After four years of running my home network with a Windows NT Server at the core, I’ve shut down the server and disconnected the domain.
For about the last three years, I’ve promised myself “this will be the last year on Windows.” I came to Windows from the Macintosh, and stayed in Windows largely (ironically) because of Java. I’ve had a network of Windows, Macintosh, and Linux systems in various forms since 1995, and finally got an NT Server license in 1998 (I’d run Workstation before that), adding to my slowly growing collection of Windows software.
The notion of a server that could handle Windows and Macintosh systems was appealing, as was the fact that I could run Windows applications of various stripes on the server. (Don’t try this at work, but it does very well at home.)
Over time, though, the appeal dwindled. The Macintosh printing worked well for the PostScript laser printer I had, but poorly for the inkjet printing - NT insisted that the Mac send it PostScript, which it then mashed into something resembling what I wanted on the printout. Storing Macintosh files produced all kinds of weird filename issues that made daily work and backups extra-complicated. Maybe Microsoft got around to fixing these, but I can’t say the upgrade prices to 2000 or XP looked attractive.
Meanwhile, I was shifting a lot of my network functionality to independent devices. After a bad trial period with the Microsoft Proxy Server, I bought a WebRamp and life was so much easier. (I still use it as a DHCP server, even though the modem is long gone.) I put the laser printer and then the inkjet on their own Ethernet print servers, and the Macs were finally full partners and the Linux system was finally a partner. As I ran out of disk space on the NT server, I decided to buy a SnapServer instead, and it’s worked well for all of my systems, as has a tiny router.
I’m not completely out of Windows. My wife’s embroidery software is Windows-only, so there’ll be a few around for a while. As an editor and writer, I still need access to Windows software on a regular basis for testing and exploration.
The “everything on one server, with centralized authentication” approach may have been appealing to me a few years ago, but now I’m much happier with a loosely-connected set of specialized devices. While I don’t think this approach is necessarily appropriate for offices, it’ll do just fine for a home network.
How has your network evolved?