> They make excellent web servers for small to medium load sites. They make excellent Smoothwall or comparable router/firewall boxes. They make nice household or workgroup servers if you wedge in one of the modern laptop IDE drives and add 128 or 256Mb of RAM in them.
I run Routerlinux (by Tony J. White) on the DoC. This is a cut-down, slackware-like, router-centric distro that is only about 11 MB and runs with rootfs read-only. You can pull the plug on it any time and reboot, nothing will happen to the install & setup. It's one of most robust minimal Linux distros based on busybox & uClibc that I've seen. Configuration is done using ssh & vi, like all real Unix men do. Webmin is for wimps.
What I've done recently is to build Samba 2.2.9 against the Routerlinux libraries, in particular uClibc-0.9.17. I have a minimal Samba that's a 3.7 MB binary tarball, and installs comfortably in the remaining 5 MB on the Routerlinux DoC (There's lots of tricks to ensure that the Samba daemons generate a minimum amount of writeable output to ramdisk, which I'm still playing around with).
As you mentioned, with a 2.5" harddisk (only for the Samba shares, not the executables) and some memory, you get a virtually bulletproof workgroup server. The added value comes from the fact that you can power-cycle it with impunity, and the only things that will be lost are writes-in-progress on the Samba share. This is taken care of using a journaled filesystem (work in progress).
Unfortunately, the Routerlinux website seems to be down; fortunately, the code & install image itself are mirrored elsewhere - search Google. Some documentation is no longer available.
I can't think of very many pieces of HW/SW that can challege the main franchises of both Cisco & Microsoft at the same time, in a small, reliable, fully configurable $50 box.
Hats off to everybody who made this possible.