Debian: Server Yes, Desktop No

Opinion: "Pure Debian" is great for a simple home LAN server application, but as a Linux desktop it's far inferior to spinoffs such as Ubuntu and Freespire. (

I recently decided to retire Red Hat 7 after seven years of loyal service as a firewall/router operating system on my home LAN. Like a red-headed stepchild grown old, it had become cranky from extended neglect and no longer would even shut down or reboot without issuing nasty messages.

The OS was running on old hardware, the cheapest PC I was able to get back in 1999 when I launched my home business. Were talking about a 350MHz AMD K6 processor and less than 256MB of DRAM, with only 156MB usable by the system.

Back in the fall of 99, my son and resident Linux hacker spent a week installing and configuring RH7 on the system—setting it up as a router, firewall and Samba server—all with command-line tools. And, I must say, for the minimal initial investment and zero upkeep costs, its been a decent system over the years. But lately, its escalating misbehavior was getting on my nerves, so I decided to finally put the tired old OS out to pasture.

After all, you can get excellent firewall/routers—even Linux-powered wireless ones—these days for under $100, and they utilize some rather exotic componentry to protect their human companions, so I decided that much of the heavy lifting could be handled by a nifty little gadget. In that case, all Id need to use the trusty old K6 box for would be file serving, Web serving, Samba serving, and a bit of grunt-work like automatically backing up and archiving data from the handful of popular Web sites that I manage.

Now, I may write a lot about Linux, but unlike some of my partners in crime, Im no Linux guru. Lately, though, Id been noticing how user-friendly Linuxes like SLED 10, which I use as my desktop OS, have some slick, user-friendly wizards that make it easy to set up and configure firewalls, Web servers, routing and various other services.

So, why not try building my own home server?

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