We all have old computers laying about, I myself have an old Pavilion HP laptop and was thinking of things to do with an old computer. Since we are working with old computers here, there is absolutely no chance of running the new Windows operating systems, so I won’t even attempt it.

This is where we turn to an operating system (OS) that would literally run on a washing machine, no I am not joking. Take a look at this list, just to name a few. The OS I am talking about here is called Linux, pronounced “Ligh-Nucks” or “Lie-Nucks depending on where you are from. Linus Torvalds does not really care how anyone pronounces it, so let’s not worry about that!

Why Linux?

Linux is one heck of a powerful operating system and it’s very robust. Not only this, the fact that it is open source and comes under the GNU Licence makes it absolutely FREE!. Yes, are able to download, install and run Linux all completely free. Since it comes under the license we are free to modify, edit and do whatever we want with it.

There are many MANY different versions or flavours, so much that I am not going to even attempt to list them all. The choice really comes down to what your personal preferences are. I myself run a copy of Linux Mint which is based on Debian and Ubuntu. The GUI is pretty nice and the package manager is even better for installing all of the applications and software you require.

Debian and Ubuntu are also one of the most supported distros and has a mahoosive community, so anything that you ware unsure about, there are plenty of forums to ask your questions in. There is also a lot of written documentation covering pretty much any subject, problem or issue.

So without further ado, let’s brainstorm some ideas…

Setup Your Own Server(s)

Servers are one of the main uses of Linux, most web hosting companies use Linux to host customers website online. Hosting companies also use it for Email servers, DNS servers and more. There is a multitude of different servers to install and run, here are just a couple of them;

  • Apache Server – This is the most widely used Web Server on the Internet, the page you are currently reading is stored on an Apache Server. Apache is one of the first steps you will take on the road to owning your very own Webserver.

 

  • DNS Server – Domain Name Servers are using to attach a domain name to the IP address of the server. We all know how to navigate to Google, Facebook and other websites using the domain name. Imagine trying to remember IP addresses? Http://127.0.0.1 – No thanks! The most commonly used DNS Servers for Linux are Squid and Bind.

 

  • Email Server – Ever wanted to learn how to setup an Email Server? Even if you never use it, you can learn a lot just from doing it. The most used Email Server software is Postfix, EXIM and Dovecot, just to name a few. If you want to set one up, head over to this tutorial for Ubuntu.

 

  • Cloud Server – In this day and age of big data, cloud servers are used to take the strain of all the data we collect and create via the Web. Loads of data are distributed through many computers as opposed to just one server or mainframe. Setup your own private Cloud Server here.

Try Penetration Testing

We all think of hackers as some spotty little teenage kid, living in his mother’s basement hacking into Nasa and stealing secret files. In reality, it is not like this, in fact there are plenty of people wanting to get hacking certification. Why? Because companies will pay you thousands of pounds to hack into their computer systems and networks!

The easiest way to get into penetration testing is to buy a good book on Kali Linux, failing that there is thousands of documents online discussing penetration techniques. Kali Linux has all of the tools needed to pen test any network, WiFi, mobile and computers.

Try setting up a private network at home and run a machine on Windows (With no security patches), use an old version on Linux with no updates. Then use Kali to try an penetrate each operating system on the network, this would teach you hacking fundamentals. Once you successfully gain access to each machine, try changing OS or updating and try again.

Home Automation

We all dream of having a home that is fully automated from an iPhone app. Why not make it reality? It’s not that expensive, if you are any good at electronics you may be able to do it all for free. The software that supports Linux for home automation is completely free and covered under the GNU License. Though the software is free, there may be fees for the hardware itself, depending on what you want to actually do.

For example, for light dimmers you may need special hardware fitted into the switch itself. There is quite a lot of automation you could do as well. You can check out the most common automation software used with Linux here:

HA actually has quite a following and there are plenty of people around to answer your questions, they actually have their own communities built around automation. I have looked at quite a few projects that people have created and they are extremely detailed.

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