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I want to get some hands on knowledge with linux servers (sine the last internship I applied for, required some experience with linux servers, but I had none), and I'm wondering if the RPi would give me the same server experience as any other computer (x86 or ARM). Everyone I've asked about "starting with servers" says to just use any old computer. The truth is. All I have is my laptop with Win7, and an RPi.

I want something that will give me real world experience with setting up a LAMP server, FreeNAS, some kind of media server, or anything else. I'm second guessing myself, because this runs on ARM, and most Linux OS's won't run on arm. I believe Ubuntu and CentOS (from what I heard) are the biggest name servers OS's. I also heard that archlinux runs on arm.

I know the above is a mess of questions, but any help and/or guidance is appreciated.

Main Question:

Can I get cmd line, server setup, and server maintenance experience from the RPi comparable to that of someone that works on x86 machines?

  • I have provided an answer below, but I think this is off topic and better served on U&L. – Alex Chamberlain Aug 30 '12 at 9:02
  • @AlexChamberlain I believe this question can be salvaged. EGHDK, can you think about restructuring your question so that it is more to the point? – Jivings Aug 30 '12 at 22:52
  • Tried to boil it down to what I'm really trying to get at. – EGHDK Aug 30 '12 at 22:59
  • Using RPi for server experience NO! Use a LT (Long Term) Ubuntu Server and follow some LAMP guides- Every problem you encounter will lead you to new questions. Then install Webmin and Virtual Min- If you get that stable you will have intermediate experience. Good luck ;) Then try the same on the Pi - Double good luck! – Piotr Kula Aug 31 '12 at 17:38
  • Hmm... even though you have the most straightforward answer. Any reason why? Also, turn that comment into an answer lol – EGHDK Aug 31 '12 at 22:56
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If you just want to play with Linux without the chance of breaking stuff or wasting money I would suggest you install a virtual machine, for example virtualbox.
This is a lot faster than an RPi (ofcourse depending of your machine) and is a bit more convenient with installing and setting up (no cables, usbdisks, powerplugs, extra keyboards, delivery time and whatnot).

It doesn't really matter what distribution you pick. Ubuntu is a nice start with lots of documentation available (also look into Debian documentation). But pick the server version so you won't get spoiled with the GUI, a benefit you won't have while ssh'ing into your next employers webserver.

  • Arch is good for learning with, because you have to do a lot yourself. – Alex Chamberlain Aug 30 '12 at 10:20
  • So server edition's of a Linux OS don't have a GUI? – EGHDK Aug 30 '12 at 14:05
  • Not by default. In linux a server makes a server depending on the packages that are installed (and sometimes a different configuration for the kernel). If you install Apache in your desktop system, Apache still acts as a server. – Joost Aug 30 '12 at 14:20
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Lets look at it the other way round. Lots of people who have only previously used linux on x86 are experiencing the linux on ARM for the first time with the RPi. Lots of what they know about linux doesn't really matter which platform it's running on.

Setting up a LAMP server will be quite similar on RPi vs x86, but you should be aware that the RPi performance will probably resemble a 300Mhz PIII or thereabouts.

Round here I have seen x86 PCs with better specs on the side of the road :)

  • 1. So should I just buy a micro computer to set up a test server? 2. How would I go about setting up a LAMP server? I thought you needed a full OS like Ubuntu or something. – EGHDK Aug 30 '12 at 7:06
  • @EGHDK, raspbian and arch linux are full OS's. A RPi is fine if you want to buy one. I was just saying you might be able to find a free computer that will do for your learning. – John La Rooy Aug 30 '12 at 7:20
  • I have an RPi already, don't really have any old computers lying around though. That's where my "confusion" is. Should I use the RPi? Will it teach me enough, or should I wait for a full x86 computer to come along. – EGHDK Aug 30 '12 at 7:26
  • @EGHDK, The RPi will do fine. Setting up LAMP is basically the same procedure. – John La Rooy Aug 30 '12 at 7:29
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The answer depends on what you mean by "server experience". The vast majority of what you do on a RPi running raspbian works the same way on any server based on a Debian derivative. Editing files. System configuration. Basic linux command line familiarity. Security. Remote access. All of this works the same regardless of what physical platform.

You may want a larger system for specific types of experience, but I'd say that the RPi is perfectly good way for somebody with no linux experience to get some practice in at low risk. Even if you configure a larger box later, the RPi gives you an expensive 2nd system for testing. The suggestions made above (dedicated or virtual linux, laptop) are all complementary. For experience, the more realistic your scenario, the better. Very few systems operate in isolation these days. The RPi is a great little add-on to any learning lab.

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I have a little bit of experience with servers. The most popular are Debian and Red Hat IMHO, certainly not Ubuntu. Most of what you do involves general Linux commands, rather than anything server specific.

As for practice, whip up a cloud server on Amazon, Rackspace, or Brightbox and setup a webserver from start to finish. You learn a lot and it's pretty cheap. It's also nice to run on such fast CPUs and with a stupidly fast internet connection, for downloading source code etc.

  • I said "Ubuntu" was popular because a lot of people use Amazons cloud servers, and I'm pretty sure they all run Ubuntu. Either way, thanks for the suggestion. – EGHDK Aug 30 '12 at 14:07
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For real industry server experience, I feel you would be better off using even an old laptop to install CentOS 6 or 7. Even if the laptop is a Windows laptop, you can install CentOS and make it dual boot. This leaves Windows entirely alone and CentOS can work fine without even knowing Windows is in the other partition. CentOS is a clone of Redhat's Enterprise version with the branding and logo removed, and it's free.

  • -1. I don't understand the logic of your argument at all? "I feel you would be better off using even an old laptop". Why? What does an old laptop do better than the RPi? I've worked with production server grade equipment before, and the RPi is reasonably close. – Jacobm001 Jun 29 '15 at 15:29
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    A pi doesn't support SATA for starters and it doesn't support Red Hat or CentOS which is an industry standard, and there is no good reason to limit yourself to learning a professional trade to a $35.00 computer when there are other low-cost solutions if money is an issue. An old laptop running CentOS is a better time investment. – Edward_178118 Jun 29 '15 at 18:43
  • It doesn't support SATA, but it does support USB. For learning purposes, there's no legitimate difference in how the server interacts with the drive. Raspbian is similar enough to Debian or Ubuntu (which are also common place) that it is worthwhile. Plus, the concepts learned is relatively easily transferrable. – Jacobm001 Jun 29 '15 at 18:46
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You could certainly get a feel for it--especially if you have some specific software you were wanting to learn about and that software had a PI build available.

Limitations:

  1. Low memory
  2. Low speed.
  3. There are probably many server tools that won't run or aren't ported.
  4. Not a "Real" server environment (mostly because of the previous item)

Advantages:

  1. Low price.
  2. Lots of information on how to solve simple tasks.
  3. Many basic services you might want to deploy on a server are available
  4. Full time servers with low energy/low heat/low(no) fan noise. No reason to ever shut it down.
  5. Experience with linux remote management tools like ssh, screen, etc.
  6. Easily replicate a clustered environment
  7. Affordable enough to use a separate PI for each app if you wanted to.

As an example, I put a full minecraft server on one. Could carry it around and host a wifi game without any internet connectivity, but the speed was borderline and it was glitchy at times.

I still run SSH, RDP, Git, http and wiki services on it though and even if I don't use them much, they are always available. (forwarding SSH through your firewall makes almost anything not only possible but quite useful!)

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