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Old 03-24-2007, 07:17 PM   #1
Lucky Dragon
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Question Basic Server (File/print, DHCP, firewall, etc.) for home use

I have an older PC that I want to use as a server with Linux or BSD. I know very little about these OSs and would really welcome any advice.
I plan to buy an inexpensive wireless router that I can configure for bridge mode and attach this to the NIC. The Linux server would then act as a file/print server and wireless access point. I'm setting this up for my parents, who are not very computer literate, so it would have to be fairly simple to use once set up. Once it's configured and set up, I would want to be able to remove the keyboard/monitor/mouse and be able to manage it remotely from their laptop. I know this is not a problem with Linux/BSD, but it would be nice to have a distro that makes configuration of basic settings fairly straightforward without having to learn a bunch of commands. As I learn more and become more comfortable with the UNIX-style command-line environment, this would not be so much of an issue, but for just starting out, I want something straightforward that I can just sort of ease into.

System Specs:
Pentium 233
32 MB RAM (But I have an open slot, so I will probably be adding another 64-128 MB, depending on what it will take)
Linksys 10/100 NIC
USR 56K Faxmodem (Can be configured as PnP or with jumpers to force it to a particular COM/IRQ)
2.5 GB HDD

I have a newer PC also (950MHz Celeron, 128MB RAM) but I want to use the older one if possible because it is quiet, has a compact case, and a 75W power supply and power consumption is an important consideration since it's going to be on all the time.

I need the following features:
  • DHCP
  • NAT
  • Firewall
  • Basic Web server (Probably will need for remote admin, etc.)
  • Ability to share a printer with a Windows XP system (SAMBA, I guess?)
  • Ability to manage it over the LAN via a web interface
  • Since it will be used with a dialup internet account, some method of getting it to connect/disconnect from the client computer so the client can access internet when necessary, since the phone is used for other things also.
Things I DON'T need:
  • GUI
  • Music/video streaming or playback services
  • FTP server
  • Mailserver
I was looking at SME server 7.1 (CentOS) but they require at least a 400MHz processor and 256MB RAM. There are just so many different distros out there and being totally new at this, I have ZERO idea which one will most closely match my needs.
Old 03-24-2007, 10:03 PM   #2
Junior Hacker
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One thing for sure, you're going to learn command line if you don't want GUI, right? Stands to reason. Pretty much all Linux distributions can give you server features. For a solid "secure" renowned server which is not so demanding, look into Debian Woody. Don't apply any updates, it is solid from a naked install. This old distro is still a favorite pushed by major network companies around here because once set up, you only need to take it down for hardware issues or power failures (which can be avoided with a UPS). But it takes some "getting to know" to configure. Easier to configure Linux would be the more demanding ones like Centos which appears to be the hot ticket. Another old favorite is Red Hat 9 for a server/workstation. But Debian is virtually trouble free after set up.
Old 03-24-2007, 10:34 PM   #3
Lucky Dragon
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Originally Posted by Junior Hacker
Well One thing for sure, you're going to learn command line if you don't want GUI, right? Stands to reason.
Sorry, I guess I wasn't clear. What I'm looking for in this area are two items:
  1. Install process that's menu-driven so I don't have to spend hours figuring out which text files to edit, what syntax to use, etc. (SME Server/CentOS has this but...well... won't even go thru the install because my system doesn't meet the requirements)
  2. Ability to configure the basic options via a web interface once it's installed
If I have those two, I can get basic functionality, and then gradually work from there toward a more advanced understanding of the OS. BTW: Thanks for the quick response.


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