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I am new to the Ubuntu Server scene and have been an Ubuntu fan for 2 years using it only as a standalone desktop client. I would like to use the server as a place to hold all roaming profiles and use Ubuntu Client machines to connect to it. Also I would like to run the Ubuntu Server as a file server and MySQL database.

I have been reading about openLDAP and have also given it a go at installing on the server. After the 3rd attempt I got it going. But got stuck when I go to the client setup. Is there an easy to use gui solution to setup Ubuntu Server for small business and have clients connected to it. Aside from Ubuntu I have a windows server that is used for accounting and I would like to run WinXP in a Virtualbox as Sage 200 is not get working on Wine. Unless someone knows of a way to get it working.

What do I need to install on my ubuntu server to from a fresh install to make it work for my business? and in what order do I have to set things up. A GUI would be good.

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Which Ubuntu (server) version? eg. 10.04 LTS or 11.10 (latest) – david6 Dec 28 '11 at 21:35
Not the answer you were after but i would say the most important thing "to make it work for my business" is +++TEST YOUR BACKUP AND RESTORE+++. You could also try the various cloud offerings. – gecko May 21 '12 at 2:19
up vote 1 down vote accepted

You should seriously consider to use diskless clients. If you want to maintain a server and 10 seperate client installations it's much more work than just to maintain a server and a client or only a server - I'll explain how this could be possible. Also harddisks are the parts which have the shortest life time.

A reason for not using diskless clients could be the need to work with huge files (several gigabytes) on the clients. For example if 10 people try to edit video files at the same time, your network can't be fast enough. In that case it would be better every one has it's own hard disk to store the own files. Also if the 10 clients need to be very different one to each other, you can't use the solutions I want to suggest.

LTSP is one way to set up such a network of diskless clients. The big advantage is: you need a powerful server (with a lot of RAM) but you can use really old client machines and everything will run fine. Only the client's network cards need to support booting from network (you can buy some PCI networking cards). The user's programms will actually run on the server. When a user runs Firefox, it is actually a process in the server's system. Also the user accounts are users in the server's system, so you won't need LDAP. You'll have to maintain only the server, the thin client is so thin that it doesn't need updates usually.

A good way to run VirutualBox there might be to run it in headless mode. This means windows is always started and running and the users can connect via RDP to it. Note that only one user will be able to use it per time unless you create a VirtualBox machine for every user.

Note that this is a great and very low-maintance system, but you shouldn't expect that everything can be set up from GUI as you request. But I think there are a lot of good instructions out there.

There are also other ways to run diskless clients (if you want the programms to run at client side), but I'm not familar with them.

A last comment: I suppose you can install MySQL at any time, there is no need of any specific order. I suppose you don't want the MySQL users to be managed by LDAP?

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After much bloody sweat gravy and egg, I have decided to opt for the LTSP route. Works like a charm. Thanks – Shaneo1 Jan 23 '12 at 14:14

I have implemented the same setup for our observatory network. We have several Linux clients, which use centralized logins using LDAP for the user data and PAM on the client side. The server hosts the users' home directories and delivers them via NFS to the clients, so I guess that's what you mean by "roaming profiles".

To adress your questions:

  • GUI assisted LDAP setup: Unfortunately, the Debian-derived distributions (Debian / Ubuntu / Mint etc.) do not have the GUI support for LDAP auth that is common with other distributions. Apart from the admin tools linked by bodhi.zazen, there is not much available.

  • Running Windows in a VirtualBox VM: You should better move this to another question as setting this up can become a bit tricky, but in general, this works. I run this setup on my server. VirtualBox offers CLI commands for automatically starting the VM when your host boots up, and you'll have to improvise something to shut down the virtualized Windows instance.

  • Connect to the Ubuntu server as a file server: You provide too little information to answer this well, perhaps this should also be moved to another question. Basically, everything you need is provided, but again, there's little to no GUI tools for configuring it all.

  • Setting up your server: After installing the base system, you'll need to install and configure the following subsystems:

That's basically it :-) It's more work than it should be, because LDAP is very flexible and hence requires setting up a lot of things you won't really need in your simple setup.

A word on handling home directories and about using diskless clients, as suggested by lumbric: Consider using normal PCs with HDs as clients. For robustness, so that we'll be able to continue working when the server fails, I set up one local user on each client. This user's home was moved to /localhomes/localuser (beware of problems with nonstandard home directories, however). The advantage is that when the server or network is down, people can still log in locally using this local user account. Later, they can transfer their files from /localhomes/localuser to /home/foo, which is the NFS mount on the server. Since each client has an entire OS on its local disk (tip: cache package downloads using approx or similar), it's faster, and the local user makes the clients usable when offline.

I hate to say it, but I recently moved my server to OpenSuSE for precisely the lack of GUI tools. Their universal configuration tool, YaST2, is still annoyingly slow. But at least setting these basic things (LDAP server, LDAP auth, NFS server, Samba, ...) up is made very easy and, above all, transparent enough so that I can hand over managing the machine to less experienced people.

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Thank you for your comments – Shaneo1 Jan 25 '12 at 19:02

Wow, hats off to you, this is a huge task, even for those familiar with Ubuntu.

There are several graphical tools, some with a web interface and some you would run on the server, listed on the Ubuntu Community Wiki Open LDAP Server page. I tend to prefer the web interfaces.

phpldapadmin looks good and is in the ubuntu repositories

sudo apt-get install phpldapadmin

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Thanks for all the answers. It has given me something to think about. I simply want to have an Ubuntu Server running which will be the main companies File server and Print server. With MySQL for storing prescription data and practitioners formula data. In addition I am thinking of having 10 client machines connected with a copy of Ubuntu on each and have the server control user sign on, via LDAP/NFS. Because my company uses Sage 200 CRM accounting unfortunately I have to install Windows XP on each client machine in a VBox so it can access a Windows Server running MSSQL. – Shaneo1 Dec 28 '11 at 14:20
thankyou for your comments – Shaneo1 Jan 25 '12 at 19:02

I recommend you dedicate a ZFS backed machine with Zentyal on it.

Upcoming Zentyal release later this year will be using Samba4 which means "ldap+kerberos" single sign on.

Currently we use Zentyal 2.2 on Ubuntu Server 10.04 at our workplace for the exact reason you outlined plus a few more.

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