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sabex 02-05-2005 09:04 PM

setup a linux box to act as file server in LAN?
 
I know nothing about linux so what I am proposing may not even be possible...
I have a laptop running WinXP Home, connected via wireless network to a D-Link router, and then courtesy of ComCast to the world itself.

I intend to put together a desktop with some older parts, to act purely as a file server for the laptop. Something I can use for additional remote storage, overnight backups etc.

Ideally we are talking about using Windows Explorer to do the dragging and dropping.
Additional considerations would be the ability to remotely 'drive' the linux box to say, burn CD's, print files, record TV shows etc. Initially, this remote control would be within the LAN, but it would be great if I could do that from the world at large as well. I suspect that would actually just be a firewall configuration issue, actually.

Down the road, I want to see about setting up a server (probably Tomcat, as thats what we use at work) so that i can 'play' with some jsp / servlet code and try get into some web development at work.

I want all of this to reside 'inside' the router, and therefore hopefully, secure from prying eyes.

A: Is this possible?
B: What would be the best (read simplest . idiot proof) distribution to achieve all of this?
C: Are there any specific considerations I need to be aware of in terms of securing this from the world at large?

Thanks!

musicman_ace 02-05-2005 09:45 PM

A: Yes its all possible. Things you will likely need are:
Samba for file server (Windows Explorer will see the shared folder and you can drag/drop to it)
Putting a TV-tuner works, but most people will tell you to have a dedicated pc for that.
if your printer is supported, samba and cups will share the printer.
You'll be able to add web functionality down the road to do your scripting.
Not sure what you want this "Remote Control" thing to do.

B. This depends on how comfortable you are with the command line. I don't find slackware that daunting, but some say it is just the most pain in the A** distro out there. Ubuntu is new and is supposed to be "idiot proof" but I've never tried it and probably never will.

C: you are always in control of your own security. Nothing is ever set it and forget it when it comes to firewalls. If your not monitoring it, don't expect anything to be secure. Linux can be very secure or wide open. Most distros lock down the system fairly good and way better then XP, but just setting up a linux box doesn't make it completely secure.

Completely Secure doesn't exist. I don't care if there are 12 iptables guru's working for you company. There is and always will be a hole if you take the time to find it. It just a matter of how much of a life the hacker has (or lack of a life).

sabex 02-06-2005 05:52 AM

Thanks for the advice.

I assume Samba and cups are apps that run on any distribution?

I am going to be building the box from a bunch of old parts lieing around, most of which I don't even know the manufacturer, let alone the model. I assume one of the commercial (like redhat) distro's would support the wides range of hardware out of the box?
Windows minimum requirements are always BS. Should I take the advertised minimum for a linux distro with a grain of salt as well?

My intention is to gradually upgrade the box from 'barely runs' to 'speed demon' by replacing portions as the budget permits, but it would be good to know what my starting point needs to be, esp RAM.

musicman_ace 02-06-2005 06:11 AM

Depending on if you are using a Graphical Interface or just commandline. Any distro should run an a 233 and 32MB of ram using just the commandline. If you go graphical, I'd say the 233Mhz will do but up yourself to 92MB of ram or higher. It varies depending on what GUI you end up using.
Most distro's are using the 2.6.x kernel, so they'll all support the same hardware. The distro has nothing to do with hardware support, all kernel drivers are contained in the kernel source. Now, some distro's detect stuff better, but any big name will get you running.
Samba and Cups are included in all big named distro's, but you may have to tell it that you want them installed.

What distro did you have in mind?

sabex 02-06-2005 07:41 AM

i was edging towards RedHat, mostly because its the only one I have heard of..
I prefer to avoid command line stuff, mainly because I am a slow typer (and lazy) so I am definitely thinking GUI all the way.
From what you are saying 128MB should be enough for my purposes...

Crashed_Again 02-06-2005 08:51 AM

If you want to really learn linux don't install a GUI on a dedicated file/print server. It hogs resources. Everything can be done from the command line with a few simple commands. I have a Gentoo machine that is my file/print server for my home lan. When you get setup I can give you my samba configuration file to get you going.

Also, RedHat is some what deprecated for us "non-commercial" users. Fedora is the new RedHat for us so go with that if you were leaning towards RedHat.

thorn168 02-06-2005 06:19 PM

I would suggest that you try Conectiva 10 instead of Fedora. Conectiva will allow you to do a very basic install and run from a command line if that is what you want and need.

Conectiva is a Redhat based distro with a slice of Debian. The Debian part being Apt-get.

Conectiva 10 also comes with Webmin which is a really great program for administering a linux server. Webmin is a GUI interface that will allow you to do just about anything that you otherwise do from a command line.

I am currently running Conectiva 10 as a client on old P3-450 with 128 MB of ram and a 3 GB hard drive.

I like it and it runs well. The only issue that I had was that I had to create boot floppies in order to install the distro because my bios would not boot from the CD Rom.

You may or maynot have this issue with your box.

If you do choose, Conectiva the two required floppy discs to install from a floppy boot are "Boot.img" and "floppy.img".
Once those discs finish doing their job the rest of the work is done by the first installation CD.

You will find the boot imgs on the first CD in the folder Boot Floppies.

Now with that said, you may have to adjust you expectations of what you want the linux server to do. I am not aware of any linux distro that is similar to Microsoft's Media Center PC OS.

Your other issue is WinXP home. Win XP home will not ever be a client in a client/server network! (I know this because I have tried to do it and failed.) Win XP Home is strictly limited to peer to peer networking. (Microsoft intentionally did this because they believed that home users would never try to establish a Client/Server network in a home.) If you want your windows client to function properly in a Client/Server network then you have to have either Win2k pro or WinXP pro. (I prefer Win2k because it lacks the Registry key non-sense that XP has.)

Good Luck,

Thorn

musicman_ace 02-06-2005 10:13 PM

For the Media Center PC, there is two programs
MythTV
Freevo

And there is a knoppix distro specifically for MythTV called KnoppMyth

synaptical 02-06-2005 10:47 PM

you might want to run a live CD first (knoppix, slax, etc.) to find out as much as you can about your hardware. it will make configuring things later a lot easier.

if you want to control things remotely, you'll also want sshd (secure shell daemon). you can log in from windows with the excellent putty client. you'll have to do some reading to set it up securely (and don't forget to configure your router firewall), but it's not really difficult at all.

what distro to use is a matter of preference. slack, debian and their offshoots are all good choices, maybe fedora or mandrake if you can do minimal installs. those will probably be easier to deal with than debian, at least, if not slack, and there are a lot of users of those distros to help out. i agree with not installing X or a gui, it's just a waste of disk space on a server (and probably an increased security risk, too). it's better to go as minimal as possible, imho. gl, sounds like a fun project. :cool:

chrism01 02-06-2005 11:42 PM

You should be fine with RH Fedora, just only install what you need as and when you need it.
These days I'd be surprised if you can buy a disk smaller that 40GB without some research. In any case, a complete RH FC3 install is prob 3GB (roughly) so don't worry about it.
Similarly, unless you are actually working on the X windows interface at a any given moment, the overhead is minimal.
Nonetheless, learning the cmd line, specifically via ssh, is good practice and you can do it from anywhere on your lan (or the net if you're careful with the firewall).
Come back if you have any problems.

sabex 02-07-2005 05:30 AM

Just want to say thanks for all the good advice.
I am not concerned about disk space usage. I have 2 old drives handy - 1 80 GB and 1 20 GB, so space is definitely not an issue.
However, do I need to change the disk file system on these drives to 'play nice' with linux? Right now, the 80 gig drive has about 30 gig of stuff on it already which I would like to to keep. that drive is FAT32. I expect to make the 20 gig drive (which is empty) my boot drive so I can partition that, reformat etc to my hearts content.

musicman_ace 02-07-2005 05:42 AM

linux can read fat32. You'd probably rather have reiserfs or ext3, but fat32 will do.

chrism01 02-07-2005 05:35 PM

As mentioned, use a Linux FS eg ext3 on the Linux disk (20GB), but FAT32 will work for data storage.
You'll need to check your /etc/fstab file after the install.
Basically, don't let system auto partition the disks during install, as most will take over/re-format all the disks they can see... choose the manual option at that point. In RH it's called Disk Druid; nice graphical interface.


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