which distro for lan file server?

Discussion in 'all things UNIX' started by Sully, Apr 23, 2010.

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  1. Sully

    Sully Registered Member

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    I would have thought a search using some combination of "lan home file server" would have turned up a result. Not even one! Quite suprising really.

    Anyhow, I am in the market to find a flavor of *nix that is relatively easy to use in regards to setting up as a file server. Older hardware for the most part, pIII era stuff.

    I currently am using an older win2k advanced box with 6 hotswap 10k scsi drives in raid 5. It works, no problems at all. However, I have a new server to add to the mix. I have a small box now dedicated to being a web server (IIS with mysql and php) for internal testing. I am thinking of putting a *nix distro on the new server, and running apache or whatever on it (lan only) and using it as a file server.

    So are there any suggestions for which distro flavor might be best.

    I am not afraid to do any command line operations. I have messed with flavors in the past. I don't know what the commands are, but it is just syntax that needs to be learned, not too daunting. I would prefer something with good GUIs so it does not take as long to get things going. I don't need much in way of applications or eye candy. I do want to VNC or RDP into it, but I have a KVM for it as well.

    I have used slack, redhat, ubuntu, mepis, suse, debian, and some others years ago. Some from liveCDs, some from installs. I can manage to get shares up and get online etc. I have not done much in way of groups and accounts, which will need to be done for sure.

    So, in short, I am not exactly sure what I need overall, nor which flavor to choose. And frankly, I don't have time to spend teting out 15 different flavors to see which one I like best. I thought about FreeNAS, and did try that out, but would rather go with a regular distro. If I am going to do this I might as well learn a little in the process.

    Any input appreciated.

    Sul.
     
  2. linuxforall

    linuxforall Registered Member

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  3. Sully

    Sully Registered Member

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    Thank you. I will check that out.

    Sul.
     
  4. doktornotor

    doktornotor Registered Member

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  5. Mrkvonic

    Mrkvonic Linux Systems Expert

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    I would recommend CentOS, super stable and current version support till 2014.
    Mrk
     
  6. YeOldeStonecat

    YeOldeStonecat Registered Member

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  7. Sully

    Sully Registered Member

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    Thank you for the replies.

    A question. The machine I plan on using this with has 2x40 gb drives for the raid 1. The OS drive is a scsci drive.

    I assume ext3 is the best format to use? Interoperability with M$ machines is the goal. But also being able to pull the data off the raid array if the OS drive craps out is a concern. I assume also that what one would likely do is to use a liveCD to access the ext3 files then.

    Is there a benefit to formatting the raid array in something else?

    Also, if I create shares on the raid array, for example with FreeNAS, do the share rights carry over to an installed distro, and opposite, if an installed distro creates shares on the raid array, are the shares and rights visible in FreeNAS? I know the answer to this on M$ machines, but not on nix flavors.

    Sul.
     
  8. mack_guy911

    mack_guy911 Registered Member

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    Last edited: Apr 24, 2010
  9. doktornotor

    doktornotor Registered Member

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    FreeNAS doesn't use ext3 at all; you can use either UFS (native BSD filesystem) or ZFS for the RAID stuff (this is ported from OpenSolaris). I don't quite understand the interoperability part here; the files are shared via SMB/CIFS, NFS, AFP, FTP or whatever, you never see the underlying filesystem.

    See above; also, ZFS pools are way more resistent to data corruption than anything else.

    The filesystem permissions, yeah... though, it's numeric, in case you mount it somewhere else, you'd need to recreate users with same UID/GID. Also, nothing will be automagically shared if you move the drives to another distro.
     
  10. Sully

    Sully Registered Member

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    Thanks.

    By interoperability, I mean that FAT can be used by both. I know the different formats are generally not compatible, where I cannot remove drive and make it a slave to another OS, to view its contents. But then, I have not experimented with much outside the windows world. So I am asking that perhaps there is a universal format that is better than FAT,although I don't think so.

    I understand that sharing files over network makes it all transparent. I was meaning the actual physical drives.

    I have tried a number of liveCDs now. Many of them do not work on this hardware. CentOS, FreeNAS both failed to load. DSL and Knoppix both loaded. What is a hdd install like vs the liveCD stuff. Can one expect more compatability outside of the liveCD?

    Sul.
     
  11. doktornotor

    doktornotor Registered Member

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    FAT is extremely bad idea for anything but USB pendrives and memory cards. Also, as long as Linux/BSD/whatever software RAID is involved, you won't be able to read those drives on Windows machines no matter what, so the filesystem "compatibility" doesn't matter here.

    Not really enough info to debug these issues. What do you mean by "failed to load"? Also, Live CD/DVD vs. HDD install - well, you need USB drive, floppy or whatever to store the configuration on with this kind of setup. Also, it will be very slow unless you have enough RAM to actually unpack the entire live CD contents into a ramdisk and run from there. OTOH, any OS screw-ups you might have done (beyond configuration) will be fixed on next reboot. Arguably it's also more secure, because you can't write anything on the media (unless you use rewritable ones).
     
  12. Sully

    Sully Registered Member

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    I know FAT is not that great. I understand the differences between many of them. But I was using that as an example of a format that both a M$ machine and *nix machine can both read and write to. I was wondering if there is another format that might be considered more "universal" amongts the *nix flavors that would be seen on an M$ box just like FAT would.

    It sounds like I will be limited then on raid to a linux recovery cd. Right now with an ntfs raid array, a linuxiso recovery cd can see the files. That will be somewhat limiting, but not impossible.

    Well, the machine is a dual pIII 733 box, with 1gb ddr 2100. I should think it would have enough poop to run a liveCD. I have run liveCDs in the past on much less. However, this is a Micron NetFrame server, so not the typical pc clone.

    By failed to load, I mean to say that whether the end result is to get into a console menu such as FreeNAS has, or a shell/GUI such as DSL has, it fails. Somewhere along the way, it just hangs. I don't know the specifics of the linux boot process. But I can see it seems to be allocating resources, installing drivers etc. There is certainly not a common theme in it, as I think each distro seems radically different in the boot process via liveCD. But I will assume it is the hardware on this server that is the culprit.

    I downloaded a lot last night and will try some today. Mint, Suse, Fedora, Mandrake (I liked that name better than Mandriva ;) ), CentOS, ClearOS, Debian, Mepis, Puppy, Xubuntu, eBox. I know not all of them are liveCDs, but I think I will image what is on the box now and try some installs.

    Honestly, while I am certainly not a noob, some of those repositories are dang confusing. You would think they would be more clear on exactly what each file will do. Some are nicely labeled something like "liveCD", others, well, they are lacking in descriptions for those who have not been there and done that.

    Thanks for the replies. I shall press forward. Perhaps this is why I usually only play with linux for small amounts of time. M$ may have its issues lol, but it is in some respects a better product. Yes, that is only an opinion, so don't shoot the messenger ;)

    Sul.
     
  13. doktornotor

    doktornotor Registered Member

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    Well, a complete list of HW would really help here, you can produce one w/ lspci -v from some of the booting distros. Also, a screenshot where it hangs if you have a digital camera. Usual suspect here would be the RAID controller.
     
  14. Sully

    Sully Registered Member

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    I could give a complete list of hardware I suppose. But after some more messing around, and a very many burned cds later, I don't know if I want to continue or not.

    Debian, Madriva, Mepis, Mint, CentOS, ClearOS, FreeNas, Knoppix and a few others now I forget failed to either install or succeed in the liveCD operating. All hung at some point, with no rhyme or reason. It could be bad hardware.

    However, Xubuntu and DSL both had no problems, multiple times.

    I don't know linux well, but Xubuntu is "supposed" to be a light resource distro. However, I was less than impressed with the responsiveness of it. XP Pro on this machine was pretty snappy, where as Xubuntu was very doggy and sluggish. Is this what one can expect from the modern distros? Are they so mired in "looking good" that they are not what they used to be? I remember using Suse and RedHat years ago, and it was really fast on older hardware. I was not expecting this.

    It could be a hardware device failing. But honestly, is the linux world always this way? I understand getting support for a new device might take some monkeying around, but to install it on an older machine that should be known about, and having this many problems seems a little strange. I see why a neophyte would be turned off by linux in a hurry, especially considering M$ is pretty easy to install normally.

    I will try a few more things before I give up, as I desire to learn more of linux. But at some point I might just say screw it and use something I know works.

    But I do appreciate the time taken thus far to help.

    Sul.
     
  15. doktornotor

    doktornotor Registered Member

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    Well, I can't tell you anything about HW incompatibity if you don't list your HW exactly, sorry. Xubuntu uses XFCE for desktop, I'd hardly call that sluggish on even quite old HW and recent XFCE versions, though some bloat related to the dbus etc. stuff certainly got there. Fluxbuntu should be faster but then again, we are talking about desktop distros here, not what you want. It's definitely not meant as a fileserver distro, you'll have to configure everything manually and install a lot of stuff that's not installed by default.
     
  16. Sully

    Sully Registered Member

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    Yeah, I am not really needing the classic server likely, just something that can sit at home or work and share. The reason I want to use linux is to also house a website locally for someone to work on before uploading it. The webserver we rent has apache, mysql, php etc, and having a linux box could let us duplicate the file structure and tools exactly. About any windows box could achieve the file serving portion.

    Not to mention I do have a desire to learn more linux in general.

    I will see if I can't list the hardware. Now that I have no OS installed, it becomes a little more difficult, as there is no documentation available that I can find, but I will find it somewhere.

    Today I unplugged all but one scsi drive, which is found and one ata cd-rom drive. I just tried debian again, and it hung on a line that included the drive id (such is hd0 or something), but this was right after it was letting the scsi device "settle".

    It sounds like I should expect a distro such as that to be snappy, so there must be an issue. I will get back with more data.

    Thanks for the time to reply.

    Sul.
     
  17. doktornotor

    doktornotor Registered Member

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    Let me get this straight - have you configured the "hardware" RAID in your SCSI controller BIOS? If so, get rid of it, it's completely useless and will cause tons of compatibility issues.
     
  18. Sully

    Sully Registered Member

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    Not exactly sure. The board has scsi built into it. It is capable of raid I believe, but right now there is only one device on the channel, a single IBM hdd. I don't believe it is set for raid at all right now, the scsi that is. There are two ata channels, and right now the primary device on channel 0 is a cd-rom drive. The other ata channel can be configured for raid, which it was set to raid 1 with two older maxtor drives. DSL could see both the single scsi drive and the ata raid 1 drive(s), and it appeared as each distro was going through install/bootup, that it found the devices. Whether finding them at that stage is different from allocating resources and implementing drivers I don't know about.

    It is a server, not really a desktop, dual proc and all. Perhaps that is the issue? While I freely admit I know next to diddly about linux, it seems like if one flavor such as DSL or Xubuntu could work fine every time, that most all would. But maybe it is more machine/distro specific that I think.

    No matter what the issue, I find it intriguing. I have been working with M$ stuff so long that I would have fixed the issue by now. Nothing like a little challenge to get the juices flowing. lol, unfortunately the juices flow pretty slow because I know so little at this point, and on this machine it takes forever for it to POST because it counts the ECC memory even on soft-start. If I could bypass that I could cut the time quite a bit.

    Here is what I know so far..

    Micron Netframe 2101
    LSI 53C875/53C876 SCSI controller onboard
    Intel 82588 NIC onboard
    Intel 8237/AB/EB chip on ATA channels
    440bz/zx chipset
    Cirrus Logic 5480 vga onboard but not used
    Matrox Productiva g100 vga pci card - being used
    IBM DNES-309170W SCSI hdd
    two PIII cpus (I thought they were 700 or 733's from the outfit that gave me this, but they are really only dual 500's, they must have swapped them:( )

    Sul.
     
  19. dan_maran

    dan_maran Registered Member

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    If you can boot the xubuntu as you mentioned earlier open a terminal
    lspci > lspci.txt
    then
    lshw > lshw.txt
    come back and upload them here, then we can help you more.

    if you want to go all in just get a new Ubuntu Server edition and try the install from there.
     
  20. Sully

    Sully Registered Member

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    I will try that tommorrow. Thanks.

    I will look into ubuntu server. At this point I still need the GUI tools, because I know zip about command line in linux, which is why I have been looking at the distros I mentioned. I thought about freeBSD, as I have always read good things about it on the server end of things, but I have limited time right now to play.

    Sul.
     
  21. dan_maran

    dan_maran Registered Member

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  22. Sully

    Sully Registered Member

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    I got those two commands to pipe out to text files. However, xubuntu offers no built in networking methods to view windows shares. It uses Thunar I think it was, and there were instructions on how to install fuse or something.

    After so many messed up installs, the disk needed to be partitioned. I did that with gparted, which works fine. Then I mounted it, but was unable to copy those files over. I was going to save them to the disk, then use DSL or bartPE to get them, as I formatted it fat32 to be able to do that.

    However, there is so much to have to do, I gave up. I admire you guys who use linux. I think I will look at some server distros and see if they are more likely to be preconfigured to do what I want. If not, I really don't see linux as being for me. I just don't expect to see any dividends from investing the time into it to learn it. I know very few who use it, and even fewer if any businesses or people whom I support that would need help anyway. I can see if you put the time in that it opens worlds of possibilities, but this is just a hobby for me. Maybe my attitude would change if I had a genuine need to learn it rather than just wanting to try something new. Don't know.

    Thanks for the help though. Hopefully a server distro will pose less initial problems.

    Sul.
     
  23. dan_maran

    dan_maran Registered Member

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    Sul - I fear you are making this harder than it needs to be.
    Try the latest Ubuntu cd, I know this has network manager installed(as should xubuntu) then open FF and come here to post away :)

    IMO the server version will be the best bet in this situation.

    If you can boot DSL this should also have the ability to connect to a network, unless I missed a whole no network area in this thread. If so I apologize.
     
  24. Sully

    Sully Registered Member

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    I will burn some ubuntu liveCDs and try that.

    From reading, I thought that Ubuntu would be a more intensive distro, so I was looking initially for something lighter, and focused on running on older hardware.

    There is network connectivity, there is just no way I found on the Xubuntu live cd to browse a windows share, where I wanted to place the files to.

    It seems that on this computer anyway, in Xubuntu live cd you must mount the hdd. That does not seem to much, but it was not exactly cooperating. The live cd logs in as root, so I thought there should be no restriction, but then maybe I just needed to assign rights to the mount.

    lol, I wish it were me making it harder than it needs to be, perhaps it is just this particular distro that is needing a more loving touch. Unfortunately so far it is the only one to actually install and operate correctly.

    I will hopefully install that in the next day or two and be able to give better information, presuming it installs ;)

    Sul.
     
  25. dan_maran

    dan_maran Registered Member

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    Sul - I am glad you haven't given up! Good on ya!

    If you are worried about overhead in a live environment, as this is only to get your system specs, then I would try Lubuntu 10.04 and hopefully it boots for your system!
    http://lubuntu.net/

    If not:
    Try Linux Mint's LXDE variant, it is one of the only ones that will install on difficult hardware for me repeatedly :)
    Scroll to the bottom and there are the light versions:
    http://www.linuxmint.com/download_ce.php

    Another Tiny, and I do mean tiny distro is Slitaz, little and quick!
    http://www.slitaz.org/en/

    Then just upload your lspci and lshw here
     
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