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I have decided that it would be a good learning experience to build a Linux computer from scratch. I am very familiar with programming, but have virtually no knowledge of hardware and have never built a computer before. My only Linux/Unix experience is telneting to my collegeís unix servers in order to turn in computer science homework.
I would like to build a small, affordable Linux machine that I could tinker with. Specifically, I would like to use it to run a webserver compatible with java servlets and .jspís. However, the server does not need to be able to support a tremendous load. It is just for my personal amusement.
So, I was hoping that the Linux community could give me some advice about how I should go about doing this. What components should I buy? What hardware do I need? Intel v. AMD? What is your favorite online vendor? What distro should I use? What webserver should I run? How do I set up a computer to run a webserver? What are your favorite online FAQs that I should look at?
www.accubyte.com sells well priced bare bones kits (at least they did about a year ago)
I'm partial to AMD because I think they're a better value.
If you live near a large university or hospital, you might consider looking over their surplus stores. Linux is very efficient, so you could buy an old surplus university computer and just put another hard drive in.
recently I've got my hands on a few PIII 500/128MB/10GB machines for very little money... I'm running SuSE 8.2 on a few of them, and it runs as quick as Win2K on a Celeron 1.2GHz/128MB/10GB machine I have.
Get your hands on an old machine or two, this way, you can set up a cheap, small network and play with TCP/IP and server stuff... Linux will run fine on a machine that would be sluggish with Windows.
As for distros, I use SuSE.. mainly because it was the first one that I had all positive experiences with. It also comes with the best config tool of the bunch (YaST2). Redhat 9 is also worth considering.
Apache/MySQL/PHP is the way to go for a webserver.
If you really want to get into the webserver thing, get 'Open Source Web Development with LAMP'
The Linux Documentation Project has the most comprehensive collection of docs/FAQs and HOWTOs on the web. Find it at http://www.tldp.org/docs.html
I personally would get a AMD. Duron's are nice and cheap are are pretty nice. If it is going to be a server make sure you get enough memory but still rely on a swap a little. Really any distro would work ok for a webserver as long as you install apach (maybe not lindows ) Also, to make your machine faster try to strip down all the packages and only install the things you need to have. Sounds like a fun project, have fun.
I did the exact same thing about two years ago. It was:
1) A great learning experience.
2) Not too difficult.
3) A lot of fun.
In my opinion, the most important thing is the motherboard/CPU combination. I am partial to AMD processors myself, since, in general, you get "more bang for the buck". (Its much easier to overclock an AMD, too... ;-D ) You can get a decent AMD Athlon XP for under $100 (or Ä100, depending on where you may be.) But, you need to find a decent motherboard for the CPU that you want. The Linux kernel doesn't seem to care (too much) about the CPU (ie. Intel vs. AMD), but the chipsets that the motherboards use may or may not be supported properly (or at all). I am partial to AMD processors myself, since, in general, you get "more bang for the buck". (Its much easier to overclock an AMD, too... ;-D )
Once you've decided on motherboard/processor, the rest is "Mickey Mouse", as an old Physics prof of mine once said. You will definitely need some kind of hard drive (eg. 80 GB), probably a 3.5" floppy drive and probably a CDROM drive. Don't forget about the CPU cooler!! Sometimes, the CPU comes with a cooler ("boxed"), sometimes not. Check first. Don't forget the case!!!!!!! When it comes to cases, trust me: a little bit of extra money now can REALLY save problems in the future.
One last thing: there's the RAM, too. Since the motherboard that you pick will have a specific type of RAM, I would stay away from boards which have RAMBUS RAM (normally Pentium IV's).
I'm impressed at how quickly the replys started pouring in! Thanks for all the advice! (But don't hesitate to add more). The tomshardware site seems particularly good - I just checked it out a minute ago.
some of the nforce2 motherboards have onboard video, e.g., the Epox 8RGA+. for $99 you get a GForce 4MX (which is definitely good enough for a server), onboard 6-channel audio, and onboard LAN -- not a bad deal. pair that up with a retail (i.e., comes with heatsink and fan) t-bred or barton for $50-100, depending on the speed you want, and you are well on your way to a nice system.
if you're in the US, imho newegg.com is the best online retailer for computer hardware.
Getting stuff cheap is pretty easy, but you have to be careful. Linux can be a little funny about some generic parts and, being new, you might have some trouble getting the correct drives running for it.
Also, when I did my first Linux machine, I was in the market for a new PC anyway since mine was almost 4 years old. I just bought a brand new kick-a$$ machine for my primary and used my old one for my Linux machine.
Many of your choices depend on your pocketbook.
Check on your hardware choices (sound, modem, drives, etc...) to be sure they are supported in Linux.
Another choice to fool with a Linux server is to pick up a Pentium or Pentium II for 100 bucks (more or less).
Click my "www" link below to check a "Pentium server".
Building your own from scratch is definately the most fun though.
Distribution: Red Hat, Fedora, Yellow Dog, Debian, FreeBSD, Embedix
If you're in US and want a *really* cheap box to play with, check out thrift stores and Salvation Army stores. Two days ago I picked up a PowerComputing PowerBase 200 (PowerMac compatible) for $10 (yes, TEN). With all of it's mighty 130 BogoMips and max. 160MB RAM it still is faster than some of the big, mean web servers of yesteryear. Just pop a Yellow Dog Linux on it and you're set.
They also had a Mac SE/30 that you could run NetBSD or Debian m68k on.