The Tiny Internet Project, Part II

In the May 2016 issue (also available here), I introduced the idea of the Tiny Internet Project, a self-contained Linux project that shows how to build the key pieces of the public internet on a single computer using one or two old computers, a router and a bunch of Linux software. In this second part, you'll learn how to build the virtual-machine host—using Proxmox—and deploy your first server. In Part III (coming soon), you'll build a template to make DNS and email hosts, a website and a Linux distribution mirror.

You'll need two separate computers for this project. This first is your "administration PC". It's any desktop or laptop with network access, a graphical browser (like Firefox or Chrome) and at least one USB port. The second machine will become your virtual machine host.

The central idea is to build a sort of internet-in-a-box with common Linux servers and use the setup to teach young people or newcomers about Linux. Using virtualization software, you'll deploy several servers that will handle domain names, email, web pages and more—all on a single piece of hardware. You don't need anything new or fancy. I built the prototype on a six-year-old Velocity Micro desktop with an Intel i3 processor, 8GB of RAM, two network cards and a couple 1TB drives.

Choosing Your Hardware

First off, you need a computer that supports virtualization—meaning its BIOS, 64-bit-capable CPU and motherboard allow you to share all the system's resources with virtual machines that will run on it. You may have experimented with VirtualBox or even free versions of VMware's ESXi software. The idea here is the same: place a number of virtual servers on a single physical machine and share all of that physical machine's resources, including memory, CPU and drives.

The Linux version is called KVM for Kernel-based Virtual Machine. For this project, you'll use a pre-compiled version called Proxmox, which comes with everything you need.

To see if the computer you have in mind can become a Proxmox server, you'll need to check whether it supports virtualization. Graphical tools are available for Windows, Linux or Mac OS X, and if you've got a machine with no operating system installed, you can boot it from a USB or CD drive using any flavor of Linux to test it. See the Resources section at the end of this article to learn how to do that.

On Windows, you can learn a lot from the main Computer properties. Right-click on Computer (on the desktop or Start menu), and look at the lower part of the window, which will look something like Figure 1.

Figure 1. Windows Computer Properties

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John S. Tonello is Director of IT for NYSERNet, Inc., in Syracuse, New York. He's been a Linux user and enthusiast since he installed his first Slackware system from diskette 20 years ago. You can follow him @johntonello.