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Seeking Linux Home Network Advice


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#1 Jeremy_C

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Posted 01 September 2016 - 05:30 AM

Greetings!

 

I want to string a few old boxes together purely for experimentation and learning purposes - basically just a home lab separate from my primary machines.

 

To begin, I already plan to read quite a few related tutorials on the site here. But I can't really harden an install or grab a premium program if I don't have a distro picked out for this project yet - something I'm hoping for suggestions on.

 

I ran through the quiz on Tux Radar twice already - CentOS and Debian seem to be the best suggestions according to the survey results. Still, I was hoping to garner some personal opinions before I really tear in to this project.

 

Mint Cinnamon seems to be a popular suggestion for people transitioning over to Linux, but does it work well for networking? Does that actually matter?

 

I have "some" familiarity with Ubuntu, as I've installed that on various netbooks for about 5 or 6 years now (I'm a little hard on netbooks, taking them everywhere in all sorts of weather, which is why I've had so many over the years.) A few have been new and probably seen Ubuntu installing before Windows even had a chance to boot for the first time - I really like that distro, because for someone who only needed it to work without understanding too much, it just seemed to work every time! The latest distro I have is 14.4, I believe. However, visiting the website yesterday it seems they are up to 16 now.

 

In any case, I've spent many hours last night and this morning reading through various Linux posts here and it occurs to me that there are just so many options for experimenting that I have no idea where to begin.

 

The primary box that I would like to begin with is running an Intel dual-core 2.5GHz, 4GB RAM, NVIDIA GT 610, and 250 GB SATA II drive. I suspect this would probably be the best of the machines in this project - possibly use it as a server?

 

The second box sitting here is an old eMachine, exact specs unknown, but suspecting Intel Celeron processor, 2GB RAM, integrated graphics, and at least 80GB drive - again, all guesses on the specs because I've turned that machine on once since it was given to me 4 or 5 years ago. It did run when I first acquired it, but being Win XP, I had no immediate use for it - I just knew it would some day be a Linux project.

 

Probably one or two more boxes, specs to be determined - whatever I might be able to pick up at garage sales or eBay for cheap.

 

I have no idea exactly what my needs are since I've never experimented like this before. I'm hoping to learn more about both using Linux and creating Linux networks.

 

This is strictly hobby oriented, as my primary machines are already running Ubuntu on a netbook, OSX on a Macbook Pro, and Win 7 on a HP EliteBook (I refuse to upgrade past 7, so I'm running it until support ends, which will probably end my Windows experience forever.)

 

I don't think I'm attempting to setup a media center, at least not yet - who knows where experimenting will lead. Actually, I really don't know exactly what it is that I want to setup other than being able to learn. I don't know much about networking, so I definitely would like to focus on that. And I really like all the possibilities that Linux has to offer - so many distros and so many options for each one.

 

Eventually, I may even look to hosting a web server from home just for fun and experimenting - though, I'm fairly certain I will want a completely separate line (DSL, maybe?) coming in for that, as I expect that may also invite all sorts of trouble. Whatever, that's a little while away. For now, I'd just like to play with some local networking.

 

I apologize for such a long post, just hoping to provide as much info as possible. Hopefully someone here might even have already done this... Any advice and suggestions are much appreciated.

 

</ramble>

 

Thank you!


A programmer's wife sends him to the store for a gallon of milk,

and she adds the instructions, "If there are eggs, buy a dozen."

The programmer goes to the store and returns home with 13 gallons of milk.


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#2 DeimosChaos

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Posted 01 September 2016 - 08:45 AM

Hey Jermey_C!  :welcome:

 

So my gathering from your post is... you don't really know what you want to do!  :lmao:

 

All good, we have all been there... and probably currently there. I have two raspberry pi computers laying about and I still have no idea what I want to do with them or when to find time to do something with them.

 

Really though it just sounds like you want to install Linux and start playing about. Maybe make it a DHCP server, Samba server, SSH, apache.... um... mysql.... etc etc. There are a lot of things to do with it. I would take the box you know works, the one with the 4GB of RAM and the Nvidia card and use that. I would upgrade the RAM though, maybe to 16GB, that way you can run some VMs on it. If you load some VMs you can play with interconnecting those and setting things up.

 

As far as what OS to use... it really doesn't matter a whole lot. Almost any linux you could use as a server. Though there are ones that work better than others. For stability you would want to go with Debian, or maybe CentOS (completely two different worlds by the way). In my opinion, just download Ubuntu Server and go from there. The typical install is just a CLI one, so you'll have to download a desktop environment for it. Since your somewhat familiar with it, it would be a smart choice.

 

Also learn the Command Line!!! Its a must when working with severs.


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#3 bjornsturluson

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Posted 01 September 2016 - 09:43 AM

I would advise to use a solid distribution that has been around for some time. For servers Debian and Cent OS are wonderful choices. Depending on your case scenarios we may propose different setups.



#4 Jeremy_C

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Posted 02 September 2016 - 07:01 AM

Thank you for the advice! We're off for our annual family camping trip this weekend, but when I get back I'll be enthusiastically getting after this project. So far, it seems like I'll go ahead and get started with either Debian or CentOS. Though, I may go ahead and order some more memory first since it seems that will expand the potential I have for using any distro.

 

Thank you for all of the insight, very much appreciated!


A programmer's wife sends him to the store for a gallon of milk,

and she adds the instructions, "If there are eggs, buy a dozen."

The programmer goes to the store and returns home with 13 gallons of milk.


#5 DeimosChaos

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Posted 02 September 2016 - 08:37 AM

Go for Ubuntu server over either of those two distros. Ubuntu is built off Debian, but its just a bit easier to use, and it has a giant community. CentOS is okay... but I'm just not the biggest fan of their package manager...

 

Anyway, you'll have the best luck I think if you stick with Ubuntu.


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#6 cat1092

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Posted 03 September 2016 - 06:08 AM

Go for Ubuntu server over either of those two distros. Ubuntu is built off Debian, but its just a bit easier to use, and it has a giant community. CentOS is okay... but I'm just not the biggest fan of their package manager...

 

Anyway, you'll have the best luck I think if you stick with Ubuntu.

 

+1! :thumbup2:

 

Compared to CentOS, and I do have some experience, Ubuntu is a breeze to run. If you've been a long term Windows user, so is Linux Mint. 

 

Just make sure that you download the correct bit version for each computer, and upon install, make sure to be connected to the Internet, and if you have accessories such as printers to be used, have these plugged in & turned on during this period. While this is no guarantee that the printer(s) will install, there's a much better chance for some models, especially HP branded ones, there may be others, Kodak branded printers also works well with Ubuntu if not networked. 

 

CentOS just takes too much time to learn, and while I was once enthused at first, after a couple of months, not as much so, seems to be more server oriented. Not that I'm trying to discourage you, just letting you know that if you want the fast track to get started with Linux, Ubuntu is the top Linux distro in the World, followed by Linux Mint, which is built from Ubuntu, with custom branding (there's thousands of distros built from the Ubuntu base). DistroWatch lists close to the top 300 releases available, and probably at least 50% are Ubuntu based. 

 

Good Luck & we look forward to working with you once you return! :)

 

And last, yet not least,  :welcome: to the Linux Community of Bleeping Computer Forums! If there's one single piece of advice I can provide in a short sentence, keep in mind one thing. That there's no such thing as 'dumb' questions here. We've all been where you are at this moment, and had the same courage as you have, and needed answers for many questions. We're here for our community when called upon, and while we can't guarantee an answer to every question, there's someone around who can answer most. :)

 

Cat


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#7 DeimosChaos

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Posted 03 September 2016 - 05:08 PM

 

CentOS just takes too much time to learn, and while I was once enthused at first, after a couple of months, not as much so, seems to be more server oriented. 

 

 

Yup, CentOS is definitely built more for stability than anything. They are typically a couple gens back on the kernel (or at least they were, not sure where they are today).

 

But for a home based server to play with, Ubuntu is a good choice since its more cutting edge and you can play with everything. Even though it is cutting edge, their server editions are pretty dange stable. My current Ubuntu server has been running for over a month now (its run as long as a few months before getting killed by something random like a power outage).


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#8 Jeremy_C

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Posted 06 September 2016 - 08:29 AM

Greetings!

 

Well, after some reading up on Ubuntu Server, it certainly seems to fulfill the few things I want (and much, much more!)

 

However, while I'm still in the planning phase, I've got some new concerns that perhaps you all could help me with...

 

Note: Please forgive me if it seems I'm getting too far ahead of myself - I simply want to make sure I don't forget to ask or address something later on.

 

1. The maximum supported memory (for the box I'm hoping to use as the server) tops out at 8GB. Is that going to present any challenges for running that box as an Ubuntu server?

 

2. For the sake of just covering many other questions or issues that may arise, would it make things any easier for future help requests if I just posted the system specs for the box I'm hoping to convert in to a server?

 

3. It seems I may soon find myself swimming in monitors, keyboards, and mice. I already have monitor/keyboard/mouse x2 on my current desktop, 1 for my Mac and 1 for the WinXP box that I'm hoping to convert. Further, my Win7 notebook is sitting right between the two monitors for those systems. So, after converting the WinXP box to Ubuntu Server, and then firing up a fourth machine with just Ubuntu, would it be feasible to connect a switching box between the two Ubuntu machines so that I can switch the monitor/keyboard/mouse back and forth between the two Ubuntu machines? Or should I simply look for another location (and possibly incur Wifey's wrath) to locate the second Ubuntu box?

 

4. I also have a netbook currently running Ubuntu (14.04) that I hope to link in with this new network setup. The hopeful result would be one Ubuntu machine connected to the Ubuntu server via cable and one connected via WiFi. Is this a bit of overkill for learning Linux networking? Will there be much difference (aside from performance) between cable and WiFi? Should I maybe just fire up the server, get the netbook connected, and simply leave the other desktop machine on the shelf? (Keep in mind that the goal of this project is simply learning Linux networking - I've got enough other machines for normal uses.

 

As always, any advice, suggestions, ideas are welcome and very much appreciated.

 

*

 

Further, I'd like to once again thank everyone for their time reading and answering my questions thus far. You guys and gals are awesome!!!


A programmer's wife sends him to the store for a gallon of milk,

and she adds the instructions, "If there are eggs, buy a dozen."

The programmer goes to the store and returns home with 13 gallons of milk.


#9 DeimosChaos

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Posted 06 September 2016 - 09:13 AM

 

1. The maximum supported memory (for the box I'm hoping to use as the server) tops out at 8GB. Is that going to present any challenges for running that box as an Ubuntu server?

 

Nope I don't think that will cause you any issues, unless you plan on running a bunch of virtual machines. My Ubuntu box is running with 4GB of RAM. I don't do a ton with it, samba share, Plex media server, and also runs TeamViewer, but its plenty.

 

 

 

2. For the sake of just covering many other questions or issues that may arise, would it make things any easier for future help requests if I just posted the system specs for the box I'm hoping to convert in to a server?

 

Yup I would do that.

 

 

 

3. It seems I may soon find myself swimming in monitors, keyboards, and mice. I already have monitor/keyboard/mouse x2 on my current desktop, 1 for my Mac and 1 for the WinXP box that I'm hoping to convert. Further, my Win7 notebook is sitting right between the two monitors for those systems. So, after converting the WinXP box to Ubuntu Server, and then firing up a fourth machine with just Ubuntu, would it be feasible to connect a switching box between the two Ubuntu machines so that I can switch the monitor/keyboard/mouse back and forth between the two Ubuntu machines? Or should I simply look for another location (and possibly incur Wifey's wrath) to locate the second Ubuntu box?

 

So I would get rid of all those extra keyboards on any Ubuntu server. Of course you'll need them for installing, but once you're done use TeamViewer or VNC viewer or SSH log in... or a combination of all the above. No need to have a bunch of mice/keyboards when you can set up your server to log in remotely.

 

 

4. I also have a netbook currently running Ubuntu (14.04) that I hope to link in with this new network setup. The hopeful result would be one Ubuntu machine connected to the Ubuntu server via cable and one connected via WiFi. Is this a bit of overkill for learning Linux networking? Will there be much difference (aside from performance) between cable and WiFi? Should I maybe just fire up the server, get the netbook connected, and simply leave the other desktop machine on the shelf? (Keep in mind that the goal of this project is simply learning Linux networking - I've got enough other machines for normal uses.

So I honestly still am not sure exactly what you want to accomplish with this... for playing around with the network just use your router to do static IPs... or choose a different network to have everything on.... doing all that from the server would be not worth it when you can control it from your router (which is setup to do just that). Then from there everything would be connected and you can get things "linked" up that way, or do whatever else you want.

 

Hope that helps!


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#10 Jeremy_C

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Posted 06 September 2016 - 09:58 PM

 

3. It seems I may soon find myself swimming in monitors, keyboards, and mice. I already have monitor/keyboard/mouse x2 on my current desktop, 1 for my Mac and 1 for the WinXP box that I'm hoping to convert. Further, my Win7 notebook is sitting right between the two monitors for those systems. So, after converting the WinXP box to Ubuntu Server, and then firing up a fourth machine with just Ubuntu, would it be feasible to connect a switching box between the two Ubuntu machines so that I can switch the monitor/keyboard/mouse back and forth between the two Ubuntu machines? Or should I simply look for another location (and possibly incur Wifey's wrath) to locate the second Ubuntu box?

So I would get rid of all those extra keyboards on any Ubuntu server. Of course you'll need them for installing, but once you're done use TeamViewer or VNC viewer or SSH log in... or a combination of all the above. No need to have a bunch of mice/keyboards when you can set up your server to log in remotely.

 


Awesome! And that is why it was suggested that I come HERE to ask questions like this. Your advice likely saved me from time and headaches. I never considered being able to remotely control things via software. I used Putty to manage a VPS a few years back, but just never made the connection between a remote server and one that was 12 inches away. Just awesome!
 

 

4. I also have a netbook currently running Ubuntu (14.04) that I hope to link in with this new network setup. The hopeful result would be one Ubuntu machine connected to the Ubuntu server via cable and one connected via WiFi. Is this a bit of overkill for learning Linux networking? Will there be much difference (aside from performance) between cable and WiFi? Should I maybe just fire up the server, get the netbook connected, and simply leave the other desktop machine on the shelf? (Keep in mind that the goal of this project is simply learning Linux networking - I've got enough other machines for normal uses.

So I honestly still am not sure exactly what you want to accomplish with this... for playing around with the network just use your router to do static IPs... or choose a different network to have everything on.... doing all that from the server would be not worth it when you can control it from your router (which is setup to do just that). Then from there everything would be connected and you can get things "linked" up that way, or do whatever else you want.

 


Well, I'm not even 100% sure about what I want to do.  :grinner:

 

I know that it's time for me to get more involved with Linux (especially considering the update bomb Microsoft is dropping on us stubborn Win7 users come October.) Further, I've always been curious about how networks function, but I'm not curious enough to pursue CCNA or IIS or whatever - just want some basic hands-on knowledge.

 

I figure if I'm setting up a home lab, I might as well go for the gusto and check out everything I've always been curious about. At some point I want to host a website from home just to learn a few things about it (of course, I want it to have it's own internet connection and to be as isolated and ignorant of my home network as possible, as I expect that experiment to be a security nightmare.)

 

No real set agenda in this project other than learning and experimenting. :thumbup2:

 

I really appreciate all the info and I'll keep progress updated here as it comes along. In the meantime, I'll fire up the XP machine, grab the specs, and post them here just as soon as I copy them over to this machine. Thanks much for the help!


A programmer's wife sends him to the store for a gallon of milk,

and she adds the instructions, "If there are eggs, buy a dozen."

The programmer goes to the store and returns home with 13 gallons of milk.


#11 Jeremy_C

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Posted 06 September 2016 - 10:33 PM

Hopefully this works... I tried to edit out unnecessary info to shorten the length.
 

Summary

Operating System: MS Windows XP Home 32-bit SP3
CPU: Intel Pentium E5200 @ 2.50GHz 123 °F Wolfdale 45nm Technology
RAM: 4.00 GB Single-Channel DDR2 @ 399MHz (6-6-6-18)
Motherboard: PEGATRON CORPORATION 2A73h (CPU 1) 110 °F
Graphics: Default Monitor (1440x900@60Hz) NVIDIA GeForce GT 610
Hard Drives: 233GB Western Digital WDC WD2500AAJS-00L7A0 (SATA) 101 °F
Optical Drives: ATAPI DVD C DH48C2S
Audio: NVIDIA High Definition Audio

CPU

Intel Pentium E5200
Cores 2
Threads 2
Name Intel Pentium E5200
Code Name Wolfdale
Package Socket 775 LGA
Technology 45nm
Specification Pentium® Dual-Core CPU E5200 @ 2.50GHz
Virtualization Unsupported
Hyperthreading Not supported
Bus Speed 200.0 MHz
Rated Bus Speed 800.0 MHz
Stock Core Speed 2500 MHz
Stock Bus Speed 200 MHz

RAM

Type DDR2 (PC2-6400 non-ECC)
Size 4096 MBytes
Max Module 8192 MBytes

Motherboard

Manufacturer PEGATRON CORPORATION
Model 2A73h (CPU 1)
Chipset Vendor Intel
Chipset Model P35/G33/G31
Chipset Revision A2
Southbridge Vendor Intel
Southbridge Model 82801IR (ICH9R)
Southbridge Revision 02

Graphics

NVIDIA GeForce GT 610
Memory 1024 MB
Memory type 2
Driver version 6.14.13.5598


Now that is a roaring system, eh? This is the box I'm hoping to convert in to a server at some point.

A programmer's wife sends him to the store for a gallon of milk,

and she adds the instructions, "If there are eggs, buy a dozen."

The programmer goes to the store and returns home with 13 gallons of milk.


#12 cat1092

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Posted 07 September 2016 - 12:37 AM

 

 

(especially considering the update bomb Microsoft is dropping on us stubborn Win7 users come October.)

 

Jeremy_C, would you mind a short elaboration of this? A link to an article that's trustworthy will be fine, as we don't want to get into in-depth discussion of Windows in the Linux section. Maybe something pertaining to virtual machine setup on a Linux box, yet that's not what we're speaking about. 

 

Note that I ask the question because you (the OP of this Topic) raised it, as well as being part of the decision of moving towards a Linux server OS. :)

 

Cat


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#13 Jeremy_C

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Posted 07 September 2016 - 02:56 AM

 

(especially considering the update bomb Microsoft is dropping on us stubborn Win7 users come October.)

 
Jeremy_C, would you mind a short elaboration of this? A link to an article that's trustworthy will be fine, as we don't want to get into in-depth discussion of Windows in the Linux section. Maybe something pertaining to virtual machine setup on a Linux box, yet that's not what we're speaking about. 
 
Note that I ask the question because you (the OP of this Topic) raised it, as well as being part of the decision of moving towards a Linux server OS. :)
 
Cat

 


I apologize for making a statement like that without offering any substantiated sources.

Sources:

I feel that this subject highly relevant to the current topic since it does indeed qualify as one of many reasons I am currently looking at Linux instead of upgrading the OS for the above box with a more current version of Windows.
 
My problem here is that Microsoft, over the years, has (in my opinion) been taking more and more liberties with their update system. For the last few years some of their updates have seemed more cryptic and mysterious to me than in years past, with some being much harder for me to research and some repeatedly being foisted upon me no matter how many times I tried to hide or remove them from notification. And in some extreme instances they have done things such as forcing complete OS upgrades on unsuspecting people that were naive enough to use Automatic Updates and automatically upgrading people without warning or any ability to change their mind who expressed an interest in the upgrade a really long time before it was even available.

 

My biggest problem with what is coming down the pipe for Win 7&8 users in October is that Microsoft can't even get the cumulative update issues sorted out for the very OS version they are patterning this idea on. From software conflicts that cause minor annoyances to outright hardware failures... Links here, here and here.

 

As I've rekindled my interest in Linux, and now interested in using it as a main OS, I've been doing a good deal of reading on the topic. I have found Linux to be much more transparent and flexible in regard to their updates. More information, more options, and more self-determination for the end user. Granted, I have mainly focused on update issues concerning Ubuntu, Debian, and Mint so far, but I really like the choices and the freedom (read choose the updates you actually want) versus a cumulative update system that will automatically install and activate code that may or may not work properly with the software/hardware already installed on my machine.

 

Being able to install Linux and get to work on my networking project straight away rather than dealing with potentially many other conflicts, complications, issues, etc., because of an umbrella update policy is a huge motivation for me and a primary reason I have arrived here asking questions about getting some network experience with Linux.

 

I apologize to anyone offended by my opinion as posted here in this current writing, however, I was asked about it in reference to my decision to switch operating systems. And the above opinion is a large part of why I came here asking for help with my Linux networking project instead of a networking project for some other OS.


A programmer's wife sends him to the store for a gallon of milk,

and she adds the instructions, "If there are eggs, buy a dozen."

The programmer goes to the store and returns home with 13 gallons of milk.


#14 wizardfromoz

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Posted 07 September 2016 - 03:29 AM

Hi Jeremy_C, nice to visit another of your Topics, you are certainly enthusiastic, and getting involved in our little Community here, which I enjoy seeing.

 

I am no expert in server scenaria, but I don't need to be to provide the following:

 

There are a number of different "families" in Linux, each of them has their strengths, and a lot of variety, but also common ground.

 

Wikipedia page here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Linux_distributions is a good reference for seeing some (hundreds) of them.

 

Broadly speaking, they might be broken into RPM-based (eg CentOS), Debian-based (eg Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint), Arch (includes Manjaro), Gentoo (includes Sabayon), Slackware (includes the Puppies), Independent or Other.

 

I am running 37 Distros currently, (usually) from 5 of the Families, with the exception that I have taken Manjaro off to work on some problems, then will be putting it back on, I really enjoy it.

 

If I might suggest you acquaint yourself (or ask questions) a little with the Families, try some of them Live, and then search (engine) under that Family with the word "server", you might shortcut some of your other searching alternatives.

 

Cheers

 

:wizardball: Wizard



#15 cat1092

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Posted 07 September 2016 - 04:24 AM

Jeremy, Thanks for the detailed post above that provided a lot more than I asked! :)

 

The Anniversary Update really messed up my Toshiba Satellite A665-S6086 notebook that I self upgraded from a i3-370M to an i5-560M w/Turbo Boost. Performance increase was noticeable off the bat, yet was no match for the rotten W10 Anniversary Update. So instead of clean installing that edition (suggested solution), reverted to my disk image of Windows 7 Pro prior to the W10 upgrade, and all is fine again, though oddly, had to activate the OS, was initially greeted to a back screen, after reboot, it went away. 

 

Did run Linux Mint MATE on it sometime back, since it's a SATA-2 notebook, even with a SSD, am hoping it's slow enough to get more used to Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon, which I may install on my upcoming Z97 build (the 2nd one in less than a month), though some components will be those that are on hand, such as HDD/SSD's, and will be removing the 32GB of RAM from the XPS 8700, as well as the i7-4770 CPU for the build. I'll replace these with RAM that's on hand (four 2GB sticks) or the original 12GB RAM that shipped with the XPS 8700, if I upgrade my AMD ASRock build to 16GB of DDR3-1866 RAM (4GB x4), and catch a 1150 CPU on promo. May settle on an value i5, won't require as much power, which is what I know what was holding back performance of the i7-4790K & probably the i7-4770 also. 

 

I'd like the XPS 8700 to become a Ubuntu server, which is why I abandoned my plans to stick a cheap Pentium Anniversary edition in there & sell. Though am still a bit unsure of the differences between a server OS & regular one, maybe it's missing a lot of the eye candy that a lot of Linux distros has. :)

 

Have plenty of hard drives, so would make an excellent home server, plus other than the main issue I have with the PC (only one 4 pin CPU power socket), has been a decent PC. Have kept it up well, blown out the dust most every month (every other month in the winter), carry outdoors for this maintenance, the lady of the home doesn't like dust strown everywhere, and for that purpose, neither do I. It would only get on or around my other computers, plus monitors, all of which are magnets for dust. :P

 

Please keep us informed of your progress, your Topic is interesting to me & will be following your progress and will likely be of interest to others as well. :)

 

Cat


Performing full disc images weekly and keeping important data off of the 'C' drive as generated can be the best defence against Malware/Ransomware attacks, as well as a wide range of other issues. 





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