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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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Right, right

by t.rohner In reply to Been there, done that. T- ...

i loved Novell's Netware 3.12, no GUI to speak of, but still easy to work with. I thought the Norton Commander/Editor was a big improvement over the Dos "edlin". In Win3.0/3.1/3.11 i still used Norton to edit the Windows config files when no sysedit was available.(that happened, especially in networked installations)
With Novell, i had installations that nobody touched for 2 years or so, besides of using it as file and printserver.(I went there to make them Y2K-proof, otherwise no probs) I have seen NT installations having faster hardware, running much slower and having a "specialist" in-house almost on a weekly basis. At some point i heard about Linux and tried a early version of SUSE. I was a beginner, so my success was quite limited. I used a System/V unix running different cross-assemblers and compilers at my education site. I remembered backing up the "whole" 10 meg harddrive to 50 or so diskettes at that time.(ca. 1984)
I got my SUSE-box to run, but there was no desktop to speak of, so i didn't really know what to do with it. This changed dramatically when i first heard of SAMBA. I got me the latest SUSE and installed it with all the networking features. But i had to do quite some tweaking in the samba.conf to get it running how i wanted it. I started to edit this file with vi, you can call me a lame duck, but it really pissed me to go back to edlin-like editing. I don't need the comfort of a modern word processor, but going back to punch-cards wasn't my idea either. So now i use the KDE editor to configure, when everything runs smoothly i just don't start into graphic mode.
I have many SAMBA servers running at customers sites with no problems.
I wouldn't say that Windows have to be just game machines. Our customers use them to make money in production, there are many applications that only run on win.(i had to print a 4.6GB tiff file from a windows-based RIP, try it on Gimp....)
You can use linux and linux-apps for many desktop-related work today. Changes and improvements are happening pretty quickly here. Linux has already proofed it's competitiveness, when it comes to server apps or services. The configuration needs some knowledge, if you want to go beyond the standard settings from a given distro. It sure helps to know about them and the CLI.
But i sure wouldn't want to start scanning and cropping images without a mouse.(our first scanjet came with a windows286 runtime to do this in the (good?)old dos times)

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Why not start with a Live CD or VMWare?

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

I appologize if I missed this in the scan of the thread.

Rick, one of the hurdles to learning Linux is that
A) you can't use something until you set it up.
B) you can't set it up right until you know how it works
C) you can't know how it works until you use it

Setting up applications OFTEN involves the CLI and diving into config files.

A Live CD would bypass all of that by giving you a pre-built config. Sure, it isn't going to have all the bells and whistles you want, but it would let you play with an application (and having something to compare to) and get used to it before trying to install it on your own.

Better still, the same box you are using could run the LiveCD (it's just a boottable CD image) and then you could reboot to your Franken-server (the one you are building yourself) that runs from the HD.

Almost every distro now has a live CD, but the Godfather of them all is Knoppix.

Another option is to use the (now free) VMware - either the full version or the player - with VMWare images. If you go to the VMWare site you will see that people have built VMWare images based on various distros and built for specific purposes (desktop, email server, etc). Again, it's a great place to start your learning without having to go through the trial and error pains of setup.

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The Server is Too Old

by rkuhn In reply to Why not start with a Live ...

To use any virtual anything.

As I posted, it is only a dual processor 450 Mhz (maybe 500 Mhz can't remember), 5 disks in a RAID 5 array, and more importantly only has 512 MB of RAM.

It's actually fairly fast all things considered. It runs Window Server 2003 just fine after a long boot up though.

But I'd say with only 512 MB RAM, virtual OS's are probably out of the question.

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Virtual Machines

by wdewey In reply to The Server is Too Old

With virtual machines you don't need to run this on your server. In fact, it would probably be better to run it on a different machine. I use VMWare a great deal for testing. I have it installed on a Win XP machine. I can start up the virtual machine and switch back and forth between XP and what ever I am running. I have ran SUSE, Fedora, Netware, XP, 2000, and 2003 server with VMWare. This gives you a machine to look up help resources and download things witout having to go to a second box (helpful if your PC's aren't close to each other).


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by rkuhn In reply to Virtual Machines

For suggesting running it on another PC. Leon seems to think running this on a old server is a good idea...not.

I have dual booted before with XP and Mandriva but I didn't too much care for Mandriva or the whole dual boot thing.

I think I'll probably go virtual for now and if all goes well then found some distro that will run OK on the old server.

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You would be surprised

by leon In reply to The Server is Too Old

at how effective a LiveCD can run on really old hardware.

If it were my machine, I'd download a copy of Knoppix and give it a shot. 512Mb of RAM is more than enough to run most Linux distros (I wouldn't run a business server with that spec, but for learning and testing it will be just fine.).

I have an old IBM desktop with 256Mb RAM that I use as a SAMBA server at home, and it clunks along just fine. It's not fast at starting up new programs, but as a file server it does its job.

And just to clarify - a LiveCD is not a virtual anything. The CD is a bootable OS that loads into RAM just like Windows boots from your HD. The Live CD uses your HD for swap space (assuming it can access your HD. Otherwise it just uses the RAM you have and keeps using the CD). So yes, there is a performance hit with loading the OS from CD instead of HD, but the reality is that Linux is very tight code so things load up fast after the initial boot.

And one more time - the benefit is that you are up and running with a KNOWN GOOD and WORKING configuration of Linux, so you can play with applications and get a sense of them before you try to install something and go through the headaches of configuration.

- Leon

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I'm Not Retarded

by rkuhn In reply to You would be surprised

I know what a LiveCD is but you also mentioned using VMware.

VMware is out of the question. Not enough system resources.

I have used LiveCDs before and they are a bit better but still not as good as the real thing.

Thanks for the advice though.

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Ubuntu + XAMP

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

I am a linux newbie. Over the last few days, I did a bit of reading and managed to get a linux server up and running with phpbb discussion forum running.

Here is what I did:
1. ubuntu 5.01 loaded with server. (you can email them for a free copy or you download from the net). This basically gave me a command prompt menu. I was too lost. So erased and started with..
2. ubuntu 5.01 base installation. This gave me a GUI with Gnome. With that I went to synaptic program manager (it is like a add program in Windows) and installed apache (webserver), php (scripting language) and MySql (database) and phpBB.
Managed to get everything running over a peiod of 4 days for a complete newbie.

Other options things to try:
1. ubuntu 6.10 (this come with a LAMP server standard)
2. ubuntu with XAMP ( this could help cut down my time as the server is a package by itself.

Have fun


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Here are some server versions

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

I'm running a P2 400 with 512Mb for a "play server" simply to learn more about Linux. I run Mepis, Suse, WinMe (I know!), and XP MCE on a wired/wireless/BT network playground. I've tried SME server (, ClarkConnect (, Mepis SOHO server ( - need a subscription or beta 1 which was made public), and -after reading Jaqui's email exchange with the folks at ubuntu, decided to check it out myself- just installed ubuntu server ( this weekend.
Please note these are all pretty well preconfigured server packages, either with gui or webmin/usermin style interfaces. My goal was to have a play server online that I can break without the rest of my family suffering very long for it. So, they run "out of the box" until I break it or change it. Anyway, I can gui when I want or cli when I have have time to really learn. Hope this helps.

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My Thoughts (after reading all the posts)

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

I am currently using Fedora 4 on my server, and installed Fedora 5 on VM to test it. As a server, you do not need to install the GUI. RedHat's configuration routines make it much easier to set up and maintain a working system from the GUI than other distros, however there is one sticky point. After changing the configuration files from the command line the GUI configuration tools may not work correctly (though some do.) I configured my server using the GUI tools, got the system to function the way I wanted it to, then turned off the GUI. This requires a very simple edit of one file.
The file /etc/inittab has a line that reads like this:


Change the number 5 to any of the following to change run levels. 1 - single user (no GUI, only 1 login permitted, no networking) 2 - Multi user without networking 3 - Multi user with networking 5 - GUI.

If you turn off the GUI and boot the system the computer runs as a server (until you login) after you log in you may perform system maintenance, run applications, or whatever else you wish. If you want to start the GUI from the command prompt simply type startx and press enter. The GUI starts up, and you can do whatever you wish. When you log out of the GUI you will return to the command prompt.

I hope this answers the question of using the GUI for Linux. I almost always have the GUI running on a test system, and turn it off on a successfully configured server (after installing webmin.)

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