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Step-by-Step Guide & Tutorial Pages
Have an old PC gathering dust? Use it for a Linux server! Linux runs great on older hardware giving it new life and it's easy to do. Just follow along with our guide pages and we'll walk you through installing the Debian Linux OS and setting up a network with the most common types of Internet and LAN servers all on one system. You'll learn some things about operating systems, networking, and the Internet in the process, and you may just have some fun along the way. Even if you have never worked with Linux before, you'll be able to use our guide pages to go from zero to "sysadmin" in no time, as well as get a solid foundation in the knowledge needed for the Linux+ certification.
Why Not Red Hat ?
Red Hat is in a tough spot. Most of their revenue streams are based on sales, support, and training while the open nature of Linux has resulted in thousands of freely-available Linux resources on the Web. Their survival depends on having a product that is proprietary enough to make you dependent upon them for upgrades and support. And when they became a publically-held company they were under pressure to meet the expectations of Wall Street analysts for revenue growth and cash flows every quarter. (Did you think it was just a coincidence that they were churning out new versions of what is now Fedora at an average of two a year?) In time, Red Hat's dominance will likely kill off smaller commercial distributions like Mandriva (formerly Mandrake) and TurboLinux and dealing with Red Hat will be no different than dealing with Microsoft.
Why Debian ?
Debian is the world's leading non-commercial totally free Linux distribution. Remaining loyal to the concept upon which Linux was created, it is produced by hundreds of volunteer developers around the world. Contrary to a common misconception, Debian is not for Linux gurus only. As a matter of fact, as you will see on the guide pages, its advanced package management system makes it one of the easier distributions for new Linux users to work with. Here are just a few of its advantages:
Debian disc images are available for download from www.debian.org. If you download the images, be sure to download the current "stable" release (get the "i386" set for an Intel PC system). However, downloading and burning 10 DVDs takes some time and effort. You can also purchase ready-made DVD sets from Web vendors for around $30. (We now offer DVD sets to help fund the ad-free operation of this site.)
- Non-Proprietary: Debian is a true GNU/Linux distribution using the standard UNIX style commands. This ensures that what you learn today won't be obsolete in two years and makes it easier to also learn how to work with UNIX systems.
- Easy Maintenance: A seamless, totally-integrated package management system makes it easy to keep your system up to date and free of orphan files and incompatible products. Most dependent packages are handled automatically so you don't get the "Failed dependencies" error commonly encountered when trying to add software on RPM-based systems like Red Hat and Suse.
- Automated Patching: The Debian package system also allows you to use a single command to update your entire system (operating system and installed packages) over the Internet. This allows you to use a scheduler to routinely run a shell script to automatically update your system with the latest program, OS, and security patches.
- Extensive: Only free software packages (applications, utilities, etc.) are allowed to be included in the official Debian distributions, and the current binary distribution comes on 10 DVDs because there are over 37,000 of them. With Debian, you don't have different "server" and "workstation" or "personal" editions. It's everything all in one.
- Support Options: Peer support is available through a community of listservs (mailing lists) and chat rooms. Replies to messages may even be from those who helped develop the product. And since you're likely not the first person to encounter a given issue, there are also searchable archives of listserv messages. If your company requires commercial support contracts fear not. Numerous for-profit support operations offer a variety of technical support options.
- Minimal Investment: Debian's peformance is excellent even with the modest hardware requirements Linux is famous for. While most OSs require newer, faster, bigger hardware, Debian allows you to utilize those old Pentium systems instead of throwing them into a landfill. This, along with the fact that you can load a single copy of Debian on as many systems as you want, means you can set up a full-blown enterprise at very little cost.
- Reliable: Debian's focus on stability and reliability results in servers that you may have to reboot once a year, rather than once a month.
- User-centric: New versions of Debian are developed when major changes warrant one, not to generate revenues from upgrades. (You need only look at the version numbers of the various distributions to verify this.)
If you don't have a spare computer we've got good news. Linux doesn't need much. You can pick up a Pentium-IV on sites like eBay for well under $50. A system with 256 meg of RAM and a 20-gig drive is more than enough for our needs. If money is tight you could always just pick up a used 20-gig hard-drive and mount that in your current system (we cover this option in more detail on the Installation page).
Why Not Debian ?
If you're the type who likes to base your operations on the bleeding edge, Debian isn't for you. Debian's focus on providing a stable, reliable operating system across all hardware platforms means it will never be "first to market" with new bells and whistles. They are incorporated into new releases once the bugs have been discovered and worked out.
Why Us ?
First of all, No Advertising! With so many sites out there being so cluttered with banner and pop-up ads that it's down-right painful to use them, we wanted to keep your Linux learning experience free of such distractions. As an alternative, we have chosen to use Amazon book links and sell Debian discs to try and raise the funds necessary to keep this site operating. We feel this approach offers a win-win situation in which we raise operating revenue and you get some great books, software, etc. in the process.
Secondly, Linux resources tend to fall into two categories; those for newbies that cover the basics but never get into the "fun stuff" like servers and firewalls, and those that do get into the fun stuff but assume the reader has a lot of experience with Linux.
We take the middle ground here, "fun stuff for newbies" if you will. We feel the best way to learn is by doing. So after covering the basics on the Linux Basics page, and getting a system up and running on the Installation and Packages pages, we dive right into the fun stuff. When you learn by doing and then buy some Linux books you'll better understand what's being presented and better appreciate the depth of the material.
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