I think this thread is appropriate here as IPCop (Linux distro) & FreeNAS (FreeBSD OS) are not Ubuntu.
I've recently discovered how cheap PII & PIII's have become from the local recycler's (the rubbish dump), this opens up a whole world of server possibilities for the home user at negligible cost. $5-/server here!
There are great applications that have been built on stripped down distro's & OS's that are perfect for our cheap home servers, I'll share what I have been upto for the last week, perhaps some of you have used some of these purpose built distro/OS's & could tell us about your setup & experiences?
I started what is now a long thread here, on setting up IPCop, (which is a dedicated firewall & caching web proxy that has quite a few add-ons available for it), on a $5- box (Dell Optiplex GX150 - PIII 731Mhz/256Mb RAM/10Gb HDD CD & floppy drives/3Com NIC on board).
The $5- box is going great, the CPU rarely does more than idle & 256Mb RAM is more than needed (in my small network anyway). Because our internet speeds are quite slow when compared to HDD data read/write speeds, the vast majority of home users could connect to their modem with a 10Mbit NIC & never get anywhere near maxing out the NIC's bandwidth. So you can see that a PII (low power usage) is a brilliant piece of gear for a server, particularly one that deals with web traffic.
Installing & setting up IPCop is really not hard, there is excellent documentation on the IPCop site, it is separated; there is the Quick Start Guide, the Installation Manual (which includes instructions for using flash media), & there is the Administration Manual plus other documentation as well. There is also an active forum, as many businesses use this software. If you know what you are doing you will be up & running inside of 30 minutes.
The knowing how to get to the point where it is working great took about 6 days of on & off, style work, web research & waiting on 2 very helpful supporters in the Ubuntu/Server forum & one key helper in the IPCop forum for me.
This was mainly due to my very limited knowledge of how this kind of server works. Having only had experience with very simple, p2p, small office networking, which only used a file server. Only one of my customers ever ended up needing to move to serving applications from the file server.
All of this was windows based, & the only firewall was ZoneAlarm & when they went to broadband we also used what was available in the modem/router - NAT & some firewall settings. So I new all but nothing on the subject of using a standalone computer as a configurable firewall.
So with IPCop I am learning some new stuff; I have never needed Bridge Mode in any, let alone my own nasty little modem/router, & putting the protected system (my home LAN) on a different subnet than the modem/router, to get it to work properly, (which is so easy to do once you know but) cost me some time (before I did know about it). Which my setting up IPCop thread shows.
I highly recommend the use of IPCop, it is a tiny cut down distro' weighing in at about 35k, it is very mature & powerful, & really quite easy to install & set up, you don't need to know what you are doing, I've proved that, & if you do have a go at it, post questions in my thread & you will get help. It really should not take you the kind of time it took me, far from it. Knowing what I know now, I can install it & set it up easily inside of 30 minutes.
There is fantastic web based administration software that you use a client to log into, so your firewall/proxy server just sits somewhere headless & without keyboard (never needs a mouse).
Because IPCop is a Linux distro, & Linux handles data packets much better than windows & windows based modems/routers, there is an improvement in data throughput when on the net, plus the use of a caching web proxy will also speed things for all but the most unusual uses of the internet.
Using the proxy will cause a reduction in data throughput, which translates into less latency & a more efficient use of your monthly download limit, if you have that kind of account.
There are a lot of add-ons for IPCop, though at this early stage, I am thinking I will only need to use Advanced Proxy, (once I work out how to get it on there using SSH & scp) as it enhances the IPCop squid web proxy capabilities, though the number of add-ons I end up using could change as my familiarity with IPCop & the size of my network grows.
[Edit:] As of writing this "edit", I have been using IPCop for 10 months, during which time I have found that our small home network does not have anywhere near the amount of traffic to even be able to use the proxy capabilities already built into IPCop. So unless you have a network that's load is registering on the inbuilt IPCop Proxy Graphs, don't waste your time with the Advanced Proxy add-on.
The only add-on I use is Copfilter which integrates perfectly with the IPCop browser interface, & provides many more possibilities, most of which I don't need, but I do use Privoxy & ClamAV, both of which come with great configuration scripts & DO NOT slow down browsing on our LAN (though I don't know why they don't?).
For anyone who has got interested since the first link back there in the 3rd paragraph, below is a link to the IPCop thread, which educated me past a few problems on how to get it up & running, it could save you some time if you choose to go down the IPCop path, it will also hopefully cover the installation of add-ons soon. :
Next I want to make a dedicated $5- torrent box, probably something along the lines of K.Mandla's how-to:
Then I'm going to make a NAS or two out of $5- boxes from the recyclers.
The NAS will be based on FreeNAS which looks to be a great little 35K FreeBSD installation.
[Edit:] I have now had a FreeNAS system for many months; it installed easily, is easy to configure via its client side browser based configuration/observation system (similar to IPCop), it is reliable as can be. I'm using a 2GB drive to boot FreeNAS & a 1TB drive for storage. I can play a movie over the 10/100 speed LAN from the FreeNAS box no trouble at all.
Our tip (recyclers) is closed one day a week, on Monday, so every Tuesday morning I will be off to the tip, 15 minutes round trip driving, to see what has come in on the weekend, I suspect that xmas time could be a time for good pickings.
[Edit:] It wasn't, it has taken 10 months to find a box worth looking at from our local tip, which is a PII with no RAM, that I haven't seriously looked at yet!?
At $5- each, I think I may build up a supply of about half a dozen, & have backups pre-setup to take the place of a failed box.
K.Mandla has a story or two to tell, as he is big time into encouraging people to get the most out of what many consider to be redundant hardware if you haven't been there yet you should check out his blog:
So tell us what you have got going on a cheap box?
It will help broaden some of our imaginations, at least mine anyway & offer inspiration for us to go & save some computers from becoming landfill, & as far as PII & III's are concerned, now is the time to get them, because if they are worth next to nothing, it won't be long before it is a rare one that hasn't already been put in its grave.