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I am as noob as they come. Basically, I've got a free server available and am wanting to experiment with Linux (have to learn some day). So I have a few questions:
1. The hardware is a Dell PowerEdge 2600. Will there be any problems getting drivers for this system?
2. What flavor of Linux is the most noob friendly or are they all the same in the end? My experience with Linux is taking a class on bourne shell scripting for a few weeks so I know a few CLI commands.
3. My goal is to have the server operate as a web server with Apache, MySQL and PHP. Obviously I don't know anything about Linux security so I'll probably have to be directed to info and/or good server hardening companies.
Distribution: The ones that come in magazines and books.
Welcome to LQ,
The Kernel is always being updated with drivers for certain hardware so it should be availabe, but there's no guarantee. One sure fire way to find out is to go to the manufacturer's website and find out if they have Linux drivers X piece of hardware. IT doesn't hurt to have a back up. I have Suse 10.0 as my first distro and it was about as user friendly as you can get. If you want a server distro, I hear Redhat LInux is pretty good. Not sure about it being user friendly, though. Fedora and Mepsis are also pretty user friendly I hear. The best thing to do, I think, is get all of the ones you want to try out and give it a go. Grub (bootloader) does a good job of recognizing all OS's on the drive and you can load whichever one you want (after they are all installed of course). Alternately, just get a live CD and test it out that way.
I have set up home servers, web, file, database, firewall/router with slackware without much trouble at all. It includes all the necessary servers and if your prepared to read a few man pages, /usr/doc/program files you will be able to set them up quickly.
I am however switching to debian at the moment because of its free software policy.
I think you will like a Debian based distro for its excellent package manager. Ubunutu has a web-server install option which auto-installs apache, mysql, and php automatically, and claims to produce a secure system. Ubunutu is also very user-friendly, and well documented with an active community.
This is the distro I use and recommend, Why because it works right out of the box. No need to configure Everything, everything just works. It also comes as a 1 CD install that is a live CD that you can install later if you wish.
I've used a lot of distros over the years, and two really stand out - Fedora Core and Debian. Debian is nice because everything works, and the files are in standard linux locations. Fedora Core 5 is excellent, and up until Debian Etch got stable enough for everyday use, FC5 was the best out there. I'm about ready to dump my last SuSE system, as SuSE 10.1 isn't very much like linux, which is the whole point of linux - to be like linux. Mandriva has always been pretty good, but a little too easy. Slackware is very stable, but the documentation comes carved in clay writing tablets. Gentoo is a complicated distro, but it's cool. You need to read a lot of docs to install gentoo. I would say a good balance between low complexity, linux standardization, useful tools, easy install, flexibility, and power is Debian Etch. Right now that has got to be the best distro. It's the best distro I have used to date. It's fast, powerful, lean, and useful, with tons of packages, and the most documentation of any distro.