Ubuntu is the best distribution of Linux but there is a big gap between the desktop and server versions. POWbuntu could fill the gap. POWbuntu is my proposal for a new derivative of Ubuntu for the power user, Web developers, and an equivalent of Microsoft's Small Office Server.
The desktop edition of Ubuntu does not include RAID, making it useless for anything more than the basic one disk desktop computer. The server version will handle the disk configuration for a multiple disk desktop workstation but misses all the important desktop features. There is a need for something more powerful than the desktop edition.
Small office server
Start with the way people manage small office servers. Microsoft's small office server was licensed for 1 to 25 people. When you are at the 25 people end, the server is a separate machine. Down the other end, when there are only a few people in the office, the server is the secretary's desktop machine so he/she can run backups, produce DVDs, and manage the printing.
The shared desktop style small office server is a desktop with a bunch of disks in RAID 1 or RAID 5 for reliability and shared using Samba to cater for the Windows users. Ubuntu desktop plus RAID and Samba is the ideal package.
In a small company, the Web developer is often the bunny stuck with the CIO role. The Web developer uses her/his machine as the test server. The same person reminds people they should backup and is then stuck with organising the backups. The easiest solution is Ubuntu desktop + RAID + Apache + MySQL/PostgreSQL + PHP + Drupal (or equivalent) + Webmin/Usermin... The Web developer can publish test versions of Web sites for review by staff and can access the Web administration from another location if needed.
From the perspective of Web administration, they can configure their workstation to work exactly the same as their Web server, complete with the Webmin/Usermin family of software. The rest of the machine is similar to the small office server.
This category includes people with the larger notebooks that accept two disks. They want RAID 1 for reliability. They want quick backup using eSATA or USB 3. Ubuntu desktop + RAID + a good backup program is the answer.
The backup program has to allow user control. The worst thing is a central corporate controlled backup that starts in the middle of a presentation, killing the notebook speed. The same applies to virus scanning, software updates, and asset management programs. You want none of them stating automatically. What is needed is a single Ok, I finished the critical morning meeting and am going to lunch, do what you like to my machine button.
For some strange reason, routers use NTP to set their own clock but rarely share the time onwards. You end up with a pile of computers all checking an external source. The problem is worse when there is a change of daylight saving time start and end dates as often happens in Australia. Have one machine decide the time source then the others use that machine as their first time source.
Cache software updates
When you have ten machines and they each need to download 100 MB of Ubuntu updates, caching the updates on one machine makes a lot of sense. Giving the IT person the chance to check the updates first also makes sense. Set up something to let the IT person apply updates locally then make them available to the rest of the office when the IT workstation survives the update.
Power, Office, and Web oriented Ubuntu edition
POWbuntu would start with the Ubuntu desktop because the Ubuntu desktop contains most of what is needed. POWbuntu would expand to a DVD instead of a CD because there is no cost difference in media and power users tend to have access to broadband, where the small extra download time is insignificant. POWbuntu would add the following features.
- Apache because every computer should use Web based tools.
- Backup. User controlled backup to a USB disk or across the local network.
- Drupal. Do settle for anything less when you want a Web site>
- MySQL and PostgreSQL because everyone should have both databases ready to use.
- PHP because all the Web is based on PHP.
- RAID. Preconfigure the following options.
- 2 disks in RAID 1.
- 3 disks in RAID 5.
- 4 disks in RAID 5.
- 4 disks as 2 in RAID 1 for the system files and 2 in RAID 1 for data.
- 5 or more disks as 2 in RAID 1 for the system files and 3 or more in RAID 3 for data.
- Samba for sharing with Windows.
- Software update cash.
- Time server.
- Webmin and siblings.
There is documentation online about creating your own derivation of Ubuntu. I have not yet found a simple end to end tutorial covering the process and would like to talk with someone who has successfully created a derivation of the desktop edition.
Ubuntu is the best distribution of Linux, has several useful editions and derivatives, but still needs work for the power user. POWbuntu fills the gap between the desktop and the server.