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I'm interested in setting up a linux or freebsd file server for a win98/macOS8.1/MacOSX home network and I would appreciate any suggestions or comments you may may have.
Well, I don't know much about the *BSDs. I never really got into them, but I have seen them in action, and they seem solid - some would say more solid than Linux. Any Linux distribution will work well in that environment. If you have never used Linux before, I'd suggest purchasing one of the much maligned RPM based packages. They come with manuals, which is extremely nice, and they are reasonably priced. Yes, you can get them *free*, but I think the refusal to pay for Linux software is what is really screwing up the Linux scene. So live a little, pull out your wallet, and plunk town $80 for server class software. You won't be as 1337 as the folks who install by binary, but you will be done faster, and have everything you need on 5 to 10 CDs or a DVD. You will still be more 1337 than 98% of the population, if that matters to you.
Unfortunately, I have no idea how to integrate pre X macs into a network - it can be done, and I'm sure there's lots of online documentation, but I cannot offer advice on the subject. For the mac OSX you won't need to do much for file sharing, just export whichever directories you want shared. For win98 you will need to setup SAMBA on your Linux box. This is usually really easily done -- it requires editing some .conf files, and running some command line commands, but over all it isn't too hard with the correct documentation. The bottom line is that if you have a spare box, and some time to kill, I'd really just recommend playing around with it until you get a good feeling for what you are doing. It won't be as easy and installing and clicking a few buttons, but it won't be as hard as many people imagine it will be either.