Rethinking Home Servers

Since my first home-built server (a PI 75Mhz behemoth) I’ve used Red Hat based distributions as my home server.  This lasted until around 2002-3 when I moved into a 4 bedroom house with 3 of my Air Force buddies and one of them wanted to learn Linux.

I knew from experience in the mid-nineties that Slackware was probably the most Unix-like distribution out there…I felt at home there quite a bit after learning the *nix ropes on Solaris 2.0.  So we configured a Slackware 8.1 dual processor tower server he was lucky enough to acquire as our home firewall-all-around-great-linux box.  He took his beginning steps there and flourished since our Air Force job already had us jumping around in a VAX/VMS mainframe.  We had many late night hacking sessions attempting to get things to work or compile there.  We also had a multi GB shared hard disk (unheard of at the time!) shared over samba.

After I got moved out, I continued to keep the Slackware box up to date.  I moved onward to Slackware 9.  Samba operated like a champ and Slackware was a great routing system and dhcp server.  Then I discovered ClarkConnect and loved the web interface.  I could do things in half the time!  I could do them over the web from work without SSH tunneling!  All this appealed to me at the time.

I continued to run ClarkConnect from that point on and have continued to all the way up to when it changed to ClearOS this past year.  Indeed, I have ClearOS now as my central server.

The only problem is that I’ve suffered 2 of the most catastrophic losses of files in my samba shares when running ClarkConnect/ClearOS…and I didn’t draw the lines together  on these separate incidents until just recently.

The first loss came when an entire samba share was completely eradicated…13GB of music was just gone.  The second loss happened just the other day when tons of scanned pictures just VANISHED into thin air.  Each time these happened, I was using ClarkConnect/ClearOS.  Each time it happened a few users reported instability in the forums of those distributions.  I am not sure how it could have happened and I was caught completely off guard on the second time…my backups were not yet configured since it was a new server.  The first time it happened…I didn’t know the value of having a good backup routine.  So each time, no backups :(  Lesson learned the hard way but learned nonetheless.

I recall running Slackware on my server and NEVER having the problems I have had with ClarkConnect/ClearOS.  This got me rethinking my home server design.  Servers should be the epitome of stability.  One should be able to migrate from one version of the operating system to the next with few hiccups.  When considering each of these it is very apparent that I should be running Slackware core on my main samba server.

I will be making that transition in the next week or two and moving to a Slackware core based server.  I’m not sure what to use for backups across the network (I usually mirror the drive to an NTFS drive in my Windows based multimedia server) nor backups locally to other hard drives.  If you have any suggestions, I’d really like to hear them.  Also, I’d like to know what readers consider using for a server.  Please vote for your favorite below and drop me a comment letting me know specifics and thanks for your help!

[poll id=”3″]

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The 10 Minute Linux Firewall

If you’re like me…you still have to run some form of Windows for daily operations at your house or office. While most of the time there are helpful hardware additions at work such as a firewall/avtivirus…at home, you’ll find a more simple router/firewall and antivirus solution that doesn’t protect as well. While this is better than nothing, it also doesn’t have the power that a Linux firewall does…nor does it have the ability to patch itself when a vulnerability is discovered.

Did you know that most router/firewalls that you can buy at the store come with a set of default passwords that work on ALL MODELS? Yours could be open to hacking right now. To lock down your network, you can take an old computer, install Linux, and use it as a firewall with your own custom rules and regulations…plus it’s great to show off to the ladies Wink 😉 lol.

I wrote a tutorial on how to do this at If this sounds like something you’d be interested in (very easy to follow directions) then check out this link:

Or continue reading the article in full below…


The 10 Minute Linux Firewall

At the forefront of almost every single System Administrators mind is security. Redmond has been catching a lot of flack lately about not being as secure as they could be. As some of you have noticed, there has been a market swing in the use of Mozilla and Firefox as webbrowsers, creating a small nick into the 90% marketshare that Redmond owns with IE. Some IT Specialists are also seeing the same swing in the Server market.

So what does this have to do with Firewalls? Well, just like switching webrowsers or servers away from M$, a Linux firewall means added security AND possibly even increased browsing speed. Today, I’ll discuss the easiest way to get up and running with the 5 minute Linux firewall.

First things first. I’m not going to go into detail on many distros…I’m going with one that I know work…and that I know work FAST…and that would be something a ‘Windows’ person could install and configure in a matter of minutes. In my mind, the easiest distro is Smoothwall.

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