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I'd like to intermittently run either a Debian or Ubuntu webserver on my internal wifi. I could install it on a laptop and that might be the best idea. However, I've also heard a little about Tails and some other USB bootable distros - these have got me curious. I already have a laptop running Ubuntu desktop but I've no attachment to using it for this purpose. I can rebuild it. I also like the idea of creating a bootable USB SSD.

Please correct me if I'm wrong but I think someone told me a Tails bootable USB will work on any PC hardware? That sounds really useful. I don't need Tails, but I'm curious whether it's either possible or practical to plug a Linux bootable USB drive into any PC and get a working webserver? (To me that's almost unthinkable with Windows)

The server needs to run PHP, MySQL, Composer, and Git but will never experience any serious load, just a couple of connections from Windows machines perhaps only from internal wifi. The webserver will only be switched on and used intermittently.

Should I use USB SSD or a laptop?

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    This seems like a good application for a Raspberry Pi or similar single-board-computer. They're very cheap (the base r pi 4 is $35 USD), come with network, USB, and HDMI ports, and they use hardly any power so you can leave it running 24/7. The ARM CPUs they use are significantly more powerful and the 2+ GB of RAM is a lot more than the servers I was running ISP web-servers with hundreds of virtual hosts on in the 90s (Pentium Pros with 64MB). Raspbian is a variant of Debian for the r pi.
    – cas
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 12:05
  • That's an interesting idea, I've heard of the Raspberry Pi but I haven't used. I will read up some more. Thanks for the suggestion and info.
    – Matt
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 14:03
  • I 2nd the recommendation to use a Raspberry Pi. Even an older Pi 2 or 3 would do what you're looking for.
    – mikem
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 4:25
  • @mikem it's very helpful to hear this recommendation twice. I looked at them again today and it seems amazing what these offer for the price. Thank you
    – Matt
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 16:58

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Some food for thought - might help you decide what approach will best meet your needs...

It isn't obvious why portability is a consideration for you (if its just for home/lan use, does it really need to be able to fit in your pocket/go anywhere/plug into &/or run on any device?), but you do highlight intermittant/light use as core to this setup. With this in mind, one of these options might better/quicker/cheaper/more easily meet your needs:

  • If you have an existing deb/ubuntu host (be it your daily or that spare lappy) you could build your server on it, disable the services, and write a small script to start/stop them for when its needed (no resources consumed in your day-to-day - I do this on my Deb Laptop's LAMP dev env).
  • Or you could try a virtual machine. Again, run it when you need it, plus with a degree of portability in the virt image/file.
  • Or if you prefer a hardware based approach and have a PC (or Lappy) with a spare SATA port, you could always dual boot.

These options also avoid the need for another box (big or small) to buy/build/maintain/power/etc...

Anyways, first things first, get your use case/requirements nailed down, then the solution/build should come relatively easily... happy hacking! :-)

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