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I have a couple of old PCs sitting around and I thought I could turn them into web servers over my cable modem!

I know there is always some issue with getting the right drivers for installing Linux, so I was hoping you guys who've done this before could give me some advice on how to take advantage of my old machines.

I wish I could have a remote web host with root access -- but I can't really afford $100+/mo plans, so this seemed like a good way to make my own!

I'd like to get a basic LAMP setup, and also experiment with Redis/Node.JS and NGINX!

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I can recommend you starting a Beowulf cluster out of these PCs, if you have a spare 100/1000mbit switch lying around. This would be a nice experiment. –  kagali-san Aug 30 '11 at 18:11
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closed as off topic by voretaq7, Zoredache, MDMarra, Shane Madden, Jason Berg Aug 30 '11 at 19:38

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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I'd 'personally' recommend Debian i386. Its relatively simple to setup and has a great track record. Ubuntu is nice, but not ideal if you don't know how to tweak out some of the cruff that comes pre-installed. Once again, this is just my personal opinion.

Edit: If you're willing to spend any money, you may want to check out a Micro EC2 instance from Amazon(aws.amazon.com) or a 512 Linode from linode.com. I've used both for dev work and they're both cheap options.

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+1 For just getting a VPS somewhere like Linode or Rackspace/Slicehost. It may seem like some rite of passage to screw around with crappy hardware but why bother! You'll probably learn more by running your little server in the cloud anyway. Hint: make sure you install fail2ban or denyhosts. –  HTTP500 Aug 30 '11 at 17:35
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+1 for denyhosts. Also, I can't agree more with using a VPS. However, the micro instances from EC2 are nice, since they're free and cheap if you expand on them. Linode is still my favourite though. –  Publiccert Aug 30 '11 at 17:51
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Any Linux distribution should work on older hardware - Unless you've got something truly exotic drivers for all your hardware should be in the base kernel.

If you have no familiarity with Linux I would suggest starting with an Ubuntu server installation - they go out of their way to be "user-friendly".

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Ubuntu also has a live CD you can boot so you can see what hardware is or is not detected before trying to install it. –  DerfK Aug 30 '11 at 17:57
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Ubuntu is great for an older machine, however some of those early P3's had a very small amount of RAM. If you don't have at least 256M, i recommend getting at least that. If that is not possible, and you have something like 128M, look at Xubuntu or Lubuntu. If you have even less then check out Puppy Linux or DSL.

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