A Journey with Linux 6.0

by Dan Butler

The latest technology IPO buzz has been over Red Hat Linux. At one point their stock price (having started out at around $14/share) rose above Microsoft's. Regardless of what you think of Linux, the IPO is impressive. Our own Al Gordon wrote about his experience with Linux a while back here in TNPC. As a UNIX system administrator by title and a Webmaster by job function I'm no stranger to the Linux way of doing things. So I've started a little experiment and I'll keep you posted on the progress.

I've been meaning to set up a Linux machine as a server here for some time now. So I was at CompUSA recently and purchased the retail version of Red Hat Linux 6.0. Using my second PC (an older P90 with 96 MB of RAM) I was set to do the install. Putting the boot floppy in A: and the CD-ROM in the drive I turned the machine on. After answering several questions the install took off and 15 minutes later I had a working Linux machine running the X Window system. This was quite a change as the installer took care of partitioning, formatting, and installing the system. If any of you are looking to try Linux out I would recommend trying Red Hat Linux 6.0 over any other flavor just for its ease of use.

That was twenty-four days ago and I haven't rebooted since. In the meantime I have networked my Windows 98 machine with the Linux box. All of my documents and preference backups are now being taken care of by Linux thanks to SAMBA, which is acting like an NT server (I was able to pull that off by using the instructions from last issue's Featured Web Site, Troubleshooters.com).

With the free-for-personal-use StarOffice I'm editing all my Office 97 documents from Linux and testing the viability of using it as my primary system. The only programs I don't think I'll find a suitable replacement for are Dreamweaver, Quicken, and Pegasus mail. In the case of Quicken and Pegasus the issue is more one of familiarity and historical data. Pegasus has many thousands of messages stored for me and a complex set of filters built over time.

To get around this limitation I installed the freeware WinVNC mentioned in TNPC #1.12. Now I can remotely run the Win98 machine from inside Linux giving me access to the Windows applications I have not yet replaced under Linux. Pretty slick and a suitable temporary solution.

Next I want to make the Linux machine a firewall/proxy and Internet dialer for all the machines that I've networked together. After that I want to automate the backing up of various data both on the Web and the local machines as well as schedule many of the mundane tasks that occupy my time but that could just as easily be handled while I sleep. I'll keep you posted on my progress and keep you informed of helpful resources I find along the way. Current status: 24 days uptime; 0 reboots; 0 crashes.

So my tips for now:

1. Put Linux on a separate machine
2. Try Red Hat 6.0
3. Use the Workstation install option

Resources from this column:

VNC Remote Control Software:
http://www.uk.research.att.com/vnc/

Red Hat Software:
http://www.redhat.com

Samba Configuration Instructions:
http://www.troubleshooters.com/linux/samba.htm