Home Server, Linux based OS's and an overdue overhaull!

Thread Starter

Robin Mitchell

Joined Oct 25, 2009
Hey all!

So while I am doing my Z80 project I still have some free time on my hands (yay). Now for the past few days I have been reading alll about mainframe computers which then lead to much reading on the history of computers in general.

Something that has now caught my eye is linux, or more specifically the distros available. Long story short, I have attempted to make the jump from windows to linux many times and have failed but I have had enough of windows and all the software that goes with it. Why should I pay so much money for an OS that everyone uses then pay MORE just for software written by other companies? Should I really use an OS that sends data to microsoft behind my back and do stupid validation checks? What about security? The code for microsoft is closed source so a community cannot contribute to issues, instead you do the stupid report issue that never works! And lets not talk about the resouces that windows loves to munch on all at the same time! Windows 7 running no programs.....2GB please :eek:!

Enough is enough and I want to make the leap to linux AND learn the shell commands too. For goodness sake I am a qualified electronic engineer with a good bit of code and design under my belt :mad: I can DO THIS! Yesterday I said tomorrow so just DO IT :p

So the first thing I need to do is get a list of programs that I NEED and find alternatives:

- KiCad
Office - Libre
Excel with VBA - No alternative yet :(
CodeBlocks - Yay, no change there!
LTSpice - No alternative yet :(
Macromedia Fireworks - Gimp maybe :confused:
GerberMagic - No alternative yet :(
LineGrinder - No alternative yet :(

So first question:

Can some guys and gals here suggest linux circuit sim as well as gerber manipulation?

Mainly on the gerber manipulation: I need it to do negative images and fit multiple designs on one page but the negative image is the more important one! I might get lucky and these programs may run under wine but I am not sure just yet.

The next task is to set up some kind of home server. I hope to do the following:
  • Get printing shared
  • Get files shared easily (backup)
  • Media Streaming
  • Possibly act as a firewall for all internet connections
Now I have plenty of spare machines :D. What I dont have is the knowledge of linux and therefore my second question....

What is the best distro for a server and does anyone know of any good tutorials?

So that sums up my intention. :cool:


Thread Starter

Robin Mitchell

Joined Oct 25, 2009
Thats good to hear about LTSpice and Wine! I have seen gEDA before but I am not sure what kind of development community it has. KiCad (at least), is a work in progress and has a solid foundation so you can always expect a nightly build.

Are you a linux user?


Joined Apr 5, 2008

Yes, I have been using OpenSuse for quite some years now.
OpenSuse has a repository called science, where you can find all kinds of electronics related programs.


Thread Starter

Robin Mitchell

Joined Oct 25, 2009
Fantastic! I will be looking through this carefully.
Right now I am preparing a laptop for linux to test out different distros and begin learning the shell interface.

Thread Starter

Robin Mitchell

Joined Oct 25, 2009
Arch was very unusual. When it booted it was a console instead of a GUI but after reading online this is how you start off. So the first thing I needed to do was get the keyboard setup correctly and when I typed in the command to get the list of keyboard configs it said "No keyboard configs found". Tried to get wifi working and that too just went to hell. :mad:

So far I am using linux mint on a test laptop and it seems to be doing a great job. The response is nice but getting a simple codeblocks app to build is not easy feat :(

What I am more interested in getting is a home server that acts as a location on my computer / laptop so I can edit, save and use files on the fly instead of trying to sync files all the time. For example, I would have a network location on my laptop thats called "Home Server" and when you open it, it just appears as a folder with files in that can be used normally. Lets say that I open a text file from the server, it would open that in a text editor that I can use and when I save it, it is actually saving straight to the server instead of my local machine (no need to sync).

I believe FreeNAS can do this and am looking into using that on a PC stuffed somewhere in my room.


Joined Jun 27, 2014
another one to look at, can be made to look like win variants (start menu's)
machine i'm on, zorin v8

it also has wine as a default application

now up to v10 though v9 is LTS debian based - link -> zorinos.com


Joined Jan 21, 2013
Slightly off topic but looking at your original list, IIRC Fireworks is a vector drawing package and GIMP is raster, Libre office has a drawing tool or you could look at Inkscape which I have always found to be reasonable.

Thread Starter

Robin Mitchell

Joined Oct 25, 2009
Will look into inkscape (tried it before)!
I have no intention of keeping a single windows computer anywhere. I dont like the privacy aspect of windows, the fact that I may have malicious programs (even from vendors such as facebook), the security flaws of windows and the resource use. This is why I am on a crusade against windows on my property as well as getting rid of cloud storage such as google drive. Why do I want my files being hosted somewhere else?

I want a computer system where my random computers are more like logins and all my files are hosted on a single server PC. I also wish to have all my internet connections route through that server before it gets to the router for an additional layer of protection.


Joined Jan 6, 2004
A very limited experience: tried to port a straightforward macro from Excel's VBA to Calc's Basic.

Required to learn too much from scratch so I gave up.

Thread Starter

Robin Mitchell

Joined Oct 25, 2009
So here is an update:

Lenovo Laptop (few years old) now has linux mint and I'm loving it!

Acer Computer (few years old) computer is now a server that uses NFS for now to host a folder (used as a network drive).

Dell Computer (old), is broken and awaiting some new hardware. This will be my windows xp machine and will be used for PIC development, Xilinx CPLD programming, AVRs, EEPROM programming, x86 programing and general development. I plan to transfer gerber magic to it as well

HP Tower (old), is currently running windows 7 but will be switched to linux mint. This is my workshop computer

Aspire Laptop (my only decent machine) is still running windows 7 and will be switched

Other tower PC (very old) controls my CNC and will be switched to linux

Packard bell computer (1992, not even joking). This computer is for x86 development (fun)

I have many laptops and computers but remember one thing, they are all second hand and old. This can be frustrating because its like having alot of nothing. For example, none of these machines can even run minecraft (even the aspire laptop lags). I even have another machine that I cant power because its a point of sale unit that needs a 24V supply.

I also have two printers networked which work great! A HP p1102 for generic black and white printing and an epson workforce 2630 for colour printing and PCB artworks.

Speaking of which, here is a tip for PCB makers:

When making negative or positive artwork use an Epson WorkForce 2630 - Epson Matt - Greyscale - High Quality Print. Use Laserstar inkjet transparencies. They cost the same as doubling up cheap inkjet films (they dont need doubling up). They have superior moisture protection meaning that a design does not fade over time.