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Currently, I'm running Mandrake 10.1 Official and using MySQL and Apache on my PC to benchtest a web site I'm developing. Due to development issues (needing to test with IE, Flash development), I'm needing to move my development PC to Windows. However, I'll still need a separate server running Linux to use as a development web server running Apache, Perl, ModPerl, and MySQL.
The server would be headless after OS install and only be accessed via SSH and FTP, so no GUI will be installed.
What is the best distro for a web server? I've heard Debian and Slackware work great for this purpose.
Use whatever you feel most comfortable with, they all can be made to be more or less as efficient/secure/stable as each other, especially as you won't be installing X therefore not making any use of any of the distributions home grown GUI config tools
In this case you should use whatever matches your production servers. Although you can source compile anything you like, you need to match the versions of PHP and MySQL on your production system and preferably have identical compile-time and configuration options. Otherwise you'll end up wasting time with issues caused by different versions and different configurations. For example PHP 4 and PHP 5 are supposed to be compatible, but in practice they aren't entirely.
FreeBSD has got very good and fast TCP/IP. But i think OpenBSD will be better - I has got very good firewall - pf, apache (to install from package), ftp server, and it is very secure. You dont have to worry about security, everything is configured. I have never ran MySQL on this, but it can be ran.