Testing the Waters with Linux
If you are new to Linux, need a test environment or do not want to setup dual-booting on your primary workstation, there is an easy way to build a Linux server. Simply uncover some retired hardware.
Many users, including this author, continue to load Linux on older hardware that may be on the chopping block or slated for EBay. Some of the most popular Linux distributions will run on older, less-performing systems if you just want an experimental look at the operating system or perhaps need to get under the “hood” and learn. Three of the best for Linux newcomers are Mandrake , SUSE , and Fedora Core . If you have your hands on any Red Hat version from 7.3 to 9, these will also work well.
I currently have a Pentium 200 MHz with 256 MB RAM and a 6 GB hard drive running Red Hat 9. I additionally loaded the desktop environments (Gnome and KDE) and use this system to test any new applications and system patches prior to moving them to my production Linux desktop. The desktop apps may not run as sprite as on a late model machine, but the web server and related services needed for a test web operations environment run without issues.
This environment can provide a learning space to administering Apache, FTP, SSH, mail servers such as Postfix, QMail or Sendmail as well as MySQL and PostgreSQL database servers.
So before you auction or strip down another retired system, consider it for use in a test environment for your Linux pursuits.
There are additional alternatives which run Linux from a bootable CD where no hard disk installation is necessary. Users run these CD’s, such as Knoppix , from within Windows on their primary workstation.