Server running XP Pro: Should I go back to Linux?

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BNineFounder
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26 Jul 2010, 4:13 pm

Some of you guys have already seen what I said about Linux, and I'm really nervous about going back after the stuff I've been through with Linux. For some reason, though, I have this nagging feeling that I need to change my current web/mail/database/ftp server running on XP Pro back over to Linux again.

My hardware specs:
- 2004 vintage Pentium 4, 2.8 GHz single core, 1.5 GB RAM, 80 GB system/300 GB data hdd

My software specs:
- XP Pro SP3
- Apache 2 web server
- IMAP/SMTP mail server
- FTP server
- MySQL database server

Why I'd want to stay on XP:
- System easily configurable by remote access (VNC, Remote Desktop)
- Config files for OS and services relatively easy to find and edit, mostly using GUI tools (that actually work most of the time)
- Microsoft software updates hardly ever break the OS because I apply them manually, never using the automatic update feature
- Have had very good experience with NTFS. Have not had a catastrophic failure with NTFS in a very long time
- VB Script is easy for me, allows me to write all kinds of maintenance and backup scripts easily

Why going with Linux seems smart:
- OS is better-suited for server duty
- Linux has a little better security than Windows
- Built-in real firewall
- Servers on Linux seem to be a tad bit more responsive than on Windows
- Seems to work better on older hardware

Why moving to Linux scares me:
- Have had ext2/ext3 file system tear itself up beyond recognition on three occasions for no good reason
- System/service configuration not easy...GUI tools are limited or sometimes don't work correctly
- Software updates seem to cause more trouble than good
- Not easy to administer remotely using remote GUI tools (VNC, etc)
- Shell scripting isn't very easy (for me, anyway)
- Linux folder/file permissions are a giant pain in the behind
- Windows file sharing (Samba) is difficult to configure and often unreliable on Linux

So, with all of that said, what do you guys think? Are my concerns unfounded? Should I just stay on XP, or would the grass be greener on Linux? I was using CentOS and tried Ubuntu server, but what distro would you guys recommend for a light to medium traffic server?

Thanks in advance.



Orwell
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26 Jul 2010, 5:18 pm

Ubuntu Server or maybe Fedora would be a decent choice for a relatively easy-to-configure LAMP server. Fedora even has an option in the installer to get all the server-related stuff you need in your base install (at least, it did last time I used it... maybe two or three releases ago).

BNineFounder wrote:
- Have had ext2/ext3 file system tear itself up beyond recognition on three occasions for no good reason

ext4 is stable. You could try out something like reiserfs. I trust ext3/ext4 over NTFS any day.

Quote:
- Not easy to administer remotely using remote GUI tools (VNC, etc)

VNC on Linux boxes works fine for me. There's also ssh, but that requires a little more bash-fu.

Quote:
- Linux folder/file permissions are a giant pain in the behind

Ubuntu-based distros with their "sudo" default settings are a little kinder about permissions than more traditional GNU/Linux distros. "man chown" can give you all the instructions you need to fix any broken permissions, although depending on what went wrong it can be very tedious to clean up.

Quote:
- Windows file sharing (Samba) is difficult to configure and often unreliable on Linux

Which is why you normally use Windows solutions on Windows, and Linux solutions on Linux. I use either scp or sftp for file transfer.

Quote:
So, with all of that said, what do you guys think? Are my concerns unfounded? Should I just stay on XP, or would the grass be greener on Linux? I was using CentOS and tried Ubuntu server, but what distro would you guys recommend for a light to medium traffic server?

Well, is something wrong with your current setup on XP? If it is mostly functional and you cannot risk a period of (possibly extended) downtime, the default answer is that you shouldn't fix if it ain't seriously broke. That said, I like GNU/Linux and think it might be better than XP. I'd recommend Fedora over CentOS because it's more up-to-date.


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BNineFounder
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26 Jul 2010, 6:22 pm

Orwell wrote:
Ubuntu Server or maybe Fedora would be a decent choice for a relatively easy-to-configure LAMP server. Fedora even has an option in the installer to get all the server-related stuff you need in your base install (at least, it did last time I used it... maybe two or three releases ago).

Thanks! :) I'll check Fedora out in a VM first to see how it goes. I actually used Fedora (Core) a lot back in the earlier days. If I don't like Fedora, guess I'll just settle with Ubuntu. I liked Ubuntu's desktop, but the last couple of releases have been train wrecks, at least on my testing hardware.

Orwell wrote:
ext4 is stable. You could try out something like reiserfs. I trust ext3/ext4 over NTFS any day.

k, though I will be avoiding reiserfs because it's not getting much developer attention these days after its creator was charged with murdering his wife or something like that.

Orwell wrote:
VNC on Linux boxes works fine for me. There's also ssh, but that requires a little more bash-fu.

I don't mind terminal stuff that much, I just work better in GUI environments. I did a great deal of my admin duties through SSH when using CentOS, but there are some things to me that are easier, and quicker, using a GUI.

Orwell wrote:
Which is why you normally use Windows solutions on Windows, and Linux solutions on Linux. I use either scp or sftp for file transfer.

Well, I'm in a mixed environment. For the bulk of my work, I use Windows, but I also use OS X and Linux, but there are more Windows machines than any others in my network.

Orwell wrote:
Well, is something wrong with your current setup on XP? If it is mostly functional and you cannot risk a period of (possibly extended) downtime, the default answer is that you shouldn't fix if it ain't seriously broke. That said, I like GNU/Linux and think it might be better than XP. I'd recommend Fedora over CentOS because it's more up-to-date.

Is something wrong with my XP setup? I'm not sure. It just seems to have a lot more latency than my Linux server had as far as web-page loads and what-not. When I open some files on the server from my Windows 7 workstation through Windows networking, it sometimes takes forever to load, and life is too short. :wink:

Thanks Orwell. I'll take your advice and see how Fedora looks in a VM at first. I was using CentOS because it was stable, though it was a bit stale too. I hope Fedora isn't so bleeding edge that it's unreliable though.



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26 Jul 2010, 6:43 pm

BNineFounder wrote:
Thanks Orwell. I'll take your advice and see how Fedora looks in a VM at first. I was using CentOS because it was stable, though it was a bit stale too. I hope Fedora isn't so bleeding edge that it's unreliable though.

Fedora isn't quite as bleeding edge/unstable as its reputation. I mean, sure, they often ship beta versions of Firefox and whatnot in their "stable" release, but they update it to the stable version as soon as possible and the core system seemed solid enough. I had no more or less stability problems in Fedora than I did in Ubuntu, but I came back to Ubuntu for the familiarity/ease-of-use and the more extensive repositories.


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27 Jul 2010, 8:36 pm

BNineFounder wrote:
though I will be avoiding reiserfs because it's not getting much developer attention these days after its creator was charged with murdering his wife or something like that.

Don't even bother with reiserfs, it's one of those things that looks good on paper but perform horrible in situations that counted.

BNineFounder wrote:
Is something wrong with my XP setup? I'm not sure. It just seems to have a lot more latency than my Linux server had as far as web-page loads and what-not. When I open some files on the server from my Windows 7 workstation through Windows networking, it sometimes takes forever to load, and life is too short. :wink:

You are using XP server to serve Win7 clients? The web server performance difference may be due to XP's 10 half open connections limit. As for Windows networking, Win7 is optimized for SMB2 so it's possible that SMB1 doesn't do well with the new TCP/IP stack. But "taking forever to load" sounds more like problems in settings. Also check the time of the machines, the authentication could fail if the time drifted apart too much.



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28 Jul 2010, 1:23 pm

CloudWalker wrote:
You are using XP server to serve Win7 clients? The web server performance difference may be due to XP's 10 half open connections limit. As for Windows networking, Win7 is optimized for SMB2 so it's possible that SMB1 doesn't do well with the new TCP/IP stack. But "taking forever to load" sounds more like problems in settings.

CloudWalker, thanks for your input.

As far as Windows file-sharing, yes, this XP Pro server is serving a Windows 7 machine, a Vista machine and a two-year-old Mac. I know there are differences in SMB between XP and later versions of Windows, so my problems aren't completely unexpected. I just don't have it in the budget for Server 2008 or something like that.

I was aware that there were limits to XP Pro's networking connections, but I thought that was only with SMB? Are you saying that *any* network connection counts toward the limit?

I'm sorry, I wasn't clear about the 'taking forever to load' part. After I wrote that, I think it's more of a file-locking issue than a networking problem. I check my apache log often from my Windows 7 machine through the network, using Firefox to view the actual file. Sometimes I hit Refresh and it loads right away, other times it takes 15 to 20 seconds. It's possible apache is locking the log file for a time, then closing it, but it's a pain. I haven't had that problem with the logs for other services, and I don't have problems copying files or using RDP to admin it.

If XP Pro's 10 connection limit is for *any* network connection, then I need to get onto Linux.



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28 Jul 2010, 1:31 pm

Orwell wrote:
...maybe Fedora would be a decent choice for a relatively easy-to-configure LAMP server

I took your advice and tried Fedora, adding the extra packages for server duty, but I was not pleased with it. I don't like the "end-user is stupid" assumption, where they lock out access to root and make you sudo for everything. If I want to log in as root, dag bern it, that's my choice. I know the security risks, I don't need some distro telling me what I can and cannot do. It's the same blasted thing with Ubuntu Server. I know this can be changed with Fedora and Ubuntu, but CentOS, right out of the box allows me to log in as root if I want to, without wearing out my 's','u','d' and 'o' keys.

I guess I'm just stupid, because I have so many problems with Linux, while just about everyone else sails along on smooth seas with no problems. Grrr! :cry:



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28 Jul 2010, 1:54 pm

CloudWalker wrote:
The web server performance difference may be due to XP's 10 half open connections limit.

I did find some info on this here http://support.microsoft.com/kb/314882. It's still not super clear if it applies only to Windows services like file-sharing, print-sharing, etc. There was one paragraph that stood out to me, but I'm having a hard time understanding it right now:

Microsoft Support Article wrote:
Per development: The connection limit refers to the number of redirector-based connections and is enforced for any file, print, named pipe, or mail slot session. The TCP connection limit is not enforced, but it may be bound by legal agreement to not permit more than 10 clients.

Hmmm....



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28 Jul 2010, 3:18 pm

BNineFounder wrote:
Orwell wrote:
...maybe Fedora would be a decent choice for a relatively easy-to-configure LAMP server

I took your advice and tried Fedora, adding the extra packages for server duty, but I was not pleased with it. I don't like the "end-user is stupid" assumption, where they lock out access to root and make you sudo for everything. If I want to log in as root, dag bern it, that's my choice. I know the security risks, I don't need some distro telling me what I can and cannot do. It's the same blasted thing with Ubuntu Server. I know this can be changed with Fedora and Ubuntu, but CentOS, right out of the box allows me to log in as root if I want to, without wearing out my 's','u','d' and 'o' keys.

I guess I'm just stupid, because I have so many problems with Linux, while just about everyone else sails along on smooth seas with no problems. Grrr! :cry:

I didn't realize Fedora used sudo. The last time I used it they had the traditional style of permissions and user accounts where you had to log in as root for administrative tasks.

Anyways, in "sudo" distros you can add a bash alias to make "su" be interpreted as "sudo su" which more or less makes them behave like CentOS would.

I just checked, and on the command line I don't see any block to logging in directly as root on Ubuntu.


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28 Jul 2010, 7:27 pm

The limit applies to all TCP connections in the handshaking state. You can search the event log for Event ID 4226 to see if this affected you.

What you described is probably the reason of the slow down. The size of the log may also be a factor, it could grow quite large and I'm not sure firefox is adept at handling that. Does the delay ever happen if you copy the log manually to the local machine? And does opening the log with firefox locally have similar issues?



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29 Jul 2010, 10:37 am

CloudWalker wrote:
The limit applies to all TCP connections in the handshaking state. You can search the event log for Event ID 4226 to see if this affected you.

What you described is probably the reason of the slow down. The size of the log may also be a factor, it could grow quite large and I'm not sure firefox is adept at handling that. Does the delay ever happen if you copy the log manually to the local machine? And does opening the log with firefox locally have similar issues?

Oh, okay, I understand the XP connection limit now, thank you! :D

As far as Firefox being able to read the log properly, I've been using this approach for a long time...it's only become a problem when I switched to this server running XP Pro. If I was running Linux, it didn't happen, and I think even when I was running XP Home it didn't do this, though there were tons of people complaining about not being able to connect to the web-site when I was running XP Home.

At this point I have already scrounged enough parts together to make another server, and I loaded the latest CentOS on it last night. It's going to be a pain configuring it, but now that you have told me about the 10 connection limit, I had a 'Duh!' moment and now understand that Linux is the best way to go here...unless I want to buy MS Server 2008 R2 or whatever the latest is. No thanks, I don't have it in my budget for that, and don't need the Active Directory junk just to run my own web/mail/ftp/db server.

Thanks again for your feedback guys, I really appreciate it. 8)



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29 Jul 2010, 10:39 am

CloudWalker wrote:
The limit applies to all TCP connections in the handshaking state. You can search the event log for Event ID 4226 to see if this affected you.

What you described is probably the reason of the slow down. The size of the log may also be a factor, it could grow quite large and I'm not sure firefox is adept at handling that. Does the delay ever happen if you copy the log manually to the local machine? And does opening the log with firefox locally have similar issues?

Oh, okay, I understand the XP connection limit now, thank you! :D

As far as Firefox being able to read the log properly, I've been using this approach for a long time...it's only become a problem when I switched to this server running XP Pro. If I was running Linux, it didn't happen, and I think even when I was running XP Home it didn't do this, though there were tons of people complaining about not being able to connect to the web-site when I was running XP Home.

At this point I have already scrounged enough parts together to make another server, and I loaded the latest CentOS on it last night. It's going to be a pain configuring it, but now that you have told me about the 10 connection limit, I had a 'Duh!' moment and now understand that Linux is the best way to go here...unless I want to buy MS Server 2008 R2 or whatever the latest is. No thanks, I don't have it in my budget for that, and don't need the Active Directory junk just to run my own web/mail/ftp/db server.

Thanks again for your feedback guys, I really appreciate it. 8)



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29 Jul 2010, 9:15 pm

Just to make sure it's clear, the limit isn't about the number of connections. It's about how many new connections Windows will process at a time. If the situation is worse with XP Home, then it's even more likely the reason. M$ is a bit evasive on the limit of XP Home but some say it's as low as 5.

Actually, M$ has disabled the limit in Vista SP2 and Win 7. So, if you have any unused Vista/7 license lying around, you can put the server on those OS. Switching to linux is also a good choice if you don't need active directory.



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31 Jul 2010, 5:12 pm

Well, to anyone following along, I finally went back to CentOS Linux today from my XP Pro box. Current server is an old 3 GHz Pentium 4 machine with 1 GB RAM. Took forever to configure, even with backed up configuration from my last foray into Linux. Just as I said before, configuring a server on Linux is crazy slow and inefficient compared to configuring it on Windows, but the issues with latency seems to have disappeared. My web-pages load faster, accessing my logs through the network is much faster...and for some reason, I feel at ease now compared to when I was running XP.

Thank you guys for your input and tips, I really appreciate it. :D