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I'm considering migrating my Windows virtual web server to EC2, but am struggling a bit with the implementation details.

As a part of the migration, I'm considering making the switch over to a Linux-based server (much cheaper)... only problem is, I've been completely indoctrinated into the Windows environment up to this point, and really would be starting from scratch with zero Linux IT experience. Thus far, what sparse material on the subject I've been able to pull up has looked pretty daunting.

What I'm actually asking for here is some general advice:

  • Where might I find a good kickstart guide/resources for Linux administration and/or what services should I focus on learning? None of the 'basic tutorials' I read were very helpful: they assumed I knew a lot more about Linux than I actually do.
  • Is there a 'remote desktop' client that's available that might ease the learning curve a bit, and help me manage a newly spun up EC2 instance with a little GUI? [VNC looked promising, but it sounds like I have to set the server up on the instance first?]
  • Finally, (in your opinion) is it worth trying to learn Linux concurrently with my very first EC2 setup? Or am I biting off more than I can chew?
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I recommend not trying to use GUIs when you're poking around on your server. The Amazon website is a GUI, but beyond that, everything you do on your Linux box should be via the terminal. Installing hundreds of megabytes of graphical software isn't worth it, especially when all of the resources you will find are probably command-line. –  erjiang Sep 23 '11 at 4:02
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Can you describe what role this server is going to be playing? I'm assuming Web server, but what scripting language/framework/database (if any) are you planning on running? Is this a production server or a home/hobby website setup? –  gravyface Sep 23 '11 at 14:04
    
Indeed: this will be used primarily as a web server. I plan on hosting Apache (with either Mono/ASP [most preferred] or RubyOnRails), MySQL, mail server (Postfix?), and perhaps a small game server (like Minecraft!). –  David Elner Sep 23 '11 at 18:06
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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Where might I find a good kickstart guide/resources for Linux administration and/or what services should I focus on learning? None of the 'basic tutorials' I read were very helpful: they assumed I knew a lot more about Linux than I actually do.

A Practical Guide to Linux by Mark Sobell is an amazing introductory book to linux: http://www.amazon.com/Practical-Guide-Linux-Mark-Sobell/dp/0201895498. And by amazing I mean super uber turbo amazing. Seriously, it's written for a beginner, but provides the majority of the base going further anyone would want and need. A marvelous and amazing book. I can't say enough good things about it. If you don't believe me, look at the forward... it's by Linus himself.

Is there a 'remote desktop' client that's available that might ease the learning curve a bit, and help me manage a newly spun up EC2 instance with a little GUI? [VNC looked promising, but it sounds like I have to set the server up on the instance first?]

Yeah there are VNC servers for the majority of linux systems, but where linux really benefits you the most is being able to manipulate almost everything via config files and command line. TigerVNC is the default for RHEL/CentOS distros. You should be able to do a 'yum search vnc' and find the services available.

Finally, (in your opinion) is it worth trying to learn Linux concurrently with my very first EC2 setup? Or am I biting off more than I can chew?

Without a doubt, yes, if you're going to continue in IT, Linux does and will continue to represent the majority of the back end operations, whether that be on EC2 of physical machines it's definitely worth learning.

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