and give evidence of why you're shouting it down, same with any OS, then please back up these reasons with examples. I've stated hard reasons why I don't rush to Windows for server work and generally steer clear of it, all of these backed up by using Windows and finding these problems or drawbacks first hand when directly comparing to a Linux machine. If you can produce similar examples and links then please, please do - I always enjoy a good debate where people are quoting proper articles and citing real use cases, I think both sides can learn a lot from that. At present though I'm just hearing lots of unsubstantiated, vague points with no proper backing - not really a lot of good to anyone.
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Old 09-18-2010, 01:18 AM   #12
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Default Re: Setting up a server

Thanx for the replied. I would try out WHS but I really cant afford it (im 15) and even if I could I dont really want to spend that money on an experimental project like this. Thanx Anyway. Ill probably go for ubuntu server edition and see what I can do with that.

Thanx again.

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Old 09-20-2010, 10:03 AM   #13
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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.
ok, uptime means nothing really anyway... it's the reason for restart!

you can't fend against power outage but if you have to restart all the time your service is unavailable.

you'll never get five nines of uptime if you're restarting every second tuesday of the month.

for some people I guess like yourself, running a server at home is just so you can serve things, in which case windows home server is great, others might think that if they've got a box on taking up all that juice they may as well turn it into a learning environment too... (incidentally they are the ones who will be beating you to a job when it comes down to who's got experience with a server OS).

[quotet]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]
that's not what I was trying to do...

Quote:
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.
there are hundreds, (if not thousands) of security holes and bugs in windows NT4, -that will never be fixed as it's out of support...
could you honestly recommend using this as a server OS? I couldn't.

incidentally, I'm also playing with the latest OS on my 200MHz machine that consumes that whopping 9 watts of power.

and that's the point...
when you're a real business with real servers inside real data centres running real infrastructure.
I.e you NEED good uptime, you NEED efficiency (because you pay PER WATT for power) then you start looking at Linux.

for a home server windows home server is cool... but it's not going to get you anything past just having a home server.
for a chance to get some good as near to real world experience as you can get, Linux is a good choice.

Quote:
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.
how is it not better than windows? and what are you arguing? are you saying that they are actually the same? or that windows is better?
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Old 09-21-2010, 11:14 AM   #14
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Let me turn off the nitro here, and try this again without letting it get out of hand.

The issue I have is that people still refer to old standbys about Linux's stability compared to Windows.

I don't want to get into an Intel vs AMD, Chevy vs Ford thing. I may have already done it, but I didn't really want to - just trying to say that people need to expand a little once and a while and that living on old assumptions sucks.

Remember when everyone thought nothing would come of AMD, and then they did something called Athlon? Or when Intel shed the P4 and brought out Conroe?

Things change, software is no different, especially operating systems.

As a piece of software that sees millions of PCs versus the relatively small (in contrast) number of PCs that Linux touches, more folks are quick to judge the Microsoft side of things.

Call me a brown noser, but I attribute my career to Microsoft's legacy. Regardless of which OS I use, they're the reason I'm doing what I do today. I have seen Windows servers with uptimes rivaling those of Linux systems, with just as much security as those Linux boxes when set up correctly.

The bottom line is that software is coded by humans, and until there's a programmer with a perfect record out there, all software written will have bugs, holes, patches, reboots, downtime, and irritations.

But I still have a major issue when someone says Windows isn't stable when I have seen, and can prove, otherwise.

Maybe I'm just biased since I was one of the few people to get Windows ME to be stable for long periods of time, when others couldn't. I have proof too: http://www.amdarchive.com/remote/cognisurf_connect.gif

Just open minds a little bit more. It sucks when people are close minded.

That's all I was really trying to say.
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Old 09-24-2010, 04:38 AM   #15
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I'll slip in here cause i'm looking to do the same thing. I've got a box i'm going to stick in the garage. It's sole purpose being to serve my laptop and main rig with browsing and file storing facilities; I want to browse the internet via the server, not directly on my other machines. I'm gonna stick a 300mb/s PCI wireless card in the box to connect to the router. Just like the OP I want full control.

I was looking at Ubuntu Home Server to do all this but wanted to know if it will serve my Windows machines?
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Old 09-25-2010, 05:42 PM   #16
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By browsing the internet via the server, do you mean you want to set up a proxy server on the machine in the garage and route all traffic through there?

Ubuntu would be fine. Samba will manage the file side of things to windows no problem, and I'd set up Squid as a proxy (this just works over HTTP so is essentially OS agnostic.)
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Old 09-26-2010, 04:36 AM   #17
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By browsing the internet via the server, do you mean you want to set up a proxy server on the machine in the garage and route all traffic through there?
Yea spot on. The idea is that the server will have the necessary protection and I can ditch the AV software on my dinosaur laptop. Thats what i'm thinking anyway.

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Ubuntu would be fine. Samba will manage the file side of things to windows no problem, and I'd set up Squid as a proxy (this just works over HTTP so is essentially OS agnostic.)
Excellent. I'll look into this. Will a standard PCI Wi-Fi 300 mb/s card be ok in the server or should I hard wire it to my router?
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Old 09-27-2010, 04:06 AM   #18
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Excellent. I'll look into this. Will a standard PCI Wi-Fi 300 mb/s card be ok in the server or should I hard wire it to my router?
A standard wi-fi card will probably be fine, but check the driver support first. Personally I'd hard wire it in if you can - might be a hassle to set up but just makes it more reliable in the long run.
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Old 10-05-2010, 08:08 PM   #19
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Default Re: Setting up a server

I myself used FreeNAS, a fairly new free OS for Home Servers, and its worked extremely well. The setup itself was fairly bland and a little unintuative, but within 20 minutes it was recognized on all Network computers; it also, as I've done, allows you to set up an Itunes databas, playable directly from Itunes, and a Bittorrent download manager for downloading quickly and effficiently straight to the server.
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Old 10-06-2010, 04:36 AM   #20
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FreeNAS is good for what it does (I actually found the setup ridiculously easy when I did it!) and I'm sure it's been out for years - I last looked at it around 2 years ago and it was going strong then. If you're looking for a quick and easy solution that just serves files / acts as an DAAP client then great, but it's quite limited in its extensibility. If you subsequently decide you want your box to act as a mythtv backend for instance, you're stuffed.
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