Well, after over a month of working painfully through every possible error in the book, long after any sane soul would have kept trying, I have finally set up the Linux server. While it still has a couple things left to be done on it, the server is successfully up and running.
Here I outline the basics of what went on... If you're already getting the hint that I was having problems, you can move to the bottom of the page and save yourself a little rant
Step One. Pick a distro. Easy enough. I wanted a nice, secure, distribution without a lot of fat. Yet, I needed to be able to install it. That shoots out Debian, so I decided on Slackware. Haha... I'm the butt of that joke. Slackware wouldn't install. Damn. Ok, onto Mandrake - I was in a hurry. Wasn't going to do Red Hat, and SuSE only offers via FTP install, and not even their latest version.
Madndrake was great. It recognized my hardware and installed properly. Network connection was good, too. Then things started disappearing on me. Yes, *disappearing*. Namely my browsers. You'd log in, and they were just *not there*. Seriously. Ok, something got messed up. Reinstall Mandrake and try again. Same thing - this time immediately. Bah, screw it.
Fortunately, I get some help to my rescue. The kind soul spends the next couple weeks helping me install (initially) Debian. When we realized that my hardware was too complicated to make Debian a real possibility, I put the Slack CD back in, and loaded "raid.s" as my kernel. Cha ching. We were in business.
The next 3 weeks were spent trying to get a good kernel recompile that worked. Since the kernel I was using only supported one processor, and one GB of RAM, this needed to happen. Initially we thought that my SCSI controller driver wasn't built-in. Later we found out that it was (a couple weeks later). Recompile, ah... new kernel. Wait... still only one processor. A couple compiles later, and with the help of an IRC user casually mentioning to enable *4* processors, and I had my answer there. (Xeons are multi-threaded... remember this if you ever get one).
Then we move to the software! Ouch. Apache compile went fine. PHP compile went fine. MySQL compile went fine. I got everything working, and I thought I was in business. Haha.. right. Not in this game. Linux was in to make sure that I knew what I was getting myself into, and it wasn't about to just let me have it that easy.
I needed GD support. Fair enough. I'll just recompile PHP with GD. 20 compiles or so later (really - 20 or so), and after going through apachetoolbox (which didn't once compile the software completely), I finally got PHP compiled with GD support.
Onto cron. Ah, bloody hell. Forget it. You guys get the idea. I couldn't even really put into here all little (and big) problems I had along the way before finally getting everything to work.
*sigh* These are the reasons why people have a hard time switching to Linux. I know a lot more now after all this is done, and I can do many things that I wasn't able to do before hand... but was it really worth it? I suppose only time will tell that, but most people would have given up long before now. The only reason I really stuck through it was because I needed to decide whether I was going to go to Linux, or pay for Server 2003. Take your pick. Easy enough for me, but it was no easy ride, to say the least. I really do like Linux, but I think there really needs to be a couple improvements made before it's ready for the desktop market as a whole (read: ignorant computer users). RPM's are nice for some distributions, but I don't think that's the kill shot.
I think one of my goals in my stay with Linux is going to be to create a command line tool that makes *every* software installation from source/compile as simple as possible. It's not hard now, as long as you know exactly what you need - and then when you have to compile with options, you need to know where dependencies are, etc., etc., etc.
Anyway, now that all that's done, I only a little bit remaining. Can somebody tell me how to configure my box so that Apache and MySQL load on boot?