Linux Newbie

Posted on 1998-07-03
Last Modified: 2013-12-06
Ok I am a newbie to the UNIX/Linux world. The only experience of UNIX is that I've used System V at university to host my website and check my email. I've finally decided now to sit down and learn about Linux. What I would like to do is run a linux box on the end of a 3 PC network (perhaps as a file/print server). How powerful does the PC need to be to perform this task. I have several 486 spec machines (upto 66MHz DX2) available. Will these be enough? What will I need (apart from the OS itself) to run a linux fileserver?

Thanks for your help.

Question by:FaffMan

Accepted Solution

richrussell earned 50 total points
ID: 1637491
Your 486s will be plenty for linux. You will need at least 8Mb (I'd recommend 16 as a minimum), or about 24Mb if you intend to run X window system (worth it really).
Apart from that, you'll need a CDROM (easier than installing from floppy, although you can), a network card that is supported (most are), a graphics card that is supported (again,  most are now).

Basically if the PC can run windows 95, then it will make a fairly quick linux box.

Get hold of RedHat if you're unsure about installation, I think it's the easiest to get up and running.

You'll need about 50Mb of HDD space for swap and at least 200Mb for a full install. Of course you don't have to install stuff you won't need - eg, if you don't have a modem, you can leave out the comms stuff etc.

You can set up Samba (included with most distributions), to give you file and print sharing for microsoft clients. It looks like a windows shared directory to windows machines...

Check out web pages such as and for more details.

Have fun.

Author Comment

ID: 1637492
Thanks for your suggestions.

What file system does Linux use, will I have to reformat my disks, and does it have any top limit for drive sizes, like the FAT 2GB limit?

Also, is it possible to set up a modem in the Linux box that will allow the Windows client to access the internet through the Linux server?


Author Comment

ID: 1637493
Is there anywhere I can get hold of an older version of Red Hat? My budget for setting this whole thing up is about zero, so paying the $50 that Red Hat want for v5.1 is not an option. Is it possible to get older versions for less (or better still, for free...)?

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Expert Comment

ID: 1637494
You can download Linux, of course If your network connection is slow you will ending paying  as much as if you buy the CD.

There are some retailers that sell very cheap copies of yhe main implementations. One of them is Cheapbytes. Look frequently in the newsgroup comp.os.announce.linux , all the important distributors announce their products there and you can get reail bargains.

There is also a project called "Free Linux" or something like that, that puts in touch people that want to get rid of theri CD with people that need them. Sorry, I don't have the information of their web site, but browse around and I am sure you will find them.


Author Comment

ID: 1637495
Download times are not a problem, I can use the office ISDN lines overnight.
What sites have downloads for Linux? If RedHat is the easiest to set up, I'll get that one.

In his answer above, richrussell said that most distributions include something called 'Samba' for file and print sharing. Does RedHat include that, or something similar?


Expert Comment

ID: 1637496
Get it from  It has every distribution under
the sun.  I like Slackware, but Red Hat is out there too, as are
Debian, etc.

From sunsite's main page, you can look in /pub/linux/distributions, I believe.  They also have a site searcher too.

Welcome to the club, bro!  

Author Comment

ID: 1637497
OK, I went to the european sunsite, 'cos it's closer to my location, and had a look in /pub/linux/distributions/ and I found the RedHat distribution. Do I just download everything from the RedHat folder downwards? There doesn't seem to be any instructions about what to download.


Expert Comment

ID: 1637498
Go into the RedHat-5.1 subdirectory, then to th i386 subdirectory.  From there, you will need to get everything under the RedHat directory.  What other things you will need are dependent on the type of installation you intend to do.  

If Linux will be the only OS on the machine, you will need to get the .img files from the images directory and create disks from them.  Use rawrite to make them using a DOS box or dd from a Unix box.  Rawrite is available under the dosutils directory.  If this will be a dual boot box (with DOS), you could get the stuff under dosutils and run autoboot.bat from DOS to start the install.

For RedHat 5.0 & later I have found that the fastest way to install (for me) is to put the RedHat directory structure on a local ftp server (though you can use one on the internet), make the boot and supp disks, and install via ftp.  To do this, you will need some information about your network, though.  You will need an IP address for the Linux box, netmask (usually for class C), gateway IP, dns IP, and the IP for the ftp server.  You will also need to know the exact path to the RedHat directory.  You may also need an account and password for the ftp server (depending on its setup).  Also, this is probably self evident, but you have to have a supported ethernet card installed and connected to the network to use this method.

Author Comment

ID: 1637499
OK, I've got the ISO CD Image for the latest Debian distribution. I'll burn it onto a CD later today. I'm guessing I need a bootdisk of some sort to go with this. I couldn't find anything like that at, so could anyone point me in the right direction?


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