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Author Topic: Pros & Cons of a headless server?  (Read 2037 times)
barney
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« on: May 10, 2010, 08:59:12 PM »

My naval buddy called this weekend, checking to see how the laptop(s) config process is going.

He's all gung-ho over something a shipmate fed him about a headless [Ubuntu] server.  Now he wants to do that with his home desktop system.  Granted, it would allow him a bit more room, i.e., no monitor or keyboard space, but I'm kinda dubious 'bout the concept.  He's wild about the idea, wants to admin with Webmin from his laptop.

I can perceive the advantages, but not familiar enough to identify the downside(s). 

The box he's discussing currently runs WinXP and is used as a kinda,sorta file server as well as a desktop machine.  Now that he has the laptop(s) he wants to convert it.

My preference would be that he install Ubuntu desktop, then add server components as needed.  That doesn't seem to be, in a home environment, overly insecure, and he was born, in the PC sense, A.D. (After DOS), so I've got a life-sized picture of trying to help him with command-line over the phone.  He's accustomed to a GUI, and I'm not certain Webmin would be sufficient.

Haven't found anything definitive, one way or the other, via Google.  Thus, I've returned to the wealth of knowledge that is DC for information. 
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40hz
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« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2010, 09:36:26 PM »

Depends on what he wants to do, but if this is his first foray into Linux I probably wouldn't go with a bare Ubuntu server since there's a lot of configuration that can go wrong if you're not careful.

Have him take a look at  Amahi Server. It's NIX-based, free for download, and has a feature set that gives Windows Home Server (another excellent choice BTW) a run for its money.

Link: http://www.amahi.org/

For something as "set and forget" as most modern servers are, going in via remote desktop or some other tool (Synergy, VNC, etc.)  is the only way to go.

There's really not much to say about running a server in a no-monitor/no-keyboard configuration. Most servers are "headless." It's probably the most efficient way to do it unless you have an old monitor lying around and you don't mind running over to the server every time you want to configure something.


Just my  two cents
« Last Edit: May 10, 2010, 09:43:28 PM by 40hz » Logged

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Shades
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« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2010, 09:39:19 PM »

Webmin is a decent solution for managing headless servers. If it isn't, then you should consider to not give that person access to the admin group of the server. Try FreeNAS if the desktop PC only has to act as server. That is a small linux distro created to be used in headless computers. With small I mean basic and to the point.

There is also a server edition from Ubuntu, which is preferable if the desktop pc is designated to server duty. From personal experience I can say that 9.04 is actually very reliable. It hasn't crashed on me since I have been using it over here on 5 year old hardware and a "flaky" power grid. Unfortunately I cannot say the same from my favorite distro OpenSUSE (10.1).

Your mileage may vary ofcourse, but as a general rule: use a server OS on a server PC.
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40hz
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« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2010, 09:47:21 PM »

+1 with Shades on FreeNAS. For straight-up file sharing it can't be beat.

Same goes for Webmin. Very nice solution so long as you know what you're doing when using it. It's a fairly powerful tool that lets you easily administrate your server. And it will just as easily screw it up royally if you start clicking away without understanding a bit about what's going on underneath it.

Another nice choice is the  eBox Platform. This is more of a small business server (i.e. overkill for home use), but some home users prefer it to Amahi or FreeNAS.

eBox is the proverbial 800 lb. Gorilla in a five pound bag - assuming you don't mind mixing metaphors...  mrgreen

Link: http://www.ebox-platform.com/

 Cool
« Last Edit: May 10, 2010, 09:54:46 PM by 40hz » Logged

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barney
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« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2010, 11:27:59 PM »

Whoosh!

I like FreeNAS, may install it on one of my boxes that I'm using for that purpose now.  eBox looks good, too, although as you say, it's kinda overkill (and I'm a bit leery of what normally comes in five (5) pound bags  ohmy).  Started to look at Amahi, but first thing I notice on the download is that it requires a bootable Fedora 12 install CD?  Starting to get scared already  Grin.

I have one box w/Ubuntu desktop that I use as a sometime server - never got around to doing the actual Ubuntu server, although that was always planned.  (Seems as though time always gets in the way.)  Point is, I can, with reasonable reliability, advise in such a situation.  Think the Amahi thing would be OK, but the Fedora install kinda throws me.  FreeNAS, from what I read, won't do - they both want a web server to test stuff out before uploading to their relative Web sites.

I'll install Amahi/Fedora locally as soon as the downloads are done, see if that seems more intuitive than Ubuntu, but any solution is likely to require a GUI for him (not so certain about her, though - she could end up local server admin, be SA as well as SO  Grin).
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40hz
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« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2010, 07:59:24 AM »

they both want a web server to test stuff out before uploading to their relative Web sites.

If they mostly want to test out web stuff, they don't need to have a standalone server. Just have them Google WAMP and/or XAMPP.

That will let them install a full web environment on any PC with the minimal amount of hassles. You don't even need to leave it running all the time so it's an equally good choice for the PC you're doing your development work on.

Both come with nifty control panels to monitor the running services and they also allow you to switch them on an off. I prefer XAMPP, but that's just me. Either one works equally well.

I use XAMPP to test CMS and other web-based open source solutions; and I've just started using it to prototype a live website project I'm involved with.

There's virtue in simplicity. Thmbsup

Very cool tools. Cool

-----

PS - Say: We are NOT afraid!!! (Now breathe deeply and repeat 10 times.)

Amahi only requires you to install Fedora because they didn't want to include it with their product. Cuts down on the bandwidth utilization on your T1 when you do it that way. (Told you these guys were smart! Grin)

Amahi's installer is mostly a series of scripts that download some components and also configure the Fedora environment to become the Amahi server.

It's a pretty efficient concept. A lot of media server installers work the same way.

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barney
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« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2010, 10:40:53 AM »

Hm-m-m ... still waiting on Fedora to finish downloading - 'twould seem I chose the wrong [slow] mirror ohmy.  Not looking forward to the install, but I'll weather through, I'm certain.

I've installed WAMP several times over the years, XAMP once, I think.  Invariably, I've wiped it and manually installed the component pieces.  Matter of preference, but I just do not care for the directory structure(s) it creates, particularly how deep it buries the doc root.  I'm also not fond of black - white? - box solutions.  At least, when I install the components, I know where to look when things [inevitably] go sour.  'Course the down side to that is getting help.  (I've posted probs on the Apache forum several times & never gotten a response - think they thought it an RTFM issue Grin.  Either that or the post(s) just not interesting enough huh.)

Oh, well ... Fedora download finished, time to start burning.
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40hz
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« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2010, 06:48:45 PM »

Good luck.

Hope Amahi works out for you. Especially after that F'ndora download.

Let us know how you make out.

 Thmbsup

------------------

Addendum:

Quote
I just do not care for the directory structure(s) it creates, particularly how deep  it buries the doc root.

FWIW, I didn't think the doc root was that deep. Did you customize the install? On my machine it's: D:\xampp\htdocs

Quote
I'm also not fond of black - white? - box solutions.  At least, when I install the components, I know where to look when things [inevitably] go sour.

AFAIK, XAMPP installs things where it's recommended they be put. The end result is an Apache environment that follows all the recommendations of the Apace and component authors. Nothing black box there at all. At least as far as I can see. All the documentation and reference books I have work nicely with XAMPP. Everything is found where it's supposed to be.

You also have a goodly amount of technical knowledge. But I thought the webserver part of your comment was for a webserver for your non-technical friends. (If they were techies they would probably already know about W/XAMP or have their own server. Wink)

Doing a raw LAMP setup is not ultra difficult. But I've seen enough people set one up who deviate from generally accepted practices and directory locations  to be leery when I encounter problems on a homebrew. So in my case that would be the back box and XAMPP would be the standard development installation.

Guess it all depends on where you're sitting.  Grin
 
Quote
I've posted probs on the Apache forum several times & never gotten a response - think they thought it an RTFM issue

Very possible. If your question is answered in one of the FAQs, or it's an easily accessible manual lookup issue, that will happen. Something I don't necessarily approve of - but I can understand why it happens.

Popular FOSS projects aren't like DonationCoder. They're far too busy and often too big to extend the courtesies that are routinely granted to questions put here.

Aren't you glad you're a DoCo member?  smiley

DC RULZ!!! Thmbsup
« Last Edit: May 12, 2010, 07:50:03 AM by 40hz » Logged

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barney
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« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2010, 11:09:14 PM »

Quote
DC RULZ!!!
Can't argue with that one!

Quote
Very possible. If your question is answered in one of the FAQs, or it's an easily accessible manual lookup issue, that will happen. Something I don't necessarily approve of - but I can understand why it happens.
Yeah, but whaddayado when the FAQ  or manual instructions aren't working?  I understand it, but it smacks more of elitism than of being busy.  As you note, it's a pretty big forum - with that many folk involved, ya'd think maybe one would take the time to think a question could be valid, even though simple.

That's one of the great things 'bout DC - folk seem to answer the question(s) asked w/o making a prior judgment. Kiss

About WAMP, last time I tried it, it had doc root buried something like four (4) or five (5) directories deep.  Don't recall if I did anything special during the install(s).

Now, as to Amahi, it won't fly.  Well, technically, I can't say that, 'cause Fedora never installed.  Three tries, and it would never boot - don't think it put Grub(2?) in the right place.  I was installing on a 2nd drive, e.g., sdb, and Fedora just didn't wanna go there (in fact, last install attempt hosed the system, had to restore it from backup).  Since that'll be a similar config on his box, that pretty well kills that idea, methinks.

So I've installed Ubuntu 10.04 server, working with that (or trying, anyway).  This business of working a couple of hours at a time kinda drags things out.
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