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I'm setting up a PHP based website and some cron jobs for getting some external data, how do I pick what kind of server OS for my VPS?

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Which ever OS you're more comfortable with. For what it sounds like you're doing, the differences don't mean much.

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Assuming you are comfortable using either RH based or Debian based linux distribution, I would check to see which version of PHP you need as Ubuntu's packages are usually newer. Also, how much memory are you going to have? If more then 4G, use 64bit, otherwise, probably won't matter.

If you have never set one up before, Ubuntu has a "LAMP" software collection that will install all the software you listed.

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Ubuntu very friendly and 32 bit uses less memory.

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64 bit takes much less memory than you think:… – Teddy Feb 3 '11 at 7:22

I would go with ubuntu and follow these guides if you are a true noob:

These articles do not go into very much depth, but will get you up and running.

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