Part 1: Bootstrap a linux box

1) I prefer RHEL (redhat, fedora, centos).

2) Perform a system update:

yum -y update

3) Install and configure ntpd, the dns client, the network interfaces, EPEL, etc.

rpm -Uvh
echo "nameserver [dns server's ip]" > /etc/resolv.conf
yum -y install ntp
echo "server" >> /etc/ntp.conf
echo "server" >> /etc/ntp.conf
echo "server" >> /etc/ntp.conf
echo "server" >> /etc/ntp.conf
chkconfig ntpd on
service ntpd start
vim /etc/hosts
#add the following to the first line:

4) Disable ipv6:

vi /etc/grub.conf
# edit the kernel lines to include:

5) reboot, as you will boot to the updated kernel.

6) Install some additional packages that you might want:

yum -y install lsof bind-utils vim wget make gcc glibc gcc-c++ pcre pcre-devel libxml2-devel glibc glibc-common openssl-devel openssl net-snmp net-snmp-devel net-snmp-utils

7) Deal with SElinux:
Setting SElinux to permissive should only be done on a temporary basis, but adjusting the SElinux policy will harden the server:

setenforce permissive && sed s/"SELINUX=enforcing"/"SELINUX=permissive"/ -i /etc/sysconfig/selinux

8) create a cronjob that checks for updates for packages daily and sends you an email:

curl -k -o /etc/cron.daily/
chmod 755 /etc/cron.daily/
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