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Old 07-02-2010, 10:43 PM   #1
Deathkarr
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Linux Server Distro


Hi all, I was wonderring if you could give me some advice on what Distribution you found was good to start on for using Linux/BSD as a server. Also, if you know of any good how to's could you please list that to.

Thanks in advance
 
Old 07-02-2010, 11:32 PM   #2
frankbell
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It doesn't advertise itself as a "Server distro," but Slackware. I've used it for a personal file server and webserver and it always worked and never broke, though I managed to mess it up a few times . . . . Mistakes are also easy to fix with a text editor.

I no longer use it for a webserver (I'm on Godaddy now), but I still use it with Samba as my file server. Heck, it is also great for just plain personal computing.

The Slackware forum on this site is a great source for support, as is the newsgroup, alt.os.linux.slackware, and there's a lot on the web (just add "Slackware" to your search string).

I have found that, the more details I have provided, the more and better help I have gotten.
 
Old 07-02-2010, 11:48 PM   #3
browny_amiga
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I can recommend Debian, since it is so much fun installing stuff with aptitude and synaptic, just browse around in the repositories and find stuff to install and try out.
Debian is not spanking new (the stable release), but things usually work pretty stable and there are three distro levels to chose from:
stable (old but very reliable)
testing (less stable, but newer and about to become the next stable)
unstable (spanking new code, but not planed for production use, but to try out stuff or for a test server)

You could probably give also ubuntu server a whirl, I don't know how good that is. Ubuntu totally rules on the desktop, but as Debian is maybe not the easiest and wisest choice in terms of ease of use on the desktop (I use it though), Ubuntu might not be stable enough on the server.
I have had issues in the past with Ubuntu crashing more than I found it tolerable (being used to what Debian stable offers), especially when using the newest Ubuntu release. I always thought that Ubuntu lacks the release level differentiation (stable / testing) and that often when a release is out, it still beta, although nobody tells you this and you will have breakage of your productivity while you wait for the bugs to be fixed.

Depending on how important stability is for you that is. For me I always liked Debian / Ubuntu because it offers the easiest way to install software of them all and the largest choice of software.
I have to admit that I don't know that many other distros, I originally came from RedHat 9 to Debian and bakc then, dependency hell was just aweful. I heard that it had gotten better, but after having to fiddle around with the software channels of Fedora some year ago, I found that it is not up to the level I expect. For me, installing directly form repositories in the net nowadays, in the 21st century, is not an option, it is a must and a distro has to offer it out of the box, with no additional configuration required (read as in: no need to add other repositories in order to access all available software).

But I don't want to put down any other distros, understand me. I have a preference. And choice is what Linux and BSD is all about, everybody can use what they want.
So from what I gather your level is and need, I would recommend to you taking a 9.10 ubuntu server.
 
Old 07-03-2010, 12:58 AM   #4
Deathkarr
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Thanks for replying guys. I have used Ubuntu server a little bit before and it's all good apart from the fact that there's no gui and is run all from the command line. I prefer to use the gui because i often use the gedit command. Do you know if the server distribution now includes a gui.

I also ask for the how to's is because when i search for them i find some for DHCP as an example and it tells me to do this this and this and doesn't explain why. Then, why i go to start it it fails and it becomes hard for me to find out what's wrong cause i don't understand why you need this or that

Last edited by Deathkarr; 07-03-2010 at 01:08 AM.
 
Old 07-03-2010, 04:39 AM   #5
browny_amiga
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Hi

I totally understand your point. I also use GUIs when adminstering servers, it is much nicer on the eyes and if I need to use the CLI, I just open one.
You can just install the GUI easily. You either use Gnome or KDE, whatever your preference is. Mine is KDE.

here are metapackages for it:

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MetaPackages

so each one of these installs a ton of stuff.

sudo aptitude install gnome-desktop-environment
or
sudo aptitude install kde

(or both, if you like, I always use programs from KDE and Gnome, so I do install both and the cool thing is: you dont need to switch over just to use one program, so you can use synaptic in kde or amarok music player in gnome)

It will use more space on the disk, but if you are concerned about performance (as many seem to be that make a server install without the gui (I doubt if that is proper in the philosophy of Ubuntu, where userfriendlyness is top priority. I mean I know that Debian has no GUI as a server install, but that is more of a pro distro), you can do what I do: just install the gui, but don't run it normally. You just disable gdm or kdm (the login manager), which in term starts X.

/etc/init.d/gdm stop (gnome)
or the same with kdm (for KDE)

And then there is the possibility to use the remote login, that means X and gdm/kdm does not run on the server, but you connect over vnc to it, or, which is what I use with NXclient/server, where you can suspend
the session, very much like Windows RDP.

I have my servers in another room, and I also use them to run applications, to have everything central and I connect to them via NX and have the Linux experience consistently, no matter on which OS I am, be it Mac, Windows or Linux itself.

There is a commercial version of the NX server and a free one.



Markus
 
Old 07-03-2010, 07:36 AM   #6
Wim Sturkenboom
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GUIs don't belong on servers Even Microsoft seems to have come back from that if I'm not mistaken. But I guess it's a personal choice, so don't listen to me for that.

I'm running Slackware servers and I'm very happy with that. If you do a full Slackware install, you will have some graphical environments at hand. It does not automatically boot into a GUI environment but startx is at hand when you want to use it. And when you are not logged in, the graphical environment is not somewhere in the background chewing space.

Disadvantage of ubuntu server as I've experienced it:
not complete out of the box (if I remember correctly, e.g no SSH daemon); so plenty of afterwards installs to do
standard info on the net about setups/configuration does not seem to apply
 
Old 07-03-2010, 09:18 AM   #7
browny_amiga
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Well, I believe that nowadays, we should go with GUIs. Especially if you can do something (find and chose 15 programs and install them) with fewer work with a GUI (synaptic for example) than with the command line. You will have a hard time justifying your lacking efficiency.

I frankly don't understand this spartanic backward attitude. But that is my opinion and I said it and you said yours. It is a matter of what one likes more. What I think it TOTALLY wrong is force feeding a user a choice by not even asking them. And Ubuntu does that with the "no GUI is getting installed" attitude. Not cool!

And the attitude, that a Linux server must only be administrated with a CLI and preferably VI is making it unaccesible to many administrators and nullifying the power of many useful GUI tools. I used to do many tasks in the CLI only, before I had to ask myself if this is the best way (a administrator friend that uses Windows only asked me, if I ever noticed that I might be faster with a GUI, doing EXACTLY the same). After timing myself, I found that he was right actually, and that sticking exclusively to the CLI is not the most efficient way. I think that there is much tradition in Linux and Unix for only using the CLI and as quant and nice tradition can be, just because it has been always like this, does not count as a logical true reason for not doing things different and better.

I don't like the GUI only approach neither that Windows uses. BOTH is the best way for me.

But having x installed and only running it on demand is a nice alternative betweeen the two extremes that we talked about. And I also wondered why ssh is not installed (on the desktop I can understand that, because that is not a server.)
And security wise? Well, it is more secure to not have it installed, but you will need it anyway, and it is secure shell after all, it does not get more secure than that. Personally I have always wondered how good Ubuntu is on servers. Sadly, every entity/company/person, being good in one area usually tries to do it all and expands into other areas. This way, we got the RedHat Workstation and Desktop, the windows mobile phone, Bling (and before renaming it: MSN and Windows Live search, which all died), Microsoft High performance computing, all products that went nowhere, because they strayed so far off their core competence. It happens all the time.
Debian sucks on the desktop (I use it on laptops, but just because Ubuntu is too unstable for my taste), but it rules on servers, and I guess it sucks on desktops because they don't focus much on getting it working easily and smoothly on desktops, as Ubuntu (I assume now, not that I know this for a fact) might not properly focus on the server. Server and desktops are very very different beasts, especially the requirements of ease of use they have and the IQ of their users are different ;-)

Cheers

Markus

Last edited by browny_amiga; 07-03-2010 at 09:28 AM.
 
Old 07-03-2010, 09:34 AM   #8
jlinkels
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A reason not to use a GUI for servers is that GUI's often contain more bugs. There are several reasons for that. When writing programs a developer must dedicate some of his attention to the GUI, instead of dedicating it to the program. GUI programs are usually more complicated, less overseeable, use more libraries which may contain bugs. Overall complication is much larger, i.e. the developer doesn't know what libraries or what functions are pulled in into his program.

Compare for example vi and kwrite or kate. Both are text editors, one console, the other GUI. Vi is almost bug-free, while Kate now and then comes with some surprising bugs. On a server you don't want programs which you cannot completely trust, which cause memory leaks or where eye-candy has had prevalence over functionality.

jlinkels
 
Old 07-03-2010, 11:23 AM   #9
hanzerik
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I use Debian for my server, and have tried Ubuntu Server but went back to Debian. Over the years I have used Redhat and Slackwarefor servers. I stopped using redhat when they split to fedora, and moved to slackware, but I wouldn't suggest slackware for someone unfamiliar with the CLI. It is very stable and will run forever. But once I tried Debian and the awesomeness of APT I never looked back.

I agree somewhat with the "no GUI" on servers mentality. I have run servers both ways. But most of the time my servers are all headless and sitting in a dark room with nothing buy power and LAN hooked up, so a full GUI is pointless for my needs. But if I do need a VII it is nothing but the basics...X and one of the fluxbox/openbox wm's started and accessed through vnc.

So I will continue to use Debian because it is, for me, Very fast and easy to install and setup Apache, MySQL, samba, etc.

* hopefully spelling is good....posted from my phone..
 
Old 07-03-2010, 11:23 AM   #10
hanzerik
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I use Debian for my server, and have tried Ubuntu Server but went back to Debian. Over the years I have used Redhat and Slackwarefor servers. I stopped using redhat when they split to fedora, and moved to slackware, but I wouldn't suggest slackware for someone unfamiliar with the CLI. It is very stable and will run forever. But once I tried Debian and the awesomeness of APT I never looked back.

I agree somewhat with the "no GUI" on servers mentality. I have run servers both ways. But most of the time my servers are all headless and sitting in a dark room with nothing buy power and LAN hooked up, so a full GUI is pointless for my needs. But if I do need a GUI it is nothing but the basics...X and one of the fluxbox/openbox wm's started and accessed through vnc.

So I will continue to use Debian because it is, for me, Very fast and easy to install and setup Apache, MySQL, samba, etc.

* hopefully spelling is good....posted from my phone..

Last edited by hanzerik; 07-03-2010 at 11:25 AM.
 
Old 07-03-2010, 11:48 AM   #11
browny_amiga
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jlinkels View Post
A reason not to use a GUI for servers is that GUI's often contain more bugs. There are several reasons for that. When writing programs a developer must dedicate some of his attention to the GUI, instead of dedicating it to the program. GUI programs are usually more complicated, less overseeable, use more libraries which may contain bugs. Overall complication is much larger, i.e. the developer doesn't know what libraries or what functions are pulled in into his program.

Compare for example vi and kwrite or kate. Both are text editors, one console, the other GUI. Vi is almost bug-free, while Kate now and then comes with some surprising bugs. On a server you don't want programs which you cannot completely trust, which cause memory leaks or where eye-candy has had prevalence over functionality.

jlinkels
Hmm, I am not buying this argument, sorry. You could argue that servers should be limited to have only two functions, instead of serving 10 server functionalities, because more function introduces more bugs (of course that is so, but it also provides more use).

The reason why Linux has very little GUIs is simply, because nobody writes them and not because it is bad for security. It takes of course a lot more work to build a Backend, CLI AND a GUI to fit it.

But the fact is, that some people just won't be able to use the simple functions of a CLI tool that have 30 and you first have to wade through them and figure out in the forest of the other 28 that you don't care about.
I use Software RAID on Linux, but I have some friends that wanted to use it but since there is no GUI for it, they had to give up, because it is very complicating. The Sofware RAID is super, reliable and amazing, I have been using it for years and years on several systems (RAID 5), but I had to invest tons of time in it learning each option in the command line tool mdadm.
I have thought many times of writing a GUI tool, to make that wonderful piece of software more accessible to more people, but I am not a programmer and all I do is Python and I am very slow in programming, and so far I have not made it.

And VI? Well, you cannot compare Kate with VI. VI might do what Kate can, but the investment in time to be able to use VI is just ridiculously high. Who spends several days of intensive learning just to use a text editor?
Maybe in 1984 when text editors were high tech equipment (and when "VISUAL editor" as part of its name made sense in it, not like today where it does not make sense anymore), but not nowadays anymore. So if you know VI, good for you, otherwise I wonder if you are going to invest the time. Compare a person using kate and a person using VI and lets say that person wants to use lots of functions. Lets see which person gets more work done in the first 4 weeks. Remember, the person learning VI will spend most of the time in the beginning looking up these cryptic commands and memorizing nonsensical key combiations, while the other person will manage to use ALL functions from the start. And lets not forget that Kate also can use keyboard shortcuts, but they can be learned at a 10th of the work needed in VI.

So I am not lazy or anything. I don't mind investing in learning Blender 3D or Regex or Linux Software RAID and put tons of time in it, because these are solutions for complex problems that have no substitute.
But for me, VI is not in this category at all. I am not against anybody using it, it is a free world. Linux is about choice. But don't go tell newbies that this is a cool thing to learn, it is not. I have seen many people go back to Windows thanks to VI, getting pissed and upset at "a dumb P.o.S. tool that does not even let you exit without learning how to do that in the manual" and I have to agree with them. The exit MUST be intuitive, in every case. Ever entered a building and realized, that you cannot get out anymore? There is a keyboard at the wall, but no instructions? Well, RTFM, but BEFORE entering, now you are stuck and in a dead end.

In argument about which one is better, VI or Emacs, I usually am in the Emacs group, but only because Emacs offers the same solution than VI (works in graphical AND CLI only environments), but Emacs enables you to use it without knowing anything about it really. It has this high tech thing called MENU, where you can look things up... ahhh, File... aha... save, exit... aha, all there...

And by the way, if you only want to have code you can trust on the server, you have to yank out most of the hardware support (drivers), and shrink down the kernel till it can do almost... nothing...

Because all the stuff runs in kernel mode. Userland stuff runs with least priviledge.

Cheers

Markus
 
Old 07-03-2010, 11:58 AM   #12
browny_amiga
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hanzerik View Post
I agree somewhat with the "no GUI" on servers mentality. I have run servers both ways. But most of the time my servers are all headless and sitting in a dark room with nothing buy power and LAN hooked up, so a full GUI is pointless for my needs. But if I do need a GUI it is nothing but the basics...X and one of the fluxbox/openbox wm's started and accessed through vnc.
Well, you can have the best of both worlds. X is not even installed on my servers, they also sit in a dark room, but I connect to them with a full KDE or gnome session from my desktop anywhere, over NX. It is really fast, much faster then VNC and you can have all the bells and whistles. All you gotta do is install the NXserver on the server and the NXclient on the client (I use Windows for that and some Ubuntu laptops, even a netbook) and you are good to go. It connects over SSH, even over the internet.

It is done by a little italian firm called nomachine.com, but there is also a free version.

I have used it since 2005 and could not do without it anymore. I have moved components from Windows step by step, since I got annoyed that everytime I had to reinstall Windows, I lost all the configurations and had to reinstall each and every programm. We know that Debian does not need reinstalls and so IM, mail, browsing, special applications, music production have all moved to my server, accessed through NX from anywhere.

I don't have openvpn setup properly (there is neither a GUI for it and so it is really really complicated to set up with Bridging), but when I do I realized today that I will have kind of my own private small cloud, since I can access this session from anywhere in the world with a laptop or desktop, and having everything on one large machine has many advantages, backup and consistency (pidgin logs, documents and projects strewn around 4 different systems are not fun) is just one of them.

Just wanted to give you an idea what is possible and works fine.

Markus
 
Old 07-03-2010, 01:53 PM   #13
Mr. Alex
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Debian GNU/Linux. Excellent for servers. It's stable in both ways - almost doesn't crash and has long release cycle.
 
Old 07-04-2010, 08:40 AM   #14
kprojects
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IMO if an admin doesn't know how to do things via command line they'll be lost the day the gui isn't available to them. You can use the GUI if you want for most things but you HAVE TO know what those GUIs are doing.. which files they're editing, etc..

I wouldn't hire anyone who couldn't do with CLI what anyone could do with a GUI.

To the OP: No one mentioned CentOS.. if you're using it as a server that'd be a great choice. There's GUI available if you like.. have you looked into webmin at all? It's kind of a free cpanel/plesk server configuration utility that you set up on the server and hit it from your workstation via http.
 
Old 07-04-2010, 11:56 AM   #15
theNbomr
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Install the GUI, use it when appropriate. GUI's are great for providing lots of shell windows, and helpful copy & paste support. To me, a system installed to be a server implies that it is unlikely to get much use supporting desktop-style applications. Maybe there are some GUI tools that can be useful for configuring the server processes, but most things on a server don't require a GUI. Many servers run headless, and GUI applications can only be used with the support of X on a remote X server.
Another implication of server-oriented installation is that the system will be used in some way by multiple users and/or hosts. An extension of that logic is that the person setting up the server ought to have some advanced level of knowledge, since others are going to depend on the server. A part of that knowledge should be how to navigate the system using the basic tools. 'Basic' means no GUI; shell interface, vi, common shell oriented commandline tools like grep, more, man, sed, date, too many others to list.
Anyone I would hire to install and manage a server would have that knowledge and would be more comfortable using it than using GUI tools.
Quote:
I have used it since 2005 and could not do without it anymore
That's part of the point. Some day when the s__t hits the fan and you don't have that, what will you do? Relying on the basics is fundamental to the overall stability of the infrastructure.
Finally, even the most savvy expert needs help from time to time. Forums such as this one are great at providing help that comes in the form of commandline oriented instructions such as shell commands or scripts, or fragments of configuration files. These kinds of forums or other tutorial content suck at describing how to do pointy-clicky things. GUIs tend to vary and evolve, so the description that works today, or for one user's release probably won't work some other place or time. Commandline tools tend to vary relatively little over time, are almost always backward compatible if they do vary, and are pretty consistent across distros.

As for the original poster's question: Redhat/CentOS have a good track record for stability as server oriented systems, in my experience. I would recommend them for server oriented systems; probably less so for desktop systems, and even less so as a developer's base system.

--- rod.

Last edited by theNbomr; 07-04-2010 at 12:01 PM.
 
  


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