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Old 10-01-2009, 11:10 AM   #1
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Decisions, decisions What Linux Server to use?

I'm fairly new to Linux and would like to set up a linux server at home. Is there one (Red Hat, FreeBSD, etc.) which is easier, then another, to set-up and attach Windows based clients to?
Old 10-01-2009, 11:21 AM   #2
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That may depend on what services you want from that server, as well as whether you want software raid, hardware raid or no raid.

The obvious choice for most servers is Centos (that is a free duplicate of Red Hat). Don't get Red Hat itself unless you think you need Red Hat support and plan to pay for it. I've seen a bunch of questions recently from people who got free trial versions of Red Hat. Simply using Centos from the start is far easier and better than a free trial version of Red Hat.

For a non demanding enough home server (no raid, few services, etc.) you may find it easier to just install an easy workstation version of Linux, such as Mepis or Kubuntu and then just add the desired services. There isn't a big enough difference between workstation and server in Linux to justify going with a less beginner friendly distribution, if you just want a few simple services.

I expect you are getting DNS, DHCP and other basic home network services from a router and don't need Linux to provide those.

The pre built Linux kernels included in various distributions might be tuned for workstation vs. server, but you probably don't need to pay much attention to that detail.
With an old single core CPU, a server tuned kernel is noticeably non responsive when used as a workstation, while a workstation tuned kernel is less efficient when used as a heavily loaded server.
With a decent amount of ram plus a CPU with two or more cores, the server vs. workstation tuning of the kernel makes less difference. I might have misunderstood, but I think the Ubuntu "server" version just means the kernel is tuned for server. The install process is still oriented toward workstation.

With a Mepis workstation, it is very easy to join a Windows workgroup and act as a fileserver (via Samba). I expect some other services for Windows computers from Mepis are also easy, but I haven't tried them.

Acting as a server in a Windows domain rather than a Windows workgroup is a little trickier. For domain rather than workgroup and for services more difficult than Samba, more people use Centos, so if you choose Centos, more people will know how to answer your questions. That may quickly pay back the downside that Centos is a much larger download and a slower and slightly more confusing install process.

The Centos install process makes it very easy to setup software raid or hardware raid during the install. It recognizes a wide variety of hardware raid and fake raid controllers.

The Mepis installer does not recognize some of the hardware raid controllers that the Centos installer recognizes. The Mepis installer ignores the various fake raid controllers I've tried (treats the drives as independent). I'm not sure how to setup software raid from the Mepis installer, while the Centos installer makes it obvious. So for a server needing raid, I would choose Centos over Mepis (or other similar workstation oriented distributions).

Any Linux distribution is still Linux. So you can do pretty much the same things with any of them. A lot of this distribution choice only matters to a beginner. An expert wouldn't care which features the installer makes easy vs. which you need to add later by yourself.

Last edited by johnsfine; 10-01-2009 at 12:11 PM.
Old 10-01-2009, 11:46 AM   #3
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For a beginner Ubuntu is quite nice. typically a Linux server does not use a GUI. You should start with a GUI. Try and do as much as possible through the terminal, but have a GUI. which ever one you pick, make sure it has a good forum and decent developer support (typically free online)

For connecting windows clients for file sharing use SAMBA. it's an application that replicates the windows workgroups and domains for file sharing.

The challenge I always had was finding the right applications to use for different things. Good luck and have fun
Old 10-01-2009, 06:28 PM   #4
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If you decide to go Centos/RHEL, here's the Deployment / Admin guide
Old 10-05-2009, 10:38 PM   #5
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Thanks for the quick responses. They'll give me a good place to start.

I'd probably try Centos first since we just installed Red Hat v5 Server on one of our systems this morning. (It'll keep my head on the 'same page' and not having to remember to many different settings at the start.)

I've dabbled with Samba on one of our SGI boxes. I prefer using the GUI (obviously because its quicker), but I noticed configuration changes in the 'shell' seem to be a little more 'reliable'. (sometimes even though the GUI shows its good, the changes don't really 'take'. I end up re-doing them in teh console shell and then they work as expected.)
Old 10-05-2009, 10:41 PM   #6
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I may be a bit biased, but I think Debian is a great choice. Solid as a rock

also, GUI = SLOWER, in my opinion. learn the commands it pays off

Last edited by highclasshole; 10-05-2009 at 10:45 PM.
Old 10-06-2009, 09:36 AM   #7
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Debian and CentOS , FTW.
It really depends on where your comfortable at. Still you can try BSD.
Old 10-06-2009, 07:11 PM   #8
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If you've got RHEL at work, then yeah, until you really know your way around, Centos at home makes most sense.
As you say 'same page'; home will reinforce work & vice-versa.
Definitely learn the cli, you'll need it at work.
See my link above.


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