Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Logging in, getting network up

The first steps after the installer is to get logged into your machine.  The console login might look a tad bit alien to you, but it operates much in the same way that the display managers do.  Simply enter the username you picked for yourself in the installer, and you will have a command line from which to work from.

To get networking up and running, first run:


This should show you what network interfaces you have up and running on your system.  At bare minimum, you will have the "lo" or loopback device, but you should see another device that starts with eth, most likely eth0.  Execute this command:

sudo dhclient eth0

This will request an IP address from your dhcp server and configure the interface.  You will need to run this command every time after you log in, unless you make the connection permanent.  To make this network connection permanent, or to configure a static IP address, see the "interfaces" man page:

man interfaces

That will explain in detail how to set up networking on Ubuntu and Debian. 

Now that we've settled a bit into logging in and command line networking, for the next article we will take a look at a more controversial topic, what to install for the graphical environment.

The Install

The first step in getting a Lean Ubuntu installation, is to install a command line only system. There is a couple of different ways to preform this task, you can download the Alternate Installer, or you can use the Netboot/Mini installer. For this example, we will use the Netboot/Mini installer, since we don't need most of the packages on the Alternate ISO. First, download the mini.iso here:

This will install Ubuntu 9.04. If you want to install Intrepid (8.10), change "jaunty" in the above URL to "intrepid." I've found Jaunty to be stable for what we are doing as of this writing, and is set to release on the 23rd of April.

Once you've downloaded the ISO, burn it to a CD-R. For the mini.iso install method, your server will have to have an active network connection during the install. For most machines this should pose little problems, however if your network interface is not supported in the installer, this install will not work. You will need the Alternate Installer, which the steps should be similar. The benefit to using the mini.iso is that JUST the packages you need are downloaded, as opposed to the entire Ubuntu Desktop system.

Insert the new CD-R, and boot the machine you are going to run the install on. When the CD's "boot:" prompt comes up, put in:


and hit enter, following the installation steps. They are all fairly straightforward. When you are done, you will not have a display manager login, like most Ubuntu installs do, you will have a console login. To keep Ubuntu lean, and mean, all non-essential services are deactivated, that includes not using GDM. There is a way to start your GUI without a display manager (gdm), and we will get into that next.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Using Ubuntu on a Diet

A lot of us out there love Ubuntu. Its stable, has regular releases, and is maintained by an army of volunteers. Its probably the most popular distribution out there. I've been using it since late 2007, and have been quite happy with it. I'm currently running many servers off Ubuntu at my work (, ), in fact if a customer asks for Linux on their server, it gets Ubuntu unless they say otherwise. Personally, I run Ubuntu on both of my laptops, my daughter's netbook, my personal server/workstation, my Media Center, and a Desktop.

I've been using Linux for some time now, so I'm pretty a pretty experienced Linux admin. Ubuntu, and by extension Xubuntu, just works and its great, however I wanted to get more under the hood, so to speak. I wanted to see if I could run Ubuntu on as little as possible. I really didn't have a clue what I was getting into! Its really amazing how much Ubuntu does in the background.

What inspired me to "get lean" on Ubuntu was my Compaq Presario 700 laptop. I love this laptop, and have had it for many many years. The thing will not quit. Since then I've gotten an Acer Aspire Gemstone, but I really don't want to abandon hardware that still works. It has a 500 mhz Athlon processor, and 256 megs of RAM. Part of that ram is eaten up by the video, however, so its official reading of free is 230. I've tried Xubuntu 8.10 on this, however with all the extra services that have to run with the desktop environment, I run out of RAM after running Firefox for a while. Its really not Xubuntu's fault, its mainly Firefox eating up all the RAM, but its still a problem when you go from Firefox to something else. Mainly the machine just slows down, but I felt I could get better preformance out of the laptop if I trim some background stuff down.

This blog will be covering, in as much detail as possible, my exploits into this mad experiement in Ubuntu. Eventually this blog will also expand into other areas of Ubuntu and Linux, and will become a blog about setting yourself free from the desktop, and getting deep under the hood of Ubuntu, and what makes it tick. For starters, however, we will focus in detail how to make Ubuntu scream.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Arthur H. Johnson II is a Linux systems administrator, who has been using Linux 1996. Other than the occasional wine or virtualbox to run the unavoidable win32 application, he has been Microsoft free since 1998. He has been a Ubuntu advocate and user since version 7.04. Arthur has worked for numerous companies supporting the venerable operating system, and has been a constant advocate since he discovered the penguin, even running a Linux Users Group for five years. He is currently employed with Beach Communications supporting their and companies, building, deploying, and maintaining servers and supporting customers.