I was recently given 20 laptops with Windows XP installed and asked to set up a deployable network with integrated security, shared storage and email facilities.
The catch? No funding! No server licences, no Exchange, no hope!
After researching and ruling out workgroups and SBS, I decided to see if Linux could do the job. A little googling around led me to Turnkey Linux, a cracking library of open source ‘appliances’. Dedicated, self contained builds of popular OSS applications running on a cut down server build of Ubuntu 8.04.
Each appliance in the library is available as an ISO, an EC2 AMI or a VM image. I downloaded the Samba Domain Controller appliance, set it up in Virtual Box and had an XP machine joined to a Samba domain in minutes. This was the perfect solution to my problem. The VM runs happily on one of the laptops (in less than 256Mb of RAM) and I have NT-like authentication, profiles and network shares right out of the box.
I did try the Zimbra mail appliance, but is was a little too resource hungry for my setup. However, you can apt-get anything from the Ubuntu repository into the Turnkey images and the beauty of the VM is that if it all explodes (and I often do break Linux when I’m experimenting) you can simply roll back to a working snapshot.
I’ve been away from Linux for a while, but having pre-built applications and the ability to tinker (and often destroy) with no worries about losing a bunch of work is just the thing I need to get me back into it.