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Xandros Server: Pre-Packaged Power, Centralized - page 2

YALS--Yet Another Linux Server?

  • June 5, 2006
  • By Bill von Hagen

As with other distributions from Xandros, Xandros Server provides a simple and easy-to-use installer that doesn't need much exploration or explanation here. Installation and system configuration are divided into separate steps--the installer simply installs default or selected packages, while most system configuration tasks are done in a First Run Wizard that, as the name suggests, runs by default the first time that you start your Xandros system.

One thing you should remember when planning a Xandros Server installation is that this distribution is truly oriented towards the SMB or enterprise server environment. Xandros Server is designed to run on modern, beefy machines, with the same higher-end processors and amounts of memory that you would expect to put in a Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X server that you expected to satisfy enterprise-caliber requirements. My review copy was the 32-bit Xandros Server 1.0 release, which retails for US$449.00, which is a single-machine license that includes 90 days of email installation and configuration support. (Xandros also offers a 64-bit Server distribution for USD US$499.00 or 449 €, including VAT.) The 32-bit server requires a Pentium 4, AMD Athlon, or equivalent processor and a minimum of 512 MB of memory (up to 2 GB). Xandros Server is not designed for "turn a doorstop PC into a file and web server" deployments. It is a SMB or Enterprise product.

The Xandros installer is what you'd expect from a modern Linux distribution, so I won't waste bandwidth with screenshots. After answering a few standard questions such as desired disk partitioning, package selection, default root and user accounts, and so on. One oddity during the initial Q&A session is that network interfaces are always unconfigured by default, and you must explicitly enable and configure them. Perhaps this is designed to ensure that you make the right choices between DHCP and static IP addresses, but it struck me as odd.

Once you finish the configuration Q&A, the installer simply "does the right thing." During the package installation process, the installer provides the standard sorts of splash screen that help pass the time, hype product features, and serve as bit-mapped blinkenlights to let you know what the installation is proceeding. The last step in the initial Q&A session identifies whether the server you're configuring is your primary Xandros Server, or is a peer of an existing Xandros Server. One especially nice feature of Xandros Server is its recognition that enterprise servers benefit from administration as a group rather than in round-robin fashion. The idea of a managed community of related servers, popularized by enterprise authentication solutions such as Kerberos, LDAP, and even Active Directory, is a cornerstone of Xandros Server administration.

After package installation completes, the installer ejects the CD and prompts you to press enter to reboot your system. When you log in for the first time, the First Run Wizard performs the standard types of configuration tasks, including enabling you to configure regional settings, your system's date and time, configure printers, and select a default desktop look and feel. At this point, you're ready to start configuring the servers that you want to run--but only after retrieving an activation code from the Xandros online store and typing it in. This is a pain given that you already have to enter a registration number during the initial part of the installation process, but I suppose that Xandros has to protect its interests somehow. Still, I would think that a default 30-day eval would be better for admins who might not want to have to fire up a web browser and email client just to actually run something they've spent 30 minutes installing.

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