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Distribution plug – SME Server

Posted by Preston on 2009-02-07

Sometime in 2003 I installed my last (and possibly last ever) Linux desktop machine. Having been a fan of Linux for a long time, I had started to become increasingly disillusioned in its failings as a desktop OS, particularly when it came to things that should have been simple, such as plugging in an iPod, watching a movie, or synching a Palm Pilot. After seeing time and time again the lack of issues my partner had with Mac OS X, I finally took the plunge, bought an eMac, and have since sworn off any other OS for my desktop.

That being said, I’ve been using a Linux distribution called SME Server (previously known as e-smith) for over a decade now. This is a server distribution, but not the average server style distribution you may be thinking of. It’s not designed for use with a commercial database, nor as even a workgroup, let alone enterprise backup server, and certainly not as a high performance computing server.

It’s a workgroup server with one explicit function in mind: a single server that covers all the ‘basics’ in a small environment. It handles all of the following:

  • Internet connectivity – dialup, DSL or ethernet, with full proxying
  • Internet security – SPAM filtering, strong port lockdown, etc.
  • Users and groups
  • Fileserving with anti-virus options
  • IMAP and POP email
  • Port redirection/pass through
  • Web site hosting
  • DNS

Plus probably more that to this day I’ve not needed to discover. Almost all functions are readily controllable via its simple web interface, meaning that basic administration doesn’t even require system administration skills. (Being free, it’s also considerably cheaper than Windows or even Mac OS X.)

It’s damn simple – boot from the CD/ISO, agree to really install, and it will blow away the contents of the hard drive and create a machine in its image. If you’ve got two hard drives, it automatically configures mirroring; if you’ve only got one, it still configures mirroring so that if you add another hard drive later it can enable mirroring.

It can even run in VMware if you’re so inclined and you can dedicate a NIC to it for connectivity to a DSL modem (if necessary). With a bit of kludging, you can even install NetWorker on it if you need to (the same sort of kludging you need to do to install NetWorker on ESX).

If you’re in a situation where you’re needing to install some basic server (e.g., for a charity, for home, as part of a small consulting job), I’d thoroughly recommend that you give SME Server a good close look.

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3 Responses to “Distribution plug – SME Server”

  1. dan said

    It also has a fetchmail plugin available – meaning you can consolidate a number of pop addresses and clean them up with sapmassassin before they get to your desktop. yay!

  2. john said

    archon sounds very familiar ;-)
    It is a shame that RFC-1178 didn’t gain a higher profile!

  3. Preston said

    @Dan: The spamassassin component has become a valuable part of the distribution; filters about 200 messages a day for me on average.

    @John: After all these years I still name machines archon from time to time – not to mention caution against using ‘tmp’ as a machine name :-)

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