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Gus
2007-12-21, 04:35
I'm trying to figure out what kind of box I'll put on my home network as a media server. I'd set it up next to the central wiring panel and use it pretty much just to store media files and maybe back up 2 other computers. I was thinking that simply getting a second hand box may be the way to go using either XP or Vista (my 2 PCs are running XP and Vista)...or that Linux might make sense.

I'm under the impression that a Linux-based box is a relatively popular option, but having no practical experience with it, I'm wondering...
- What the benefits are of Linux vs. simply having all PCs on the network using Windows?
- Whether this is indeed popular as a media server
- Any primers out there on how to operate a mixed Windows/Linux network like this
- Most importantly, is adding a totally different OS simply going to give me an additional layer of headaches

Any advice and explanations greatly appreciated!

Gus

Ashy72
2007-12-21, 06:22
I'm trying to figure out what kind of box I'll put on my home network as a media server. I'd set it up next to the central wiring panel and use it pretty much just to store media files and maybe back up 2 other computers. I was thinking that simply getting a second hand box may be the way to go using either XP or Vista (my 2 PCs are running XP and Vista)...or that Linux might make sense.

I'm under the impression that a Linux-based box is a relatively popular option, but having no practical experience with it, I'm wondering...
- What the benefits are of Linux vs. simply having all PCs on the network using Windows?
- Whether this is indeed popular as a media server
- Any primers out there on how to operate a mixed Windows/Linux network like this
- Most importantly, is adding a totally different OS simply going to give me an additional layer of headaches

Any advice and explanations greatly appreciated!

Gus

Linux (I use Ubuntu) will run on a low spec pc and still run slimserver very well. I have a Via EPia 600MHz machine with 500Mb ram and i am very happy with its performance. I only have to administer it now and again to download and install the updates. Linux is more secure than windows and I don't even have an antivirus for it! Linux is open source which means you dont need to pay for it, it is free in the sense that the software can be freely distributed around. In fact this is what is wanted by the linux communities.
A lot of people on this site are using linux as a media server and it works very well.

For a mixed network of windows and linux, Install samba onto the linux machine and this will allow file sharing and the files will be able to be seen on the windows machine once set up. There is a setup procedure for samba on the ubuntu forums.
You can use putty to run commands from the windows machine to control the linux machine with linux commands in a terminal.
I use WinScp to copy files from windows explorer to the remote linux pc.
The best utility though is TightVNC with this installed on the windows machine you can control the linux machine remotely from the windows machine. The keyboard and mouse and screen on the windows machine work as if they are actually connected to the linux computer. Ubuntu comes with VNC server pre-installed so you only need to switch on remote access on the linux machine.

Obviously if you know nothing about linux (like I didnt) then there is a learning curve to get everything running and you will get some headaches, it took me about a week to get everything how I wanted it including installing and running plugins.
My advice would be to get a good linux book from the library so that it will guide you through problems and give you knowledge of commands and permissions.
If you are quite computer savvy then there is no reason not to try linux. There is help on the Ubuntu forums and at slimdevices if you get stuck.

Pale Blue Ego
2007-12-21, 08:59
Linux is perfect for a file server or media server. Out of the box, it's more secure and reliable. You can literally go for years without rebooting. I'm using ClarkConnect, a Linux-based server OS, and it is fantastic. Very easy to install, and I can administer it from any PC on the network. This website created by a SB3 user was very helpful in getting my system set up:

http://www.ulverston.myzen.co.uk/mini-itx/pages/installingCC.htm

erland
2007-12-21, 09:08
- What the benefits are of Linux vs. simply having all PCs on the network using Windows?

Licensing costs is decreased unless you already have an extra Windows license. Linux is free while a Windows license will cost you extra.



- Whether this is indeed popular as a media server

For SlimServer linux is perfect and I think most people that have tried both will agree that SlimServer performs a little better on linux compared to Windows, it's not a big difference though.

As a file server linux is also perfect.

Regarding popularity I'm pretty sure that there are more people running Windows as media servers compared to Linux, but the main reason for this is just that more people know how to use Windows and isn't ready to learn something new.



- Any primers out there on how to operate a mixed Windows/Linux network like this

As already mentioned, the key to get them to work together is to install samba on the Linux machine. This will make it possible to share a directory on the network from the Linux machine and connect to it from the Windows machine.



- Most importantly, is adding a totally different OS simply going to give me an additional layer of headaches

Yes
It's always easier to have the same OS on all the computers on the network, different operating system means more problem. However, most headaches will happen initially when you install and configure it.

After it has been installed and configured you will probably just copy new music files to it and connect to it with the SqueezeBox and also use the SlimServer web interface. All this will look exactly the same from the Windows client point of view, so often you will not even notice that the server is running Linux.

I'm personally using Ubuntu linux as a media server and like it. The Ubuntu discussion forums is also very active, so it's easy to get help if you get in trouble.

There is also a beta available for a pre-configured media server that will install and configure Linux and SqueezeCenter/SlimServer 7.0 and automatically share the music directory on the network. I haven't tried it myself, but from the thread it looks like if you have an empty machine you basically just need to insert a CD and click through the installation and everything is setup automatically.
You will find the thread regarding this here:
http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?t=40818

(Please note that this installation currently formats all the harddrives in the computer, so make sure you don't have anything on them you like to keep if you choose this solution)

If you just like to try linux as a mediaserver, you can also use the SlimCD. SlimCD will run from a CDROM and won't install anything on your computer. So you just insert the CD and boot the computer. SlimCD can be found here:
http://www.herger.net/slim/detail.php?nr=763&kategorie=slim

maggior
2007-12-21, 11:07
I'm wondering...
- What the benefits are of Linux vs. simply having all PCs on the network using Windows?
- Whether this is indeed popular as a media server
- Any primers out there on how to operate a mixed Windows/Linux network like this
- Most importantly, is adding a totally different OS simply going to give me an additional layer of headaches

Any advice and explanations greatly appreciated!

Gus

Benefits:
As others have pointed out, the main benefits of Linux are cost (Linux is free! and older PC is good enough), performance as a file server, and relatively immune to viruses.

Popularity:
For slimserver, Linux is a popular choice. Probably not the majority, but you will find many many people here use Linux.

Primers:
Nothing really to it - your Linux file server would just be another device on the network. SAMBA is used to allow Windows systems to access the files.

Headaches:
Only in that you may not be familiar with Linux. You may have less headaches because, in general, people see Slimserver run better on a Linux box. With Linux, you won't have issues with the Virus Scanner getting in the way, you won't have to deal with issues around starting SlimServer automatically upon boot, etc.

Another option:
Another option is to use SlimNAS. This is a solution based on BSD Unix (FreeNAS). It is very lightweight and requires minimal (if any) Uninx/Linux knowledge. You need a console for the initial installation only - once it is up and running, it is administered via a web browser. If you only plan is to use the machine as a file server (and SlimServer), then this is an option. If I didn't already have my OpenSUSE box set up already, I'd be using SlimNAS.

For info on SlimNAS, do a search in these forums and you will find the link.

Good luck!

Gus
2007-12-21, 23:56
I'll have to have a hunt for the right box, but will put Linux on it. Thanks to everyone for the tips. The auto-formating+auto-install on the slim server looks like a great option.
Cheers,
Gus