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(yet another) Which version of Linux for me?

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July 13, 2006 2:09:37 PM

I'm guessing that you get tons of these posts a day, so sorry for adding another.

I am ready to start giving Linux a try, expecially since the price is so reasonable (free, booyah!). I have two systems I would like to try it on.

System #1:
Socket A Sempron 2200+
256 MB RAM

This computer's main use is a file server for backup purposes. Whatever version of Linux I put on it will need to be able to network with Windows PCs easily. FTP would be good to have included. Aside from everything else, accessing the storage over a network is this PC's main function and ease of setting up and maintaing the file sharing is the biggest priority.

Other functions I would like it to have but are not necessary at all are mail server and web server functionality. Other functionality like web browsing, using open office ect. would be nice to, but not at all necessary. It's server abilities are the first priority.


System #2:
Athlon 64 3000+
512+ MB RAM

This computer is going to be a normal "home desktop." It needs to be versitile like a desktop, and it does not need to be specialzed in any area in particular. This OS may be minimal or bloated out the wazoo since it has decent specs.


For both of these computers ease of use is really important. I am pretty decent with a PC, so I don't need the OS to be so easy it is crippled, however. Lots of community support and good help files should suffice. Also, I do not mind having multiple OS's on each computer to try them out, but I would rather not be suggested many different OS's to try out since that would take a lot of time.

Finally, one quick question...
In Windows, when I partition a hard disk it tells me that I am limited to partitioning a drive into 4 or 5 partitions max. Is this the case always, or can I make more partitons? If so I would like to so that I can install more OS's at once to try them out.


In summery...
- What OS for my file (and maybe web) server PC?
- What OS for my general purpose desktop PC?
- How many partitions can on a hard disk?

Oops, one more question... should overclocking on a linux system work the same as overclocking on a Windows system? Should the stability be the same?

More about : version linux

July 13, 2006 3:53:01 PM

Ok, so you are saying that FC5, Ubuntu, CentOS, SuSE all work for both of my systems?

/dev/sda1 ext3 $drive_size-4GB /
/dev/sda2 SWAP 4GB
I have no idea what ^ means :-D

When using SFTP, what client software would I use on my other PC's to connect? Would running War FTP client work?
Related resources
a b 5 Linux
July 13, 2006 4:12:33 PM

Quote:
Ok, so you are saying that FC5, Ubuntu, CentOS, SuSE all work for both of my systems?

/dev/sda1 ext3 $drive_size-4GB /
/dev/sda2 SWAP 4GB
I have no idea what ^ means :-D

When using SFTP, what client software would I use on my other PC's to connect? Would running War FTP client work?




That's the partition layout.

One ext3 partition which is the size of the drive - 4GB
One SWAP partition 4GB

Check this page out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_SFTP_clients

You can use GFTP under Linux and ssh/scp/sftp

On windoze you can use any of the clients listed @ wikipedia

:-D
a b 5 Linux
July 13, 2006 6:52:53 PM

Just to add some clarity here (knowledge is good! :) ) the "/dev/sda1 ext3" entry corresponds to your "normal" disk (think C:\), while "/dev/sda2 SWAP" is the swap or pagefile on it's own partition (think C:\pagefile.sys).

There is no 4 partition limit (even in Windows, actually), but there is a 4 primary partition limit. One of those partitions, however, can be turned into a single large "primary" partition that actually houses many smaller "extended" partitions. It's a workaround for legacy-compatibility. I'm sure the wikipedia article and other online source have more information than you'd care to know.

Also, all of the "distros" (or distributions of linux, grouping of kernel patches and software shaped by either a community of company) mentioned by linux_0 are great starter distros that are also just technical enough that they are incredibly powerful too. You might want to look into the provided samba (Windows network shares are SMB-type traffic, hance SaMBa) capabilities as well as sftp as already pointed out. The file-server would be a great place to centralize an automated backup scheme (so that other users on the network could, if their machine is on and they are sharing a particular folder, can have an automated backup of important documents... just an idea)
July 13, 2006 11:18:16 PM

Thanks a lot for clarifying bmourning. Both of you have been a lot of help. I am going to go ahead and give samba a shot. If I have more questions I'll be back!
a b 5 Linux
July 14, 2006 5:17:49 AM

Quote:
Thanks a lot for clarifying bmourning. Both of you have been a lot of help. I am going to go ahead and give samba a shot. If I have more questions I'll be back!




Yup SAMBA is kewl too :-D

So is rsync ;-)

:-D
a b 5 Linux
July 14, 2006 12:12:29 PM

Yup, if asked for more clarification on the automatic backup, I was ready to furl out the cron job using rsync after mounting a samba share... good stuff :) 
a b 5 Linux
July 14, 2006 12:55:07 PM

Quote:
Yup, if asked for more clarification on the automatic backup, I was ready to furl out the cron job using rsync after mounting a samba share... good stuff :) 




Oh yeah, samba and rsync are both part of samba.org :-D
July 14, 2006 12:57:23 PM

Quote:
Yup, if asked for more clarification on the automatic backup, I was ready to furl out the cron job using rsync after mounting a samba share... good stuff :) 


Once I start getting things set up I may be asking for more clarification/help. An automatic backup is what I have planned.
a b 5 Linux
July 14, 2006 3:17:59 PM

Quote:
Yup, if asked for more clarification on the automatic backup, I was ready to furl out the cron job using rsync after mounting a samba share... good stuff :) 


Once I start getting things set up I may be asking for more clarification/help. An automatic backup is what I have planned.



I would actually suggest rsync over ssh

Something like this:

[code:1:D 60ea7dc2d]
rsync -artlpzv -e ssh /home/username "user@192.168.0.2:/home/username"
[/code:1:D 60ea7dc2d]
a b 5 Linux
July 14, 2006 4:58:29 PM

That would involve installing a ssh server on the Windows machines, but I agree that method is probably the easiest to get going.
a b 5 Linux
July 14, 2006 5:00:02 PM

Quote:
That would involve installing a ssh server on the Windows machines, but I agree that method is probably the easiest to get going.



cygwin :-D :-D

http://cygwin.com/
July 16, 2006 12:10:11 AM

Allright you two, here is another question...

I am planning on using xubuntu (I think that is how it is spelled) on my less powerful, file server PC and I was wondering if I can also set it up to be my router? If so, is that functionality built in that you know of or do you have a recomendation for some software that I could use with that OS?

One with lots of features (but still easy to navigate) would be good. Features like setting priority devices, such as my Xbox. I forget what they call that feature, but I know that D-Link has something like it on one of their routers so that certain devices can get better treatment and thus less lag. :-D

My less than a year old $100 Netgear router has gone rabbid and I think I'm gonna have to put'er down.
a b 5 Linux
July 16, 2006 3:53:53 AM

Quote:
Allright you two, here is another question...

I am planning on using xubuntu (I think that is how it is spelled) on my less powerful, file server PC and I was wondering if I can also set it up to be my router? If so, is that functionality built in that you know of or do you have a recomendation for some software that I could use with that OS?

One with lots of features (but still easy to navigate) would be good. Features like setting priority devices, such as my Xbox. I forget what they call that feature, but I know that D-Link has something like it on one of their routers so that certain devices can get better treatment and thus less lag. :-D

My less than a year old $100 Netgear router has gone rabbid and I think I'm gonna have to put'er down.




Any Linux or BSD machine can be a router :-D And a dang good one too!

Normally you should use 2 NICs in your router:

eth0 -> cable/DSL modem, etc

eth1 -> private LAN 192.168.0.0/24

You can either configure it by hand ( I can give you the config ), use a firewall distribution or use firewall tools with a GUI or web interface.


I'm sure bmouring will suggest something even better :-D but here goes:


http://www.smoothwall.org/

http://m0n0.ch/wall/

http://ipcop.org/

http://freshmeat.net/search/?q=linux+router&section=pro...


:-D
a b 5 Linux
July 17, 2006 12:38:34 AM

Those are great suggestions, the only one I can add is firestarter which is an app instead of a distro with a specific purpose. It's great if you want to use, say, a desktop distro for daily use but also want to use the same machine to share the network connection. If you'd rather just use the machine more as a router/server/etc I would recommend one of the distros suggested by linux_0
July 20, 2006 1:28:16 AM

Allright. So far I have installed unbuntu on my file server pc and I am trying to get samba working and I am trying to format all of the hard disks in the pc (other than the one with ubuntu installed on it).

First of all, I have got to say that this is driving me nuts. Going from Windows where I either know how to solve my problems or how to figure out how to solve my problems to Linux is pretty tough. I still have hardly any idea how to install software or run it. Somehow I managed to install firestarter, but that is the extent of my success.

Anyways, here ismy question...

I am trying to format my hard disks with some software called qtparted, but when I run it it says it cannot find any drives and maybe I am not root. I am guessing that means I need to be logged on as the admin to run it. How do I run a program (is it called a package on Linux?) as the admin (is it called an admin or superuser usually?)?


Once I get my file server up and running, I will be able to install ubuntu on my other PC and take the time to play around with it.
a b 5 Linux
July 20, 2006 2:00:49 AM

Quote:
Allright. So far I have installed unbuntu on my file server pc and I am trying to get samba working and I am trying to format all of the hard disks in the pc (other than the one with ubuntu installed on it).

First of all, I have got to say that this is driving me nuts. Going from Windows where I either know how to solve my problems or how to figure out how to solve my problems to Linux is pretty tough. I still have hardly any idea how to install software or run it. Somehow I managed to install firestarter, but that is the extent of my success.

Anyways, here ismy question...

I am trying to format my hard disks with some software called qtparted, but when I run it it says it cannot find any drives and maybe I am not root. I am guessing that means I need to be logged on as the admin to run it. How do I run a program (is it called a package on Linux?) as the admin (is it called an admin or superuser usually?)?


Once I get my file server up and running, I will be able to install ubuntu on my other PC and take the time to play around with it.




The admin or superuser on Unix is root

To become root just type in

[code:1:b98661932b]
su -

# or

sudo su -
[/code:1:b98661932b]

su stands for switch user


to get help on any command:

[code:1:b98661932b]
man command_name

man -k keyword

info command_name

cd /usr/share/doc/program_name/
[/code:1:b98661932b]


be sure to check out:

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Linux


to install things on Ubuntu I'd advise you to use the GUI frontend to apt-get

and remember google is your friend!

Good Luck :-D

PS I'd be happy to try to help you over IM just PM me your IM info.
July 20, 2006 2:11:10 AM

What about if I am not running it from the terminal? There is an icon to run the software, kind of like Start -> Programs on Windows.
a b 5 Linux
July 20, 2006 2:22:17 AM

Quote:
What about if I am not running it from the terminal? There is an icon to run the software, kind of like Start -> Programs on Windows.



If you installed the GUI yes.



Just click on Applications Places or System at the top left
July 20, 2006 10:14:09 AM

That is what I did and then it gave me the error about needing to be rootl
a b 5 Linux
July 20, 2006 3:18:22 PM

Anything that has a icon launcher can be run from the terminal as well. try this:

[code:1:D e06df3b20]//$ = User #=root
$ xhost +
//reply about allowing access to the X server
$ su
//Enter the root password
# qtparted
//should open a window with qtparted in it. Go from there.[/code:1:D e06df3b20]

also note that the parted familiy of apps if for making of partitions, not formatting the disks. In order to do that, use the various mkfs commands.

[code:1:D e06df3b20]man mkfs[/code:1:D e06df3b20]

Most importantly, try not to get frustrated. We've all been there. Find some good forums and wiki's (ubuntu's got some great ones) and don't be afraid to google. We'll of course be happy to help any way we can.
July 20, 2006 5:32:24 PM

Thanks again you two, I think that answers my question.

My file server PC has 6 drives in it that all (except for one) are partitioned with NTFS and some have multiple partitons, so I am going to basically make them all clean and fresh.

Also, after looking around on the net for a bit, I came to the conclusion that the XFS file system would probably be best for my purposes. It seemed to be both quick and safe since it is a journaling file system (I just learned the journaling stuff a min ago :-D ).
a b 5 Linux
July 20, 2006 5:56:54 PM

XFS is great for high-performance systems but if the data is critical, it is best to have the system on a UPS as the agressive caching scheme used by it can render a lot of file data either corrupted or missing during unexpected shutdowns. Journaled is nice because it guarentees that your filesystem is always structurally coherent but makes no guarantees about the file data itself. I could explain in excrutiating detail, but I'll spare you ;) 

Generally, this is acceptable for most people though, just adding in my $.02 (Had a course in Unix Filesystems). XFS is great, I've never had issues with it, but I also keep the system that has it on a UPS. I generally use Reiser 3.6.
July 20, 2006 6:20:14 PM

If you recommend Reiser for reliability, then Reiser it is :-D

And don't be afrid to talk in depth about things like that. I am a CSCI major and it is always great to hear about advanced data structures, algorithms, and the such. ( if the "I'll spare you" part was a nice way of saying I'd rather not bother writing a huge post I understand that too :-D )
a b 5 Linux
July 20, 2006 8:00:18 PM

Nono, I just know that some people don't really care to know too much about this kinda stuff (they want it to "Just Work TM").

Basically, as the filesystem portion of the kernel is working with files, quite often all this is happening in system memory and not the actual disk (as you probably know). When this data does get flushed to the disk, if some of the structural data of the filesystem is only partially written to the on-disk structures it can lead to broken structures (corrupted data, bad pointers, you get the idea). The idea of a journal is to write down an atomic group of actions to dispatch (or a cache flush).

The order follows as such:
1) Write the actions to a journal
2) Upon completion of the jounal dispatch unit, mark it as completely written to the journal
3) Begin modifying the actual on-disk structures
4) Upon completing, mark the dispatch unit in the journal as completely written to disk
5) Begin loading new unit to flush.

If the system crashes before 1) All data is lost and the jounal record isn't valid (since there's nothing in it) (XFS caches a lot of data, as such in the even of a crash that's why a lot of data is lost). A little data loss but life is good.

If it crashes between 1) and 2), there's actions to perform in the journal but it hasn't been marked as "good", so it could lead to an inconsistent system (think of first moving a file chunk and then updating the pointer to it, if it crashes between those steps you are now missing data) and as such, the journal is ignored. Life is good.

If a crash happens between 2) and 3), we have a good journal but nothing's taken place on the actual disk. On restart, the actions listed in the journal are replayed and the journal is marked "completely written to disk". Life is good.

If a crash occurs between 3) and 4), we have partially updated the on-disk structures but not completely. As such, like above, the entire journal is replayed. Some file data might be lost, but the filesystem is coherent. Life is again good.

If a crash occurs between 4) and 5), on next boot the filesystem portion of the kernel sees that the last transaction was complete, even if the filesystem itself is marked "dirty" (when unmounting a filesystem, it is marked "clean" to let the kernel know that a check is not necessary). The replay is skipped (as there is nothing to replay) and life is good.

Now, some really cools stuff is the so-called log filesystems, they use this same concept but with the entire filesystem instead of just the metadata of the filesystem. Updates to file data result in moving the data as a whole and the log keeps track of the location of the file contents as they move around. As you can probably imagine, since old data isn't initially overwritten (it is later by a "garbage collector" of sorts), it allows for trivial implimentation of filesystem-wide versioning.

As boring as it might seem to some, as you could probably tell, I think filesystems are pretty damn cool.
July 20, 2006 8:54:17 PM

Quote:

[code:1:8a44ba4da6]//$ = User #=root
$ xhost +
//reply about allowing access to the X server
$ su
//Enter the root password
# qtparted
//should open a window with qtparted in it. Go from there.[/code:1:8a44ba4da6]

also note that the parted familiy of apps if for making of partitions, not formatting the disks. In order to do that, use the various mkfs commands.

[code:1:8a44ba4da6]man mkfs[/code:1:8a44ba4da6]


Allright, right now I am trying this. I switched users so that I am root by typing in "sudo su -" and then giving the password. However, every time I type in xhost or xhost + it says "unable to open display." Then if I try typing in qtparted it says "cannot connect to x server." I am assuing it says that since running xhost gives me the error it does.



*** UPDATE ***
After a bit of work I got GParted installed and working, so now my partitioning and formatting is underway. I am still curious why the xhost thing was not working. Oh well, progress is being made!



*** UPDATE 2 ***
I was having trouble mounting all of my hard drives, but I found a great guide that walked me through doing it through the command line, so I feel that much wiser now.

A new problem I am facing is how to get my Windows computers on my network to be able to see the drives I have shared on my xubuntu pc. I ran the installed "shared folders" program and added a few folders, but I am not able to even see my linux pc from the Windows PCs when I go through "My Network Places."



Current Questions:
1. What is the deal with xhost? Why is it that when I do sudo su - and then xhost + it is giving me that error? I am assuming that xhost is something I will need for many Linux applications.

2. How do I set up my Linux PCs so that they are visible from my Windows PCs?
a b 5 Linux
July 21, 2006 3:20:39 AM

Sorry, shoulda been clearer here, you run xhost before changing to root, allowing for root to connext to your X server, not after.
[code:1:ab4e252826]brad@the-uberbeast ~ $ xhost +
access control disabled, clients can connect from any host
brad@the-uberbeast ~ $ su
Password:
the-uberbeast brad # gnomine
//Gnomine opens[/code:1:ab4e252826]

Also, I rarely use this trick, as most of my root work is text-based.

As for installing and setting up the samba server stuff, here you can find a great, (x)ubuntu-specific guide for doing just that. If you have additional questions, of course don't hesitate to ask.

Cheers.
July 21, 2006 9:22:42 AM

Ah I see. As time goes on I am going to try to work more and more with the command line and less with the gui for my administrative work. But for now, I'm stuck with gui's since they are more user friendly.

This site is one someone recommended in the forums and it seems to be really good for those just begining with ubuntu. It has step by step guides that walk you through some simple (but important) tasks all from the terminal. Also, there are not too many guides on the site, just ones most beginners need. That makes it much easier to use the site and find what you need. This site may be a good one for ya'll to recommend to all of those begining ubuntu users.

The file system information was very interesting in my opinion. It was more confusing than it should have been since I read it at the end of the day and my mind was getting a little bit slow. Either wy it was a good read and every little thing like that may help me in the future once I finish school. I had not given the file systems computers use much thought before (probably since with Windows it was simple: use NTFS), but I find them along with all other data structures interesting.

Thanks for the help! I may be back for more help later.
July 21, 2006 1:41:44 PM

rsync looks perfect. The files I am backing up are mostly video files, probably around 350 - 400 GB right now and going up. Not only is the automation what I want, but it would definatly be best if the backup was incrimenta and didn't just replace every file (that would take a LONG time, expecially since the PC with the movies on it may be connected wirelessly).
a b 5 Linux
July 21, 2006 1:45:09 PM

Yep, when in school I use it to keep my desktop (where I do most of my work) and laptop (where I take all of my notes and do some work) in sync. Works like a charm.
a b 5 Linux
July 21, 2006 2:37:12 PM

Yup yup :-D

[code:1:D c0e812b0f]
rsync -artlpzv -e ssh /home/$your_username "$your_username@192.168.0.20:/home/$your_username/"

# /home/$your_username is the source directory on the local machine

# "$your_username@192.168.0.20:/home/$your_username/" is the remote machine and path in SCP syntax
[/code:1:D c0e812b0f]


PS Remove the z from -artlpzv if transferring already compressed files on a LAN.

Wireless is convenient but it is super slow ( 54Mbps ) compared to gigE ( about 1062Mbps ) and is completely insecure even with encryption turned on.

54Mbps is max theoretical -- your mileage will vary but if there is interference or other issues it may slow down to less than 11Mbps.

1062Mbps is max theoretical -- you can usually push about 251Mbps ( 30MB/sec depending on your hardware, software and settings ).
July 21, 2006 3:01:24 PM

Trust me, I know about the woe's of file transfer over wireless. If I could drill the holes, I would run cat 5, but I can't. Fortunatly, the biggest backup (the first one) will be done over a wired 100 mbps connection, so that will be fine.
a b 5 Linux
July 23, 2006 4:08:05 AM

One warning with using rsync- it can be set to just update changes to a file and that has led to some corrupted files on my machines- d'oh!! I always tell it to replace the old file entirely with a the updated one and that has saved me a lot of trouble. (It does not replace ALL files unless all files are changed- only the changed files.) I have a laptop and desktop that I keep synchronized with the help of a little tool called Unison that is a graphical frontend to rsync and by default, it checks for changes between two directories (which can be other computers or USB sticks, external HDDs, etc.) and replaces entire files. It will also checksum files too, so it ensures that the transfer went smoothly. Both machines run Linux, so I share /home/myname/Documents on the laptop and mount it over NFS on the desktop and then run Unison on the desktop.

The machines talk over a 100 Mbit LAN as the laptop only has a 100 Mbps port while the desktop has a GbE NIC. Synchronizing hundreds of megabytes takes maybe a minute or so. It is so dang handy to be able to do that- I don't know how anybody could do without that. The computers talk through the LAN ports on a 54 Mbit wireless router, and the laptop has an 11 Mbps wireless card in it, whereas my girlfriend's and brothers' computers both run Windows, two have 54 Mbps cards in them, and one has an 11 Mbps card like mine (it's an identical machine.) Here's the speeds I see:

1 Gbps LAN-to-LAN: Not tested yet*
100 Mbit LAN-to-LAN: 12.3-12.5 MB/sec
54 Mbit WLAN-to-LAN: 1.9-2.2 MB/sec
54 Mbit WLAN-to-54 Mbit WLAN: ~1 MB/sec
11 Mbit WLAN-to-LAN: 380-430 KB/sec
11 Mbit WLAN-to-54 Mbit WLAN: 380-430 KB/sec
11 Mbit WLAN-to-11 Mbit WLAN: ~250KB/sec

*I estimate that my machine's maximum sustained throughput would be approximately 500 Mbps as the fastest HDD can pull 72 MB/sec sustained. Now the only computer that can actually talk to my desktop at gigabit speeds would be one brother's Dell notebook. It has an 80GB HDD that pulls about 30-35 MB/sec maximum and would thus likely limit the speed to that 200-250 Mbps range. However, the HDD is so fragmented (NTFS) that his machine does not usually saturate a 100 Mbps connection. Something like 8 MB/sec is what it usually will do, and little more.
a b 5 Linux
July 28, 2006 6:45:11 AM

Quote:
One warning with using rsync- it can be set to just update changes to a file and that has led to some corrupted files on my machines- d'oh!! I always tell it to replace the old file entirely with a the updated one and that has saved me a lot of trouble. (It does not replace ALL files unless all files are changed- only the changed files.) I have a laptop and desktop that I keep synchronized with the help of a little tool called Unison that is a graphical frontend to rsync and by default, it checks for changes between two directories (which can be other computers or USB sticks, external HDDs, etc.) and replaces entire files. It will also checksum files too, so it ensures that the transfer went smoothly. Both machines run Linux, so I share /home/myname/Documents on the laptop and mount it over NFS on the desktop and then run Unison on the desktop.

The machines talk over a 100 Mbit LAN as the laptop only has a 100 Mbps port while the desktop has a GbE NIC. Synchronizing hundreds of megabytes takes maybe a minute or so. It is so dang handy to be able to do that- I don't know how anybody could do without that. The computers talk through the LAN ports on a 54 Mbit wireless router, and the laptop has an 11 Mbps wireless card in it, whereas my girlfriend's and brothers' computers both run Windows, two have 54 Mbps cards in them, and one has an 11 Mbps card like mine (it's an identical machine.) Here's the speeds I see:

1 Gbps LAN-to-LAN: Not tested yet*
100 Mbit LAN-to-LAN: 12.3-12.5 MB/sec
54 Mbit WLAN-to-LAN: 1.9-2.2 MB/sec
54 Mbit WLAN-to-54 Mbit WLAN: ~1 MB/sec
11 Mbit WLAN-to-LAN: 380-430 KB/sec
11 Mbit WLAN-to-54 Mbit WLAN: 380-430 KB/sec
11 Mbit WLAN-to-11 Mbit WLAN: ~250KB/sec

*I estimate that my machine's maximum sustained throughput would be approximately 500 Mbps as the fastest HDD can pull 72 MB/sec sustained. Now the only computer that can actually talk to my desktop at gigabit speeds would be one brother's Dell notebook. It has an 80GB HDD that pulls about 30-35 MB/sec maximum and would thus likely limit the speed to that 200-250 Mbps range. However, the HDD is so fragmented (NTFS) that his machine does not usually saturate a 100 Mbps connection. Something like 8 MB/sec is what it usually will do, and little more.





Windows is almost always slower than Linux transfering files.

I routinely get full wire speed, or close to it on Linux while windows often do half of that or less on the same hardware.

Wireless is quite slow as well regardless of OS.
!