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Thread: Home server - dedicated machine, or workstation combo

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Wenatchee WA USA
    Posts
    80

    Default Home server - dedicated machine, or workstation combo

    Hello all,

    Along the way I've picked up an older machine (Pentium 4, 1.2ghz, 512MB RAM, 13GB HDD for OS, 500GB HDD for storage, 19" CRT monitor) that I'd like to use primarily as a home file server. Not so much streaming media files, but someplace people can back up their 'My Documents' (or equivalent) directories to from the various laptops in the house. It has just enough background noise that the wife doesn't want it in the study area upstairs, so I thought perhaps I would put it downstairs in the basement shop area. Down there... I've often thought it'd be nice to have a very basic computer at hand - something to be able to browse the web, check email, and open/read the occasional PDF or spreadsheet file. Most of the rest of the time it'd just be sitting quietly under a bench.

    With some other distros, people get all in a lather when someone mentions having a GUI on a server, or putting server software on a 'workstation' (in this case only 'serving' to the internal LAN). Given that this system is going to be pretty lightly loaded 99% of the time... it doesn't seem like this would really hurt anything, would it? The services I was planning on running were: ssh (for shell access and sftpd), samba, ntp, and then perhaps an Apache-MySQL-PHP stack (more for web development than for providing services). I'll probably add a few more along the way, but still seems like a pretty light load for a home network with maybe... 5 users max at any one time.

    Thoughts, comments, suggestions?

    TIA,

    Monte

  2. #2

    Default Re: Home server - dedicated machine, or workstation combo

    -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
    Hash: SHA1

    Sounds like you know what you want. If it prevents having two systems by
    having a GUI from time to time on it then go for it. You can run at
    runlevel three 24x7 and after logging in with a user just run 'startx' to
    get a GUI for your user up and running.

    Good luck.





    memilanuk wrote:
    > Hello all,
    >
    > Along the way I've picked up an older machine (Pentium 4, 1.2ghz, 512MB
    > RAM, 13GB HDD for OS, 500GB HDD for storage, 19" CRT monitor) that I'd
    > like to use primarily as a home file server. Not so much streaming
    > media files, but someplace people can back up their 'My Documents' (or
    > equivalent) directories to from the various laptops in the house. It
    > has just enough background noise that the wife doesn't want it in the
    > study area upstairs, so I thought perhaps I would put it downstairs in
    > the basement shop area. Down there... I've often thought it'd be nice
    > to have a very basic computer at hand - something to be able to browse
    > the web, check email, and open/read the occasional PDF or spreadsheet
    > file. Most of the rest of the time it'd just be sitting quietly under a
    > bench.
    >
    > With some other distros, people get all in a lather when someone
    > mentions having a GUI on a server, or putting server software on a
    > 'workstation' (in this case only 'serving' to the internal LAN). Given
    > that this system is going to be pretty lightly loaded 99% of the time...
    > it doesn't seem like this would really hurt anything, would it? The
    > services I was planning on running were: ssh (for shell access and
    > sftpd), samba, ntp, and then perhaps an Apache-MySQL-PHP stack (more for
    > web development than for providing services). I'll probably add a few
    > more along the way, but still seems like a pretty light load for a home
    > network with maybe... 5 users max at any one time.
    >
    > Thoughts, comments, suggestions?
    >
    > TIA,
    >
    > Monte
    >
    >

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  3. #3
    palladium NNTP User

    Default Re: Home server - dedicated machine, or workstation combo

    > Along the way I've picked up an older machine (Pentium 4, 1.2ghz, 512MB
    > RAM, 13GB HDD for OS, 500GB HDD for storage, 19" CRT monitor) that I'd
    > like to use primarily as a home file server.


    should work ok....but, that is *not* an overabundance of RAM for a
    server...it is just at the level "recommended" see:
    http://en.opensuse.org/Sysreqs

    but, imho that is a recommendation for a home, personal use
    machine...and, not a file server which _may_ be hit by five users at
    the same time..

    certainly, i'd follow the always good advice from "ab" and run it
    without XWindows (in runlevel 3) until you happen to wanna fire up a
    email (etc) reader...[and, you may wanna check out the yard sales and
    see if you can gobble up some 1 GB RAM sticks...]

    i guess you know you can administer the server via a web browser from
    anywhere you can ssh to the server by using Webmin
    <http://www.webmin.com/> (_without_ needing to have the GUI running on
    the server)..

    and, i'd personally not recommend loading KDE4 as your GUI...it is
    currently the *most* resource hungry way to go...Gnome or better yet
    XFCE are lighter alternatives (and others are even less hungry)...all
    very capable of serving PDFs/spreadsheets/etc to your eyeballs...and,
    maybe reserve a little more RAM for any user which might happen by as
    you read..

    -welcome-
    let us hear how you get on....if you need it, see
    http://tinyurl.com/ycgm2bx and http://en.opensuse.org/Concepts which
    is good openSUSE specific stuff, even for seasoned *nix vets..

    --
    palladium
    Have a lot of fun..

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Wenatchee WA USA
    Posts
    80

    Default Re: Home server - dedicated machine, or workstation combo

    I'll have to dig around a bit... I bought the computer from someone who built it from a bare-bones kit, but I did d/l a manual from the vendor for that part. The RAM upgrade part should be fairly painless.

    When I said 'maybe 5 users', I mean probably 95% of the time it'll be just me piddling around on it, and occasionally my wife and/or one of the kids with a laptop that needs to access some files. On very rare occasions there may be a couple other folks over at the house who might end up using it briefly.

    As far as running from the shell and starting X windows as needed... its been so dang long since I used anything other than kdm/gdm that I'm not sure I remember where to even *look* for configuring which window manager (i.e. iceWM, WindowMaker, etc.) gets used?

    TIA,

    Monte

  5. #5
    palladium NNTP User

    Default Re: Home server - dedicated machine, or workstation combo

    > When I said 'maybe 5 users', I mean probably 95% of the time it'll be
    > just me piddling around on it, and occasionally my wife and/or one of
    > the kids with a laptop that needs to access some files. On very rare
    > occasions there may be a couple other folks over at the house who might
    > end up using it briefly.


    well, just run it with what it has...and if it is ok, then ok...if not
    then can find some ram..


    > As far as running from the shell and starting X windows as needed...
    > its been so dang long since I used anything other than kdm/gdm that I'm
    > not sure I remember where to even *look* for configuring which window
    > manager (i.e. iceWM, WindowMaker, etc.) gets used?


    you can decide what desktop you want during the install processs (this
    is NOT your grandpa's Linux....we have indoor toilets AND electric
    lights)..

    walk yourself though the install process here:
    http://en.opensuse.org/INSTALL_Local

    when you get to step 5 you should (imHo) *not* select KDE4, XFCE is
    certainly very usable, AND low resource needy....but, KDE3 will be
    more like Windows[tm] and Gnome more like Mac...

    whatever you pick you can (using a nice GUI thingy) set it to boot to
    runlevel three....then when you wanna use X you just turn on the
    monitor, log in (as yourself) issue a 'startx' at the command line and
    poof, you will have Gnome..

    hmmmm...i'm not certain the 'best' way to revert to X not
    running...maybe close all your programs running in gnome, and go back
    to that terminal (by pressing Ctrl+Alt+F1) and enter su give your
    root pass and issue init3----but, if i were you i'd read around
    some...(i'm not a _real_ guru, i play one here)..

    --
    palladium
    Have a lot of fun..

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Wenatchee WA USA
    Posts
    80

    Default Re: Home server - dedicated machine, or workstation combo

    Just for s&g I ran an install of 11.1 on an older Sony Vaio laptop that pretty much choked and gagged on KDE 3.5 in the past. This time around I selected 'Minimal X Window'... and even the install walk-through in the Wiki (I'd already browsed through that previously) doesn't really give much of a clue as to what all 'minimal' entails (though I think I recall a way to find out but it involves going back through the install process, which on that 'puter is pretty dog-slow). Turns out it uses xdm and dumps the user into twm. Shades of "your grandpa's linux" indeed! There are none of the nice GUI tools you refer to, *anywhere* I haven't used twm in years and years... for a dang good reason: a command line prompt is more friendly and easier to use!

    That was kind of why I was curious as to what needed be done to switch to a different window manager like IceWM (which I think also got installed), or XFCE (which I installed via the ncurses version of yast).

    I may go back and re-run the install (in Virtual Box on my Vista PC) and play with a few different install options. LXDE is looking like a pretty slick interface from boot on thru login, etc. so I may tinker with that as well.

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Home server - dedicated machine, or workstation combo

    I go along with palladium. Don't expect high performance. Extending the RAM to min. 2 GB would improve overall performance anyway.

    To switch to a different desktop, like XFCE: In the login screen you see an option 'Session'. Click it and you will see the choices installed. The login manager will remember your choice.

    Since space is not an issue, and just to avoid a lot of interfering with the installer, I'd go for a standard install, deselect the auto-login feature, and install XFCE immediately afterwards. There's a pattern in the software installer that installs the entire XFCE desktop.

    You could also take a look at the LXDE-Live CD. LXDE is very light-weight, runs very OK on older machines, with a KDE3-like menu etc.

    About the server part: you seem to know how to do it. From what you write I don't see any problems.
    ° Appreciate my reply? Click the star and let me know why.

    ° Perfection is not gonna happen. No way.

    http://en.opensuse.org/User:Knurpht
    http://nl.opensuse.org/Gebruiker:Knurpht

  8. #8
    palladium NNTP User

    Default Re: Home server - dedicated machine, or workstation combo

    memilanuk wrote:
    > Just for s&g I ran an install of 11.1 on an older Sony Vaio laptop that
    > pretty much choked and gagged on KDE 3.5 in the past.


    that was most likely a problem with the graphics driver...most folks
    had some kind of problem with older openSUSE and Vaio...don't know how
    it is today, but i'd guess better..

    if you wanna try kde4, be my guest...but be prepared to be frustrated,
    until you update to KDE4.2, at least (while my KDE3.5.7 is like a rock

    > This time around
    > I selected 'Minimal X Window'... and even the install walk-through in
    > the Wiki (I'd already browsed through that previously) doesn't really
    > give much of a clue as to what all 'minimal' entails (though I think I
    > recall a way to find out but it involves going back through the install
    > process, which on that 'puter is pretty dog-slow). Turns out it uses
    > xdm and dumps the user into twm. Shades of "your grandpa's linux"
    > indeed! There are none of the nice GUI tools you refer to, *anywhere*


    now you know why i did not recommend it...(read again, i mentioned
    gnome or xfce.....i didn't say kde3 either because the #"%&
    developers have stopped all work on that so they can all chase the
    glitz and glitter of 4)


    > I haven't used twm in years and years... for a dang good reason: a
    > command line prompt is more friendly and easier to use!
    >
    > That was kind of why I was curious as to what needed be done to switch
    > to a different window manager like IceWM (which I think also got
    > installed), or XFCE (which I installed via the ncurses version of yast).


    changing window manager and desktop environment can (mostly) all be
    done by just using YaST to install the bits and then at the log in
    screen (the green, GUI log in screen) look down in the left corner,
    click on "Sessions" and you will see a list of what you have
    available...i've not looked at my list in which but as i recall i can
    switch between KDE3, KDE4, Gnome, XFCE, and *several* others..

    easy, would make grandpa laugh at how easy..


    > I may go back and re-run the install (in Virtual Box on my Vista PC)
    > and play with a few different install options. LXDE is looking like a
    > pretty slick interface from boot on thru login, etc. so I may tinker
    > with that as well.


    like to tinker, think about: *SOAD Linux:* Possibly the most light
    weight liveCD is a Russian effort based on openSUSE 11.1, using an
    "Enlightenment" windowing environment. Read/download from here:
    http://sda.scwlab.com/soad_linux.html This Enlightentment desktop is
    supposed to be more light weight than either KDE, Gnome or XFCE.

    you can boot and run it without threatening your Mista disk's goodies..

    --
    palladium
    Have a lot of fun..

  9. #9
    JackBl NNTP User

    Default Re: Home server - dedicated machine, or workstation combo

    How did your little project work out? Was 512MB enough ram or did you have to increase it to a larger size? If yes, what size? Thanks!


    Quote Originally Posted by memilanuk View Post
    Hello all,

    Along the way I've picked up an older machine (Pentium 4, 1.2ghz, 512MB RAM, 13GB HDD for OS, 500GB HDD for storage, 19" CRT monitor) that I'd like to use primarily as a home file server. Not so much streaming media files, but someplace people can back up their 'My Documents' (or equivalent) directories to from the various laptops in the house. It has just enough background noise that the wife doesn't want it in the study area upstairs, so I thought perhaps I would put it downstairs in the basement shop area. Down there... I've often thought it'd be nice to have a very basic computer at hand - something to be able to browse the web, check email, and open/read the occasional PDF or spreadsheet file. Most of the rest of the time it'd just be sitting quietly under a bench.

    With some other distros, people get all in a lather when someone mentions having a GUI on a server, or putting server software on a 'workstation' (in this case only 'serving' to the internal LAN). Given that this system is going to be pretty lightly loaded 99% of the time... it doesn't seem like this would really hurt anything, would it? The opensuse dedicated server I was planning on running were: ssh (for shell access and sftpd), samba, ntp, and then perhaps an Apache-MySQL-PHP stack (more for web development than for providing services). I'll probably add a few more along the way, but still seems like a pretty light load for a home network with maybe... 5 users max at any one time.

    Thoughts, comments, suggestions?

    TIA,

    Monte

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    UTC+10
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    Default Re: Home server - dedicated machine, or workstation combo

    Quote Originally Posted by palladium View Post
    and, i'd personally not recommend loading KDE4 as your GUI...it is
    currently the *most* resource hungry way to go...Gnome or better yet
    XFCE are lighter alternatives (and others are even less hungry)...all
    very capable of serving PDFs/spreadsheets/etc to your eyeballs...and,
    maybe reserve a little more RAM for any user which might happen by as
    you read..
    While I would not recommend running a GUI on a server, I should say that the developers have done fantastic work on KDE4. I saw that the RAM footprint on a 11.2 install, after I logged in on the desktop, was only 200MB. That should give Xfce a run for its money.

    512 MB should be sufficient for a file server (disk I/O is more likely to be the limitation). I have a mail server that runs fine in 512 MB, CLI of course.

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