30 Days of Geek #9: What OS/distribution do you run?

I’ve decided to partake in Jethro Carr’s 30 Days of Geek challenge, so I’ll be writing a post a day on my geekiness for an entire month! You can find all the posts in one spot here.

My workstation runs Windows 7 Home Premium x64. The primary reason for running Windows instead of Linux is that running Windows allows me to use Outlook. Yes, Outlook is just that good. I used to do a lot of computer gaming too, which was better on Windows. Since I’ve stopped doing that (because I only have a laptop now) that’s not so much of a reason.

I run the Home Premium version of Windows simply because it came pre-installed on the laptop, and I saw no reason to upgrade. I would have upgraded to the 64-bit version had it not been pre-installed, however.

Unfortunately for all my Linux-fan friends, I don’t think Linux is the best workstation operating system for my needs. It just doesn’t fit so neatly into my mental work flow, and it gets along horribly with the other Windows machines in my house. Samba is the devil, basically.

On the other hand, I always use UNIX-based operating systems on servers. Wouldn’t dream of anything else (unless I had to create a Windows domain controller). On the servers I’ve set up, I’ve always used Debian GNU/Linux. It’s the most stable operating system I’ve ever come across, and that’s what counts. It also happens to be free software, but that’s less of a consideration for me.

The best thing about UNIX-based operating systems is not the operating system itself though, it’s the application software available for them. The best web servers all run on UNIX. Ditto for software development tools, typesetting software, text editors, command-line shells, the list goes on. Everything except for Outlook, basically. 😛

A lot of the time then, you’ll find me sitting on my Windows-based laptop, with an SSH client open connected into my server so I can take advantage of all those nice tools. Firefox, Outlook, PuTTY, Pidgin… what more could a man need?

IMAP, Webmail, and the pain of Sysadmin

Last night I succeeded in setting up on my server the IMAP protocol (with the help of my sysadmin friend Hamzah). It turned out not to be too difficult, once I fixed my silly configuration mistake (setting the mail directory to /var/mail instead of /var/spool/mail). I’ve still got a bit of configuration to do, mainly editing a few security settings and such. It seems Debian comes almost configured correctly out of the box. This seems to happen with quite a few packages.

Before setting up IMAP (which is, for those not in the know, an email protocol), I was accessing the mail on my server using POP3. POP3 works well, but only if you are always using the same computer all the time. Since the email messages are stored on the local machine using POP3, it is hard to track them across computers. IMAP stores the emails on the server, and each local machine uses the IMAP server as a reference.

Now that I am using IMAP, I can access my mail from virtually anywhere, without having to drag around my laptop. In the near future, I’m hoping to set up webmail on the server as well. I might even write my own, depending on how adventurous I feel. I mean, how hard can it be?