Network Storage Device

As many have emphasized, Linux is exceptional in the server market. For consumers however, many do not realize servers can be very small scale and reduced to embedded devices. I’ve been working on a Linksys Network Storage Device for my home lan. Basically the device is a Linux server running on 133Mhz ARM Processor with 32MB of ram. However it comes with a 100Mbit network port and 2 individual USB2.0 ports. You can plug in harddrives or media devices into the USB ports and once you add it to your network you have a shared harddrive. Its a low power device which is very good alternative to building a full server doing the same work and much more affordable.

The folks at nslu2-linux.org have put together multiple extra software packages and guides on how to do much much more than just a file server. Some examples would be a Web server, Software Revision control (SVN), TV media recorder, iTunes music server, Windows Domain Controller, and the list goes on. My intended functions right now are a LAN DNS Server, basic webserver, revision control, NTP (network time server) on top of file serving. My idea is to relagate some functions I have on my computer and others on my network into 1 primary (low power) machine.

It’s not up and running yet. I found information to over clock the CPU to 266Mhz, and soder in a RS232 serial port so I can see booting information and access a command prompt. Lots to play with – more information when it’s all hooked up.

Fedora Help Forums

Quite possibly the most useful Linux and Fedora forums on the internet are LinuxQuestions.org and FedoraForum. I prefer the first one since it has been around much longer and has a great deal more content for Linux in general (not just Fedora). However the second one has been dubbed the “official support forum” for Fedora, so I guess it will have quite a good number of helpful people as well. Of course, my main gripe with forums in general is having to continuously checking for updates on threads, making sure you ask the “right questions” and dealing with arrogant admins. Oh well.

Anyways, as my first foray in the world of aggregation and RSS, I’ve setup a simple Fedora Help Page from the help forums which indexes new posts from the above sites. I set it up mostly as an experiment, but I found myself using it. I might add others, but for now I hope someone finds it useful.

Virtual Private Servers

One of Linux’s many strength’s is its highly suitable web hosting options. Primarily Apache web server on Linux with various open source applications can provide cheap solutions for hosting needs.

The most commonly used hosting option is Virtual Hosting through Apache. With a simple setup, hundreds of unique websites can be run with 1 single server machine. For about $100 (US) a year, you can get a good set of features from most providers. However, most providers limit your options (minimal email, limited databases, no Java App Server, etc.).

Until recently, the next best solution was Dedicated Hosting. This requires rental or ownship of a specific server machine and managing it yourself. Multiple virtual websites can be hosted and depending on the hardware it can have other services as well. However the cost is significantly higher. Most providers change at least $50 per month for basic hardware/features and it is fairly typical to see prices of $100-200 (plus fees) per month for competitive features.

The technology has been around for quite some time, but Virtual Private Servers (VPS) are recently becoming more popular. This is the process of running multiple instances of Linux and Apache on the same machine. Every VPS on the machine gets a percentage of CPU, disk space, etc. Then each VPS can then host whatever they want without the need to maintain server hardware. When they need to be rebooted, the whole machine is not rebooting bringing down other VPS’s on the same machine – more of software reset than hardware reboot. Software such as Virtuozzo is becoming a popular product from many providers. You can find hosting plans offering VPS from $20-40 per month.

Once I hear some good reliable reviews on VPS services I plan to migrate to that option. I’d welcome any comments on how well these services work.

PHP4 on Fedora Core 4

EDIT (Dec 19, 2005):
I have written a formal guide on PHP4 on FC4.

One of my biggest difficulties with using Fedora Core 4 was that it packages PHP5 with the Apache webserver. Any experienced person should know that Fedora Core is probably a terrible Linux Distribution to be using for a large scale Web Server on the Public Internet. However, it may be sufficient for home or Intranet usage.

What I like to do is, I mirror my public main site mjm wired on my home Linux computer. This was very easy with FC1 – FC3, however PHP5 broke several things in my PHP code. I tried fixing most of them, but it wasn’t worth the effort since my current hosting provider is still on PHP v4.3.10. Anyways, I tried meddling with the PHP4 RPM in FC3 – that was no good. Then I tried recompiling the source RPM for FC3 (src.rpm), but that caused too many compiler errors and with over 60 lines of configure options to compile I couldn’t figure out all the dependancies and flags to satisfy the compile. I had some problems with some XML libraries.

In the end I just compiled the tar.bz2 with some minimal settings. I set the install directory to use /opt/php4 so as not to disturb PHP5. It properly installs the PHP4 Apache Module in the correct location. Then I had to edit /etc/httpd/conf.d/php.conf to disable PHP5 and enable PHP4. So now Apache2 on FC4 runs PHP4 correctly for me. I know there is some way to run them in parallel with controlling certain directories and controlling certain Types (.php, .php4, .php5), but I don’t require this at the moment.

I might write a formal process on this later when I get the time. However, I do think that there MUST be a better way to do this, I am open to suggestion or tips.

Toying with Kernel 2.6.13

Since the 2.6.13 kernel was released some time ago, I’ve heard plenty of negative commentary about changes within it. From referring to the Fedora-list mailing list, it appears as though there were plenty of rough edges. Anyways, using my FC4 Kernel Notes, I followed through my procedure and installed version 2.6.13.2 from source.

The first observation I noticed was that it didn’t seem much different from my last 2.6.12 kernel or my last 2.6.11 FC4 kernel. The only major thing was that my ACPI was broken for S3. I can enter Suspend to RAM (STR) but it won’t resume properly. Normally on previous 2.6.9 and previous kernels, the OS would resume, but I lost input, screen, mouse or some other hardware. In this case not even the PowerButton works correctly. I need some more experimentation here.

Another Linux User Blog

I think I’m finally ready to launch a Linux only technical Blog. I have no major goals other than to document some issues that I may wish to examine at a later date. Other than that I would hope that my notes regarding my experiences or observations may be useful to the general linux user community.

If you’ve visited my site before you know that I have a high preference to Redhat and Fedora. Also keep in mind that I still dual boot with Windows. And a quick note about my current title. Although I am very pleased with many offerings from Linux and Open Source software, I still feel there are many shortcomings and problems. I want to be realistic in my assessments. Hopefully something noteworthy will end up in these pages.