Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Arch Linux Server Install

This is not so much like a lot of other reviews/reports I have done in the past, just a sort of quick and dirty, because unless someone out there wants to discuss any of this, I am kind of done with this. That is to say, I
As many of you are well aware, I am a tried and true Linux Mint advocate.  However, as some of you are aware, I believe in using the right tool for the job.

I have been using Zen Server for my file server for years and years. It has been good to me. It is still good. I may well use it again at some point. I like it a lot. No hard feelings.
Recently, however, Dad and I decided it was time to build something better.
So, new, good hardware should mean that we can run whatever distro we want, right? It can take it. But why waste cycles that could be going to BOINC? Why have a fancy DE on a system that may as well be headless?

Okay, well it will not really be headless, but it will be mostly used as such.

So I wanted to get down to basics and Dad and I liked the looks of Arch Linux.

Chose NET for the installation method.  Basically, you can chose a “core” and then do an update, or do the NET install and just get the update during the install.

Got the net ISO on USB stick and booted.
Logged in and started the setup.
Chose my install source (FTP)
Then it prompted me to start up networking.  Cool.
Next was setting the date/time configuration
- region and timezone
- Check that it is correct, then back to the main menu
Setup file system.  Choosing manual so I can define my /home volume
Picking packages. done
Installing packages. Well now here is where I am really biting the bullet with this, so to speak. This is going out on a rather slow connection.  This (NET Install) is not really the recommended method, in this day and age, given the connectivity that I have because I will have to wait for the packages to be FTP’d to me.  As mentioned earlier, I could have downloaded the CD-install method, but then, what would be the point, really.  I can wait.  I am not in a hurry.  I have a book.
Oh, mercy, the package installation failed because of a connection timeout. Gee, what a surprise there, eh?  Clever little installer just picked right back up from there.
Now on to the configuration, daemons, bootloader.
Note: This text-based installation was cool. It had just enough pre-done, without having to go back in and remove a bunch of stuff, but still be very user friendly, as long as the user does not need to ask a bunch of questions. -- Or, if they do have to ask a bunch of questions, they ought to have another computer on the standby.

Reboot and setup my user. Done
Add sudo. Done
Installing xorg... little trouble getting the packages... Hmmm... Okay, just need to remove that failing mirror from my mirror list.
Configing video, X and fonts. Done.

Here is gets interesting. I did a bit of pre-install planning and whatnot. I have (I thing) not really been too naive to know that there is a lot about *nix that I do not know.  There is plenty. I knew there were lot of different desktop environments and window managers and stuff, but I had not understood the relationship between them. For the most part, I have dealt with systems that came with something (gnome, KDE, xfce, lxde) and I could install another, or whatever. And I would, and that would determine what sort of gui tools I would have, or what lib’s would load, etc. So, I had played around with some bare WM’s. It was really cool. I had (on another machine) tested out Window Maker, and Fluxbox (which I had played around with before, but now understand it better) and several others before settling on Openbox.  Openbox is perfect for this. Window Maker was my second choice. When you run Openbox, all you get is your apps. There is nothing else in the way. Also, running just a wm and not a de, it is natural to run at init3 unless there is something in there you need to do.

So, set up the proxys, nfs, rsync and all our LAMP stuff.

The verdict? ArchLinux is great for this kind of down to basics server.  

The installation was easy, but precise.
The configuration was straight forward.
So far, the maint and upkeep seems simple enough. I am rather impressed.

And, ArchLinux is not just good for servers. It is good for basically any stripped, purpose built system. Take a netbook, for example. Cloud computing, etc. One could build a basic wardriver with just your wireless tools and chromium, and run all the google app you need. Or, build a media machine with an HDMI to the telly. Watch all the web content, pop in your blu-ray, music through the home theater.  Yeah, I know, you can do all that stuff with other systems, but then, where is the fun in that.  (Yes, you can build it up for a great, multipurpose, general use system, but it you are doing that, unless you are just starting from the ground up for the fun of it, there are other out-of-the-box options that get you there faster in a just-because-you-can-doesn’t-mean-you-should-start-from-scratch sort of way. Linux Mint, for example.)

Granted, I am not giving up my Linux Mint Debian with LXDE for my day-to-day usage.

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