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Another Linux Thread :-P

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Hi everybody -

I'm working my way through some of the existing Linux threads here - there sure are a lot of them!  :-[ But I thought I'd post this anyway, in hopes of getting some direction on my specific project.

I'm fairly Windows and even DOS savvy, but a complete newb at Linux/Unix. I've been meaning to take the plunge for a while now, and I think I'm finally ready to do it.

I'm not so much interested in using Linux as a desktop replacement for Windows. Windows is a fine desktop environment as far as I'm concerned, and already runs most of the software that I would ever want or need. But I've long wanted a home server, and the prohibitive price and hardware requirements of M$' server software has kept me from setting one up. This is the task I'd like to put Linux to.

All my (fairly) recent hardware is occupied doing desktop work, but I have a couple of older machines I could dedicate to the task. One is a full featured Dell Pentium 3 laptop and docking station. The other is a dual-processor Pentium 2 desktop machine. So I guess my first question is, which would be a better platform? I know Linux can make use of multiple processors, but would 2 PIIs be better than 1 P3, other things being equal?

I'm not so much interested in doing streaming media or anything like that - simple file sharing via an external USB drive and some LAMP serving/development (Drupal, possibly Tomcat/OpenLaszlo) are all I have planned for this box right now - plus of course it would be my "learning Linux" machine. Although at some point I might want to try out Red 5 on it as well. I'd also eventually like to use it as a gateway into my home network from outside, to give me access to remote web proxy capabilities, remote desktop via VNC and the like. So something that can be exposed directly through my router and still be very secure would be a plus.

If anybody has gone down this path themselves, I'd also love to hear any war stories you might have. Forewarned is forearmed. Or any tips for Linux tech I should be on the watch for. I know Samba is the default way for setting up network shares for Windows boxen. Are there other alternatives? Any gotchas with particular distros? It may be heretical, but we're not giving up Windows anytime soon here, so I need to make the new kid play nice with the existing crowd. :D

How CPU-intensive stuff do you plan on running on the server? And will it be running 24/7?

Both machines are going to be a bit on the slow end for running a compile-from-source distribution like gentoo, so you probably want to go for a binary distribution. If you're going to run the box 24/7 and don't need much CPU grunt, I'd do power measuring on the two machines and select the one that sucks the least power (probably going to be the laptop).

Thanks, f0dder -

I hadn't thought about power consumption, but it's a good point. The stuff I'm looking to run most of the time shouldn't be too CPU intensive. Tomcat & Red 5 could be, but they'll be mostly for playing around. Apache/MySQL/Drupal and Samba will probably get most of the work.

I've run XAMPP on my other Dell P3 laptop and performance was acceptable. I'm hoping on Linux it will be noticeably better since one of Linux's chief benefits is supposed to be better performance than Windows on a given CPU/memory setup.

I'm definitely going for a binary distro. My programming experience is exclusively with interpreted languages on DOS/Windows, and the thought of having to compile something from source code - on LINUX - makes me want to dive under the bed. Way too scary.

I've run XAMPP on my other Dell P3 laptop and performance was acceptable. I'm hoping on Linux it will be noticeably better since one of Linux's chief benefits is supposed to be better performance than Windows on a given CPU/memory setup.-Jimdoria (January 19, 2009, 12:33 AM)
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That's a bit of a myth, imho - the main advantage linux has is that it can boot to console-only without running a GUI, which obviously takes up less system resources... the "friendly" distros run in GUI mode by default, though. Oh, linux distros are also a lot smaller than Vista (and even XP), of course :)

Tomcat is a bit of a resource hog, so maybe it is wiser to put the 2 PII PC to work as a server (one CPU dedicated to serving while the other CPU can do the other stuff).

Put as much ram in it as you can, in my experience a PII is not that weak. I used a 120 day version a windows 2000 SBS with Exchange server on one (single) PII CPU with 128Mb RAM and it still managed to encrypt/decrypt 400 messages a minute.


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