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Help with Setting up Linux Server

By rkuhn ·

I have a old, spare server that I want to play around with to learn Linux.


Pentium III Duel 450 Mhz
512 MB RAM
5 9GB Hard Drives in RAID 5

I know, pretty old but it currently has MS Server 2003 on it and runs pretty well aside from taking forever to boot up. But once booted up, it actually runs pretty well.

I know nothing about Linux. So, I need something that will run well on old equipment and an easy install, GUI that is user friendly, and plenty of wizards.

I guess what I need is a Linux for Dummies but a server version.

I plan on running it at home next to my other 3 servers...domain controller running MS Server 2003, game server running Win XP (America's Army), and a web server running MS Server 2000.

Any ideas or suggestions?

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Don't worry

by Cactus Pete In reply to Thanks for the Advice

It's just a fun test box. You can take your time learning, and don't worry about screwing it up - reinstalling is always a good way to learn, too!

Seriously - and I'm not saying this as some "purist" as mentioned by another contributor - try to just use the command line. You get a better understanding of it when you have to think about what you're doing.

For the tough task of remembering shortcut keys for text editors, just keep a cheat sheet next to you. You'll learn faster than you think!

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The sharper the learning curve

by mjwx In reply to Don't worry

the more knowledge you adsorb, people learn better from chalenges.

And ofcouse like I said in my previous post, installing linux takes under an hour (unless you install everything) but you shouldnt need the dev tools (unless you want to do development).

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GUI vs Command Line

by ~Omega~ In reply to Thanks for the Advice

Resource hog, ease of use, etc...

I don't mean to be flip, but if you want a box to run with a bunch of wizards and a GUI, you should be using W2K3. I really do understand your thinking, I thought the same thing when I started out. But Linux is a different way of thinking, it's not a different version of windows. The reality of Linux is that the server modules were designed to be administered from command line, and if you really want to learn how to create/administer a linux server, changing configurations around in a GUI is pointless.
It may be jumping in with two feet, in my opinion, the best way to learn Linux is by doing.
Start with a stage1 install. By the time you are done, there won't be anything you can't figure out how to do in Linux. (Especially because you'll have a lot of time to do reasearch in google by the time the bootstrap is done compiling.) And a word of caution, if your raid is software, you'll want to have a drive outside of the raid at least until you get to know what you are doing. EVMS is the software package for doing that, but it is not for the feint of heart, nor is it really configurable from a GUI (ncurses is not a GUI! It doesn't count.)
The thing I like most about gentoo, is that it forces you to figure out what you are doing. The benefit to that is that you really learn instead of just 'getting it to work'.
Find yourself a linux guru


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Linux Command Line

by json_white In reply to GUI vs Command Line

There is a reason that Linux and Unix in general favors the command line.

Windows provides menus so people can absent-mindedly hunt and peck for what they want to do until they stumble on the right checkbox and go "Oh yeah! There it is!" It makes administration "easy". The big problem with this is that it lets people pose as Sys Admins because they can successfully perform tasks without really understanding the big picture. Therefore there is a great potential for everyhting to be setup wrong. With a commandline based system you really have to have some idea what you're doing.

Linux makes administration easy by a different approach. The command line interface and utilities are set up to be multi-directional. That means your output is formatted in a way that is convenient to be put back into the command line. Using careful command-line construction, you can perform massivly powerful actions by querying one command, parsing the results, and passing other options to another command. Now combine this with automated scripts and distribute them accross hundreds of boxen.

THAT is convenient and powerful (Provided you know what you're doing), much more so than a window to help you remember where you left your checkbox.

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by pkr In reply to Help with Setting up Linu ...

We've thrown some arguments between us in other threads. My greatest respect for your attitude to learn something new. If I had a hat, I'd take it off.

Remember that when you work in Linux nothing is like when you did it in Windows. It's a hard time the first couple of weeks feeling as a complete novice. But I think you'll end like me suddenly you get the idea, and I'll never go back. When I am at work I often silently use quite bad language when Windows starts making wrong modifications on my behalf.

In Linux you are in complete control, but it is assumed that - at least as an administrator - you know what you are doing.

You'll discover that you came into a very helpful environment, search some newsgroups, and forget those people suggesting to RTFM (Read The ******* Manual), there are rude people everywhere.


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First thing to do is

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Help with Setting up Linu ...

Join a Linux User Group the following list has one in your area.

Also the Art of Linux Programing is a Must Read Book it's available at

Have fun and more importantly enjoy the experience you'll never be the same again.


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Linux Server

by xstep In reply to Help with Setting up Linu ...

Distro watch is a good place to start. You can get an over view of different distro's. There are also Live CD's! Just pop it in and test it out.

Suse 10.1 would be a good choice and a easy install. Suse YAST is easy!

Server: Install 2 nic's and build a firewall/proxy gateway. Lot's of documentation on this.

Since you have a MS network with MS servers. It would be a great learning experiance to inter operate with Windows and Linux. Set up a Samba server (with LDAP). Try Open-Xchange you can also install outlook Oxtender. Run a web based application on Apache.

Visit and

Try and learn as you go, Use the email user groups

Lot's of great desktop GUI's and web clients to manage your system. KDE control center is very nice!

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I'm doing the same thing.....

by Steve W Brookes In reply to Help with Setting up Linu ...

with almost identical hardware. I run a couple of servers at home with a few workstations and use it to play around with. I have a few Cisco switches and routers and setup small LAN's to test stuff out...nothing too serious. For a while I've wanted to have a go at Linux but have found there is so much conflicting information out there and so many distro's that getting sound advice is very difficult.

In the end I have downloaded the latest Fedora release, so I'll have a go at that and see what happens. I guess I am lucky in that I don't have to know about Linux enough to administer it, I just want to play and learn. In the end it would certainly be nice to have an alternative to the Windows environment.

Thanks to all the posters here, it is refreshing to get some good advice and has given me something to think about, in particular the CLI avenue.

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Been there, done that. T-shirt has holes...

by mckinnej In reply to Help with Setting up Linu ...


You're going to a bazillion opinions on this, so take this piece of advice. There are too many distributions out there and too many fanboys for each one of them. They are going to make it hard for you to distinguish the good advice from the zealot opinions, so try this...make your own opinions.

Most distros are pretty easy to install these days. I've been testing a bunch lately and the majority install in under 45 minutes. Most have graphical installers, but a couple still have text or ncurses based installers. YMMV, but I don't really care as long as they work and I haven't seen one that didn't work in a while.

Grab copies of the big name distros such as Fedora, SuSe, Mandriva, and Ubuntu (or Kubuntu) and try them one by one. Stay away from Gentoo and Debian until you have more experience. They are not beginner-friendly.

The big push with most distros has been towards the desktop, so digging through that to find a good server can be a pain. Ubuntu/Kubuntu are good examples of this.

I'd start with Fedora. It has the desktop features, but hasn't hidden the server power. It is fairly generic and easy to configure. You can install both the Gnome and KDE desktops so that you can compare them. (I prefer Gnome as a user, but KDE as an admin.) Play with it a week and then wipe it out and try SuSe. Lather, rinse, repeat until you have been exposed to the variety that Linux has to offer, then install the distro that works best for you.

Here's one thing that all the fanboys will agree on regardless of the distribution, once you know the Penguin, your Windows box becomes just a game machine. :-)

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Thanks, good advice.

by Steve W Brookes In reply to Been there, done that. T- ...

This is sort of the plan attack I was going to use so it is nice to get that advice from someone who obviously knows Linux pretty well.

Who knows, I may very well become a convert to the Penguin.

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