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linux file server

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i have an older machine i want to use a filserver and might act as an ftp. I want to do it in linux, but im new to linux and am trying to pick a distro. Whats a good one for a noob? I have 2x 250gb right now but i am adding 2 more soon so i was thinking of going raid 5. Alos the machine is an amd xp 1600+, soyo dragon mobo, 512mb ram, 12gb hard drive i can use for the os and use the 250's for straight storage. Any input would be appreciated. Thanks for any help

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There's loads of distros that are pretty good for people without much Linux experience.

I'm using Ubuntu at the moment, which is a very nice distro (getting more and more popular) and easy to start with. And it comes with EVMS pre-configured for handling RAID etc..

Fedora's pretty nice too...

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I'm assuming by the tone of your post that you'll want a distribution that is preconfigured with a GUI. Mepis, Xandros, and Ubuntu are your best bets --in that order I would say. They are all debian-based distributions.

Eventually, if it's a server, you may want to try and dispense with all the graphical bloat and simply use the console. It's not very hard, and just about every program has well-documented man pages and configuration files. There are also step-by-step howto's for every situation all over the internet.

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I've been running Linux pretty much exclusively for 12 years, so I can't look at it from a newbie's perspective very well, but RAID in Linux is dead simple.

I'm told that "hardware RAID controllers" like to make arrays out of whole drives, and the ability to use different RAID levels on parts of a drive is some "new invention" that Intel is calling "Matrix RAID". On Linux, it's actually easier to RAID partitions rather than raw drives, since if you set the partition type right, Linux will autodetect the whole thing on boot. So you can, e.g. make a small system partition and use RAID-10 on it, while the bulk of the disks is RAID-5.

IDE drives are /dev/hda, /dev/hdb, etc. Partitions are /dev/hda1, /dev/hda2, etc. RAID is handled by the "multiple disk" driver, and RAID arrays show up as /dev/md0, /dev/md1, /dev/md2, etc.

Performance wise, it's best if the drives are all the same or very similar, but all you really need

is the partitions all the same size.

Building a RAID-10 partition across 4 drives is as simple as picking an unused md device

number ("cat /proc/mdstat" to see which ones are in use), and

mdadm -C /dev/md0 -l 10 -n 4 /dev/hda1 /dev/hdc1 /dev/hdb1 /dev/hdd1

Note that I arranged the mirrored pairs to be on different IDE controllers (hda & hdc, and hdb & hdd); this protects you against failure of one controller. (You can also build your own RAID-1 mirrors and stripe them together manually, but the new all-in-one RAID10 support is a bit simpler to use.)

Similarly, setting up a default RAID 5 array is a matter of

mdadm -C /dev/md1 -l 5 -n 4 /dev/hda2 /dev/hdb2 /dev/hdc2 /dev/hdd2

-l 5 is the RAID level, -n 4 is the number of drives. There are additional options for chunk size, hot spares, and whatnot.

Then just format and use /dev/md1 as you like. Being a real paranoid bastard, I use RAID-1 pairs for swap space even. (Linux automatically stripes across available swap devices, so it's a bit better to let it use multiple RAID-1 swap devices than one RAID-10.)

Another nice thing is that you can boot off a RAID-1 array. That is, you install the boot loader on the array and you can boot off any single drive in the array. Gives nice reliability.

/proc/mdstat shows the state of all of your RAID arrays at any time. You can adjust resonstruction parameters with /proc/sys/dev/raid/speed_limit_min and speed_limit_max

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