Overview of my Linux based home network

When I tell people that I have six computers networked at home, they are often taken aback. But really really each one does have a certain function, and is used daily. Yes, I know, I am a techno-nerd. Get over it.


The network uses a consumer cable/DSL 4-port router. I will not mention the brand in case a vulnerability is found. It is configured so as not to respond to pings from the internet, and block all incoming ports, except for those strictly needed. Again, these will not be mentioned for security reasons.

Since the number of machines in the house exceeded the 4-port limit, I had to buy an 8-port switch.

I do not have a wireless router, and will not be getting one any time soon.


As of September 2004, there are six working computers at home. As of June 2005, they are down to five working computers.  The test machine (PII-300 deskside), has been sold and the PII-300 IBM laptop retired. There is also an old 486 that I bought from a garage sale to take out the 5.25" 1.2 MB floppy drive.

All of these computers were bought used from newspaper or newsgroup ads.

The Server

The server is the heart of the network. It is a Pentium III 550 MHz Dell Optiplex GX1 with 640 MB of RAM, a 12 GB IDE disk for root and swap, and a 19 GB /home disk for data. It also has a Seagate/Certance IDE Travan Tape Drive for backups. This server is in the basement, and powered off 24 X 7. It only gets powered down if there is a power failure such as the infamous August 2003 Blackout), or for a hardware / operating system upgrade.

This server does a lot of functions:

  • File Server. This machine provides both NFS (using autofs) and Samba servers to all the clients in my home. All photos, homework, project papers resides on the server. The home directories of Linux users also reside on the server.
  • Database Server. Both MySQL and PostgreSQL run on this machine. At present, only MySQL is actively used in development.
  • NIS. For Linux clients, the users are authenticated centrally from the server. This simplifies user management.
  • Backup. Since the server runs Linux and has a tape drive, it performs backup for all the users' data on it on a weekly and monthly schedule, with offsite tapes as well.
  • Development. The server has lots of languages and development platforms, including C, PHP and Python.

The server is also my main machine where I do development. Since I am an old UNIX hand, I use GNU 'screen' and just do most stuff from the command line.

My Laptop

I now have a Dell Latitude CPx-J laptop. This has a PIII-750MHz, 256 MB, 14" TFT screen, a single USB 1.1 port, and an IBM 6.83 GB. It has a Xircom dongle-less Ethernet/Modem combo card.

It replaces my old IBM Thinkpad 390E, with was a Pentium II, 300 MHz, 128 MB RAM, a CD-ROM, a non-functioning 3.5" floppy drive, a 14" TFT display, a single USB 1.0 port, and a 6 GB disk. For networking, it uses a Xircom dongle-less Ethernet/Modem combo card.

This computer is used for surfing the web, reading email, and using ssh, I do the development on the server mentioned above, since it is faster, and has more disk space.

Kids' Machines

There are two similar machines for each of the older kids. One is a Pentium II 350 MHz, and the other is 333 MHz. Each has 384 MB RAM, and a 4 GB hard disk, a CD-ROM, and 2 USB ports (one on the motherboard, and the other as a PCI add-on card). Each has a 10/100 Ethernet PCI card, and a PCI sound card too.

The machines use NIS for authentication from the server, and autofs for mounting the needed filesystems.

My Wife's Machine

This machine is in the family room, and serves as a print server. It is a Pentium II 450 MHz with 768 MB of RAM, a CD-ROM, a CD-RW, a PCI sound card, a PCI Fax/Modem, and a PCI 10/100 Ethernet card. This is a dual boot machine.

When in Linux, this machine uses NIS for authentication from the server, and autofs for mounting the needed filesystems.

Test machine

This machine is now sold. It was used by Sarah until recently. It had a cacheless Celeron 300 MHz (Covington) which was painfully slow. Now, it has been upgraded to a Pentium II 300 MHz. It has 128 MB RAM, a 3.2 GB disk, a PCI 10/100 Ethernet card and a CD-ROM. It is used for testing both hardware (e.g. is a recently bought hard disk wholesome, or does it has bad sectors? Does that used SCSI card I bought work?), and software (e.g. setting up software before deploying it to the rest of the machine, new Linux distributions).



The printer for the house is an old Epson Stylus Color 640. It does a good enough job for homework and general printing. Although getting sample photo paper with it when I bought it six or so years ago, I never tried printing photos on it. The printer is shared.

Multi Function

I occasionally use the HP 1315 multi function to print, but it is mainly for scanning and use as a copier as well. 


A SiPix StyleCam. This camera does a good job as a webcam, and also as a low end cheap digital still camera for kids. It is USB connected, and draws power from the USB when connected, needing no batteries. The batteries are needed when it is used as a digital still camera. It does not work with Linux.