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What Server OS Should I use


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I'm wondering what server OS I should use for an old comp I have been given (its quite slow and old, but has loads of SCSI and IDE ports).

I already have a Time Machine for my Mac backups. I do have tonnes of old HDD's lying about though.

I also have a terminal-like thing which runs as my mail server.

I would have liked to use it for testing (PHP, Java, SQL, etc).

I was wondering about a media server like MythTV, but I don't want it to just be a media server.

I'm fine with learning something new, and I don't care for a GUI, so please suggest. :)

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When you say old, can it even run most linux distros? Can it use the gui, or will it only run in the CLI? That probably will have a lot to do with what you put on there for testing. Especially if you want to work with something like PHP and MySql, if you can't install any *nix distro then you pretty much are stuck with windows, although *nix isn't not 100% needed to administer a server running PHP and SQL. You could use something lime xamp or wamp as windows http servers.

Anything that allows you to run Apache, PHP, and MySql, wether windows or *nix is worth having for testing web design and learning the languages. Creating and using databases(something I still fail at misserably) is also good for tinkering with and a GUI is not needed to test these things, just the ability to ftp the files on to the machine, so any *nix distro that will install and run Apache, PHP and MySql, and ftp would be a plus in my mind.

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Depends really, I really like FreeBSD and Windows Server 2008 myself, and they will both do what you require. Its what you prefer to work with that counts. If your interested in fooling around with some unix stuff then I would recommend FreeBSD as I found it to be a very useful tool to learn with. Its very simple to use, comes with a decent manual and has a straight forward, logical architecture. I found that it taught me more than linux when it came to understanding *nix, due to the above and as an added bonus a lot of that knowledge is transferable top Mac due to the similarity of FreeBSD and Darwin.

If your interested in running Windows, then Server 2008 would be a good place to start. Running this will give you a good set of experience for working in the magical world of IT. Like windows or not, its used in pretty much everywhere these days, and its a very different world to XP home edition. The core edition might interest you as its a new version of windows designed to compete directly with Linux, runs no gui and has to be controlled via the cmd line or wmi.

There are also choices such as Solaris, AIX, PureDarwin, various linux distros such as CentOS, Ubuntu, Fedora or Debian. I would only recommend Solaris or AIX if you want to get into hardcore UNIX though. Ubuntu is a popular and easy choice, but while its easy, it will teach you less. Debian is pretty much the most usable linux, very flexible. CentOS is just RedHat linux with the serial numbers filled off, so its very stable and is practically identical to the version of linux you will find most often used commercially. There are a multitude of other distros but in practice these are niche OS's that are pretty much all the same, offering 1 or 2 unique features that may or may not be any use. It pays to stick with a a widely used and well supported distro if you want linux to work in a useful fashion.

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Thanks for the suggestions so far.

I think I might go with CentOS as my cousin (a sysadmin) is familiar with RedHat and has recommended it to me as well.

It has Ubuntu desktop 8.0 on it at the moment, but I have used ubuntu in the past and I really want to learn something new.

Thanks again guys and please keep suggesting. :)

P.S. The specs are :

  • ~300gb made from 7 HDD's
  • 628mb RAM
  • Pentium 3
  • 100gbit LAN PCI card
  • the OS is installed on a 12gb SCSI 1 drive

So much power (not) I'm not sure what to do with it!

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Take everything out of the computer you can. Try to use only passive cooling. Install an /o.k/ power supply. Install ESXi and run your server from that.

Whollymind also has a great point.. VMware is great, if all your mailserver is doing is running a terminal application then install vmware on that and run your server there. Wouldn't recommend running anything off the base OS.

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It will go with the other smaller server in the loft (very cold up there, we have good insulation).

I'm not going to use all 7 HDD's one doesn't work anyway and one is 5gb.

Definatly gonna d come VM's

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You can't really make these old servers efficent, they're pretty much as they are and the parts like PSU's will usually be non-standard. Best thing you can do with it would honestly replace it with a low-end Core2 system.

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