Linux Distros

Not had an update for a while. Basically because I have just been too busy at work.

We have been trying to come up with an open source solution for one of our customers that replaces Microsoft Exchange Server, and also allows remote access to files etc. We have been through a few options, but currently we have settled on Scalix Mail Server www.scalix.com, and iFolder www.ifolder.com for the file sharing.

However to get this combination to work on the same linux distro is quite hard. The standard Community Edition of Scalix will only work on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Fedora Core 4 or SUSE 10. So over the course of the last week I have tried all of these options out. None of which have been very nice to use. We tried CentOS instead of RHEL as its the same packages just without the cost. It installed easily enough, but being an enterprise system the packages are relatively old, stable but old. This wasn’t a problem for Scalix which used its graphical installer and went on no problem. iFolder however needs newer packages, so it was dependency hell to try and get it installed, so we tried SUSE.

SUSE annoyed us from the very beginning, I tried a network install, which kept crashing, then after downloading all 5 CD’s we tried again. It was like installing Windows, the first CD installed and the system required a reboot before it could continue, not too much of a problem as all systems require this at some point, only the nice graphical installer was replaced by a standard X Window, which didn’t fit on the display so we had to guess at the position of the buttons. Due to Scalix’s requirement of a Window Manager being installed we went for GNOME, but attempted to turn off all the packages we didn’t need like OpenOffice, GIMP etc. as its only going to act as a server. BAD MOVE…. SUSE was unable to work out the correct dependencies and then gave us a miriad of options that were completely confusing to try and rectify the dependency problems. Unsurprisingly by the time we had solved the problems and installed the system, it was basically broken, so we didn’t even try to get Scalix running, just wiped the hard drive and started with the next Distro. Fedora Core 4.

This was basically the same as RHEL, just with slightly newer packages, however, not new enough for iFolder, despite there being RPM’s for FC4 on the iFolder website, it soon descended into dependency hell of not being able to get the right versions of packages and soon I had over 20 RPM files sitting in a folder, each one requiring even more packages to be able to be installed….

At this point I was beginning to give up, then I found that you can get a Scalix Community Edition Raw, which doesn’t require a Window Manager for login, and can be installed on Debian/Ubuntu systems!!! At the same time I found some build instructions for iFolder on Ubuntu. Finally I could use the systems I am most familiar with and like using.

Having used Ubuntu for 18 months now, basically since the first release I was keen to see how other Distros had come along in that time. Was I missing out on anything. The answer is most definately no. Each of the systems gave me exactly the same problems with dependencies, RHEL and FC4 had a version of apt that helped a bit, but it just wasn’t the same. Apt and its GUI’s aptitude and synaptic make life so much easier. Maybe I am spoilt and its not real Linux as everything works, so I don’t ahve to get my hands dirty with config files. But hey if real linux management is the dependency hell I was in then you can keep it!!! Another problem with all these distros is they are 4-5 CDs, even if you only want a simple server setup (OK Centos had a server CD, but at the time we though Scalix had to ahve a GUI to install so had to get the rest of them). Ubuntu comes on 1 disk and installs no problem and you have a full working Gnome install with OOo, GIMP and loads of other useful stuff. The other distros have the packages spread out over the CD’s in such a way that to get exactly the same packages that are on a single Ubuntu Cd you ahve to use all 4-5 of their CD’s!!!

Having said that although I have found the instructions for iFolder and Scalix on Ubuntu I have yet to verify they work…. 😉