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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I asked this over on the Linux side of the house, but haven't had much response. So, ...


I am setting up a media server in my house to distribute ripped CD's (APE format) and DVD's. I have all of the equipment (Asus MOBO, AMD Athlon 2600+, 500W PS, JBOD). Now my question is which operating system to use? I have spare copies of Windows Advanced Server and Windows 2000 Professional available. Obviously, I can get Linux (Debian) or FreeBSD for free. I should point out that I am a complete Linux newbie.


Obviously, I want this server to distribute media files, but I would also like for it to perform other functions (Router/Firewall, DHCP server, etc.) as well. Down the road, I would also like to offload some of my home automation to a sever, but it might have to be an additional server.


Any suggestions? Thanks.
 

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Brodgers, You've got a powerful PC so you could run windows server (server will work better at this job than straight win2k out of the box), but if you are thinking of running it internet facing you have a big task ahead to lock windows down securely and you will have to check for (and apply) new security patches at least once a week.


LINUX is pretty straightforward if you go for a good distro - that is one with some reasonable support. but you will need to investigate which system can do your media serving properly.


When you say "distribute media files", do you mean streaming media, or just as file shares? LINUX outperforms windows 2K as a file server.


It will also do a much better job as a firewall / router etc. with the right software installed. First you can get all the things you want for free on LINUX, whereas on Windows the free ones are usually not as good as the one you buy.


Secondly it will not be nearly as likely to get hacked / infected as a windows box.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
My thought had been that each TV would have a client HTPC that would call on files on the server and play them on the client, which would then output to the TV. I assume that would be classified as "streaming".


My thought had been that Linux would be the way to go. However, I know nothing about it. I have managed to load Debian onto it and terminal works fine. It took me so long to get it installed that I don't have the guts to try and install a desktop environment until I have a ton of free time to devote to it.


One other question I had... My media server will be in a rack in my equipment room. Is there a way with Linux to remotely work on it with a Windows XP machine that is on the network. I know I can use Samba to share files with Windows machines, but I am thinking of something more along the lines of remote desktop. Basically, I don't want to have to have a monitor in my equipment rack.


Thanks.
 

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I'm running WINDOWS 2000 Advanced Server right now. But I think the better choice here is WINDOWS XP. Primarily it has to do with the availability of media software and the OS's innate ability to support media operations. The playing of MP3, AVI, MPEG, etc. files, slide shows of JPEGs GIFs, etc. and overall support for media applications are handled better under XP. Future releases of XP will increase this capability whereas 2000 advanced server is really focused on a different application namely file, web and database services.
 

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There have been at least three similar threads over the past couple of days. If you haven't really used Linux before this is a big project, even for an avid techno-phile. I agree with the suggestion of using peer-to-peer file sharing via XP and just designate one of your machines as the "server" where all the files live.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by brodgers
Is there a way with Linux to remotely work on it with a Windows XP machine that is on the network.
YES! Linux (all Unix for that matter) is designed for remote operation from the ground up. There are several ways you can do it.


1) Run a telnet server (in.telnetd) on the Linux machine to allow telnet connections. This is a text mode console. Pros: easy to set up, Windows ships with a telnet client, other free telnet clients are available. Cons: insecure, please limit telnet to your local network.


2) Run a SSH server (sshd) on the linux machine to allow SSH connections. Also a text mode console (although other kinds of connections can be "tunneled" through SSH). Get the excellent Putty SSH client package from http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/ and install it on your Windows PC. Pros: Very secure, can be set up to use keys so no password necessary to log in, powerful and flexible. Cons: More difficult to set up initially, Windows doesn't include a client.


3) Run an X server (such as Hummingbird Exceed on your Windows PC, then you can run graphical applications on your Linux box and you'll see their display in your X server window. Pros: Remote access to graphical applications. Cons: Initial sertup, requires a (possibly expensive) X server installed on your Windows PC.


4) Install VNC on your Linux box. Install the free VNC client on your Windows PC. Pros: Remote access to graphical applications on Linux. Cons: Maybe slower graphics updates.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by janlarsen
I'm running WINDOWS 2000 Advanced Server right now. But I think the better choice here is WINDOWS XP. Primarily it has to do with the availability of media software and the OS's innate ability to support media operations. The playing of MP3, AVI, MPEG, etc. files, slide shows of JPEGs GIFs, etc. and overall support for media applications are handled better under XP. Future releases of XP will increase this capability whereas 2000 advanced server is really focused on a different application namely file, web and database services.
Who cares about those abilities? All the file server has to do is act as a network drive. It's the client computers which need to have media players.


Personally, my favorite choice is...Windows 98. Okay, stop laughing now. Really, Win98 is just fine for acting as a simple file server, and is inherently invulnerable to RPC based worm infection.


The main advantage to Win98 is that if/when your hardware fails Win98 is good for recovering. You can stick the entire OS comfortably on any old 1Gig drive, and swap it if your OS drive fails. Everything else, you can replace and Win98 can limp back into working condition without complaining about being put in a "new" computer.


In contrast, if you're a Linux newbie you're going to struggle to deal with an install which is pared down to below 1Gig, and you're going to have a steep learning curve dealing with hardware failure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
As much as I am not a Microsoft fan, I had pretty much resigned myself that the client machines would run some version of Windows - probably Win 2000 pro. I'd go with XP, but I just hate the fact that I have to "check in" with Microsoft every time I play around with my components and reinstall.


If I go with Linux, am I wasting alot of processing horsepower that will never get used? Should I save these parts for a client and go with a weaker machine? I went with a 2600+ with the thoughts that it could power a Win machine if I decided that was the way to go.


What is the fastest way to get ramped up on Linux? Is there one book that is more helpful than others? A website where they will welcome and tolerate my newbie questions?


As I mentioned, I've managed to install Debian. As soon as I can figure out how I can make my onboard LAN (Nvidia) work, I'll take a stab at Samba...
 

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A 2600+ is overkill for a simple file server/firewall, but it won't hurt. :cool:


Go with what you know (Windows) or if you like the learning experience and have the time go with Linux.


Debian is normally not known as a "beginner's distribution", but it will make a GREAT file server & firewall. Remember that it's not a fire and forget missile though, just like a Windows machine it will need patching and monitoring. If you don't have the time and will to take proper care of it you should get one of those small hardware firewalls instead (they are pretty cheap and very simple to use).


It is generally not recommended to use the firewall as a server, but of course it can be done (just pay a little extra attention when locking it down). Servers in general and especially firewalls should have as little software installed as possible (for security & stability), and I would definitely not install a desktop environment on it. Once you have the basic system up and running (with an ssh or telnet daemon) you can handle the rest from remote.


When you have the network up and running, installing software is almost trivial. I don't know how much Debianese you know but "apt-get install samba" will automatically download and install the samba server for you. You might want to get the "testing" version of the samba packages since the version in the "stable" distribution is a bit old. It should work pretty much out of the box, but as always, an hour or two spent reading the docs is probably a good idea.


For general GNU/Linux information and a good introduction to Debian you should check out "Learning Debian GNU/Linux":

www,oreilly,com/catalog/debian/chapter/book/index.html


If you wish to use the machine as a firewall you'll find lots of good information on the web. "www,debian,org/security/" is a great place to start (remember to check the "Securing Debian" manual). Good luck!
 

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For firewall/router purposes, *nix (linux or freebsd) can't be beat. Just as an example, on my linux firewall/router I run privoxy, which relieves me of seeing ads and other junk while I browse the web from various clients around the house.


Another use, in addition to a "pure" media file server, is to use the file server as a PVR. In Linux you by an encoder card and can set up mythtv, which has *never* missed a recording, unlike other (Windows) solutions I've tried. So it becomes an even "better" media server.


Just try to combine all the aforementioned capabilities in one box in Windows. It would be "crying uncle" in no time flat....
 

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I'm using Win2K (no need for the server edition) for the "server" and WinXP as the client. It's pretty easy to share the files and I use VNC to control the server from the client and Remote Desktop from the server to control the WinXP box.


I've tried Linux several times (Lindows, Red Hat, Mandrake) and I must have spent too much time in Windows, as it just seems too foreign to me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thank you all for your responses and the links that were posted will be a tremendous help.


I do have an old P200 machine lying around that I could use as the router/firewall. Is this machine capable of that or is it asking too much of an old machine? Also, I have a Lynksys hardware router/firewall right now, but it is so slow running it through my switch.


One other question that I have... If I go the Linux rout, is it possible to put 4 or 5 sound cards in my machine and run each of them through an amp to create "zoned" music to distribute? What software would I use? With this setup, could I also have all of the zones playing the same music?


Thank you again for your insights.
 

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Stick with your Linksys firewall/router. It will consume less power and space than an old P200 and will be no less effective. It'll probably be more reliable, also.


There's no reason for your Linksys to slow down your network at all, seeing as you're using a switch. Theoretically, if you had a 45Mbps internet connection, a 10Mbps firewall might slow your internet access down...but do you really have such a fast internet connection? If you have to ask, you DON'T.


Anyway, maybe I'm old fashioned or I have too many computer boxes lying around for my own good, but I think a file server should do as few things as practically possible. Let it serve up files. Let other computers play/record/process them.
 

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A P-200 would be more than enough for a basic firewall, but if you want to set up VPN and stuff with fancy encryption you might be pushing the limit.


I'm not familiar with the Linksys routers and I don't know anything about your specific network setup, but I think the Linksys should be your best bet (at least for now). Yes, a Linux firewall is extremely powerful & flexible but unless you really need the stateful filtering, traffic shaping/control, VPN tunneling and other advanced techniques it'll be overkill and a lot of work.


I'm sure you could get multi-zone audio from a Linux box using either multiple sound cards or a single multi-channel card, but this is definitely nothing I'd recommend for a newbie (you want to keep your hair, don't you?)


How about starting with setting up your file server first and use it to learn and get familiar with Linux. You can always play with firewalling and sound cards later. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
After spending the past 4 hours trying to get Debian to recognize my onboard Nvidia ethernet, I am not sure how much of that hair I have left. JLWS mentioned that Debian is not for beginners, and I beleive he may be right... Gentoo is another one that usual come highly recommended. Or there's always FreeBSD. I just don't want to limit my options down the road with the platform I choose now.
 

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My 2 cents - any OS available right now can easily do what you want. The important thing is ease of setup and use. Since you're more familiar with the windows world, I'd suggest XP, or XP pro. I just don't see any reason to go through the hassle of learning and setting up a Unix distribution, unless you're hankering to learn something new. No need for Win2K3 server either, but if you have that, it would be fine, too.
 

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I'd go with SME Server (formerly and still commonly known as e-smith server.) You can download a CD (ISO) image from their website at http://www.e-smith.org


There are several really nice things about e-smith...
  • It's free
  • Based on Red Hat 7.3
  • Easy to install/setup
  • Sets up Samba (and lots of other stuff) for you.
  • Easy to re/configure
  • Makes a great Router/Firewall, DHCP server
  • Good (forum-based) support from large, newbie-tolerant user community
  • Designed primarily for use as a web/e-mail server - lots of interesting possibilities if you have broadband connection
  • Probably even more that I'm overlooking

As for the extra horsepower from the Athlon system, you could put it to good use by using a RAID 5 array... gives you fault tolerance that you don't have w/your JBOD array without the expense of a HW RAID controller.


As for remote mgmt, I highly recommend VNC.


Multi-zone audio is best done on a Windows box using J. River Media Center & dangling USB sound cards. Do a search for posts by Mastiff - he's the resident multi-zone/multi-source expert. I think he even published a thorough, detailed, step-by-step guide (with screenshots of configuration dialogs) for setting this up.


If you're not going to implement RAID 5 on the e-smith box, I'd say set up e-smith on the old P200 and use the AMD machine for multi-zone audio. Still plenty of horsepower left over for your home automation stuff, too.
 

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Which Asus mobo do you have? Do you know which network driver you should use?


You might need to upgrade to a newer kernel, since your mobo (and the onboard network chipset) might not be supported by the one you're using. I guess you're using the default 2.2 kernel shipped with Woody?


Here's what I would do: Download Knoppix (www,knoppix,org), burn it to a CD and boot up the machine with it. Knoppix will (hopefully) auto-detect your hardware and that will help in several ways:


1) You'll know that the machine is ok and that it's possible to use it with Linux!

2) You'll know exactly which modules you need to load for your hardware. Try "dmesg" to show the messages displayed during boot, it should have info about which hardware it found etc. Also try "lsmod" to see which kernel modules are loaded. You then need to load the same modules in your Debian installation.

3) If you need a new kernel, you can also use Knoppix to download the new kernel package to your disk.


I think this is what you need:

packages,debian,org/testing/base/kernel-image-2.4.24-1-k7

(download, reboot into Debian and then install with "dpkg -i ")


A kernel upgrade is pretty simple with Debian, but you need to be careful and read the instructions. If you're upgrading from the default (2.2) kernel you'll need to edit /etc/lilo.conf to make it use initrd (it will give you instructions on this). Then run lilo to activate the changes (or let the install script do it for you). No guarantees given and don't blame me if your computer blows up... :p


You could also try a reinstall using the beta installer of the new Debian release (Sarge). Sarge comes with a newer kernel and better hardware detection so it might find your network automatically.

www,debian,org/devel/debian-installer/


You could always try Gentoo or one of the BSDs, but seriously I don't think either one of those would be considered newbie-friendly either.
 

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If you want real redundancy and security, spend $140 to buy an additional 250 GB drive, copy your files onto it and then store it in your firebox or (better) offsite. Total time invested about 5 minutes, plus waiting for files to be copied. Repeat as needed.


I'll again add my $0.02 to Dave T's -- for the average Windows-literate user on this board, you guys are making file sharing seem far too daunting and complicated. All of the recent Windows flavors are perfectly capable of storing large volumes of media files and sharing them over a home LAN. Even for those of us with CS/IS backgrounds, setting up a Linux server, getting it to play nice with Windows clients, downloading/compiling/installing additional components is not a simple process. You don't need RAID, you don't need an industrial strength server, you don't need to learn a new OS -- you can really just use what you have and know. If you WANT to do that other cool stuff (i.e. you wish to get in touch with your inner geek), GREAT!


Meanwhile, I have to back to my in-progress micro-ATX watercooled, Linux HTPC (a true geeky joy) so I can watch the Super Bowl tomorrow ...
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by eggz
setting up a Linux server, getting it to play nice with Windows clients, downloading/compiling/installing additional components is not a simple process.
It is with e-smith.
 
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