What I’ve Learned So Far From Making a Linux Server

Yeah, this is one of those posts where I talk about one of the weird things that I’ve been doing. I’m not going to get into technical details about how I did all that I did, but man was this an adventure.

Why I Made a Linux Server

This week was a holiday weekend, where I got an extra day off of school. I was really bummed out about some things happening in my personal life, so I decided to head home for the weekend to enjoy myself. I was going to edit my podcast, but I forgot to bring my laptop charging cable, so I didn’t have enough battery to actually do that.

Fortunately, we have 3 extra computers, so I could at least do the things that I needed to. However, those computers are quite a bit slower and don’t have all of my software.

Anyway, my grandad, before he passed away, had an old Dell PC. It had Windows Vista (yuck) installed on it, and he used that sucker for tons of genealogy work. Over the summer, we got the computer back, and I managed to grab all of the important files for my mom to import into the more updated genealogy programs. Then the computer just sat in the garage.

Instead of throwing it away, I decided that I wanted my own server. I’m taking a supercomputing class, so I figured it would be beneficial for me to learn how the command line works. I also thought having a server would let me do a bunch of other things that could potentially make my life easier. Oh boy was I in for a surprise.

Preliminary Work

I guess this part is a metaphor for life. When you want something done, you have to put in a lot of groundwork. You have to prepare the medium for the upgrades or changes, and boy was this computer stubborn.

I spent the good part of a day cleaning up the computer. There were over 80 GB of random files and programs that were just junk. I got rid of those, cleaned up the old backups that were no longer necessary, and cleaned the machine. I didn’t remove any of the important information that we might want to get off at another time. Backups are good!

Then, I had to shrink the drive to make room for the new operating system. It didn’t like that. I had to go through a ton of back doors to get the stupid machine to cooperate. I got it to work, finally, and so I could move on.

Things Don’t Go To Plan

To install a Linux Ubuntu server, the easiest way is to make a bootable flash drive. Meaning, you take a junky flash drive and you put Linux on it. I did that, and all looked great. But the PC didn’t like it.

It wouldn’t boot from a USB drive, constantly saying that the operating system was missing. So, I updated the BIOS system on the computer (one of the scariest things you can do on a machine) to see if that would help. It didn’t, so I moved to the next option. I made a DVD with the operating system on it. And that worked!

Basically, don’t count on things working the first time, and prepare to suffer through troubleshooting.


You know, sometimes machines just don’t want to learn new tricks. It wouldn’t connect to the network, so I had to move it closer to the router and connect it up via ethernet.

Then, as things were finally working, I had to edit some configuration files to enable remote access to the server. Amazing how forgetting one word before your command (sudo) will make it not want to save.

Finally, everything was working, and I could begin playing with it and seeing what I could do with it. But, school comes first, so I have to work on that for now.

What I Learned Beyond Linux

I mean, I understand the console and bash sell a lot better now, and I could probably set up a server much faster in the future (especially since I have a DVD made of the operating system). But, I think that some lessons can be gleaned from my experience.

First, sometimes, even with all of the necessary precautions, nothing works the first time. Life is made, I guess, to challenge us and make us learn.

Second, old machines (people, thoughts, legacies, etc.) sometimes don’t want to make changes. Even though you may want things to change, the status quo is a little too strong. People don’t like change enough to resist the change. Even if you know how much better things would be with the change, there will still be resistance.

Finally, I love playing with computers and code. I mean, seriously, it was so fun troubleshooting all of my problems and getting things to work. It’s wonderful and makes me excited to keep playing with things.

[Lead image from ledroideenchaine.com]
David Van Komen Written by:

I am just an abnormal normal guy that loves the Internet, physics, and lots of other great and wonderful things. Though I don't seem it, I enjoy writing about whatever interests me.

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