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Linux Mint and Debian Edition

Sunday 25th November 2012 - By The Moose

After much thought I switched from Linux Mint Debian Edition to Maya LTS.  Debian Edition is based on Debian Testing and even though I wasn't doing anything special I was running into problems - apache failing randomly for example.  The idea of never having to reinstall sounds nice but always running testing versions isn't worth it.  Linux Mint Maya is supported until 2017, by then the server will be due a reinstall, I think.

I wrote out my live CD with UNetbootin - that worked nicely.  The "Distribution" section was well out-of-date but I chose "Diskimage" and browsed for the Mint ISO and all was well.

By the way- the real reason for this reinstall was a hard drive failure.  Always good fun those are.

Dnsmasq

Wednesday 26th October 2011 - By The Moose

One of the first things I installed on my home server was Dnsmasq.  It's a DHCP/DNS/TFTP combo service created especially to configure small networks.  It is easy enough for a muppet like me to configure and has loads of options designed with home networks in mind.  The config file is full of useful comments, examples and advice.  It comes in the standard Ubuntu and Mint repositories - you can in stall it with "sudo apt-get install dnsmasq"

Configuring Dnsmasq is easy - just edit /etc/dnsmaq.conf.  Each option is described, you just need to read the file from top to bottom and uncomment where necessary.  Provided your configuration is fairly standard you won't even need to change many values from the default.  There are some great options like "filterwin2k" to filter some of the junk coming from Windows boxes.  There are some wonderful examples to uncomment such as the one to block the double-click.net.

The nice thing about Dnsmasq is that it will include all locally connected machines into its DNS table and will cache all the requests that are forwarded to external DNS servers.  The only difficult decision to make is whether or not you want your server to use its own DNS service.  This makes sense but by default Dnsmasq gets its list of DNS servers from resolv.conf so there is only the one list.  There seem to be various ways to manipulate resolve.com but I decided I'd rather have two files anyway.  I just copied resolv.conf to dnsmasq-resolv.conf and added "resolv-file=/etc/dnsmasq-resolv.conf" to my Dnsmasq config file.  You can then change your resolv.conf file to contain just 127.0.0.1.

Once you have your server configured with Samba you can start pushing a WINS configuration to the Windows boxes on your network.  You need to uncomment some of the dhcp-option lines that handily ship in the default config file.  I uncommented options 19, 44, 45 and 46.  Like this

dhcp-option=19,0    # option ip-forwarding off
dhcp-option=44,192.168.0.2    # set netbios-over-TCP/IP nameserver(s) aka WINS server(s)
dhcp-option=45,192.168.0.2    # netbios datagram distribution server
dhcp-option=46,8    # netbios node type

Which makes browsing the network from Windows clients much, much faster.

A server at last

Friday 16th September 2011 - By The Moose

Well, I finally bought a server.  It’s an HP ProLiant MicroServer - it was dirt cheap and I assumed it would be a bit of a joke.  Actually, I’m impressed.

It seems to me that this thing is a perfect home server.  It’s fast enough.  It draws about 30watts; I’m perfectly happy to leave it on all day.  Yet despite its size it’s a real server at heart.

The server came with 1GB of RAM and a single puny hard drive.   It’s got two memory slots, 4 HD bays and 1 for a CD drive.  It also has tonnes of USB sockets – 4 on the front, two at the back and 1 inside.

I bought another 4GB of RAM for mine; funds won’t stretch to SpinPoints at the moment so I’ve no idea how easy it is to configure a RAID on the thing.  The RAM upgrade was easy enough.  The machine is cramped inside and I found unplugging all the leads was fiddly.  Once everything is disconnected you can pull the motherboard straight out the front of the cabinet and put it onto your workbench.  After that the upgrade is simple – except for plugging everything back in of course.

I installed desktop Linux Mint on my server and it runs beautifully.  If it had a sound card I’d say this thing would be a perfectly decent desktop.

I chose the CD ISO of Linux Mint Gnome V11 64bit and installed it onto a RAM stick using Universal USB Installer.  Once this was plugged into the front of the server it booted just fine.  Using the USB pen drive to install Mint onto the server's hard drive was uneventful.

After the first boot there was an error message but an online update sorted that out.  After the online update I upgraded to the DVD distribution using the Codecs and DVD options on the Mint Welcome Screen. 

The server is an AMD machine and has an ATI chipset.  Mint automatically pulled in the drivers - no problem.

Dual booting Linux without changing your Windows 7 disk

Thursday 11th August 2011 - By The Moose

Dual booting GRUB4DOS via the Windows 7 boot manager

Dual booting Windows 7 is rather more of a pain in the neck because BOOT.INI has disapeared in that OS.

You need to use the bcdedit DOS command to create a new menu entry.

bcdedit /create /d "Linux" /application BOOTSECTOR
bcdedit /set {id} device boot
bcdedit /set {id} path \grldr.mbr bcdedit /displayorder {id} /addlast

Then to finish up you need to copy grldr.mbr, grldr and menu.lst to the root of C:

For more information about GRUB4DOS see my other post.

Dual booting Linux without changing your Windows disk

Friday 1st July 2011 - By The Moose

I have been mucking around with Linux for ages now, mainly Ubuntu.  Unfortunately I have been hampered by having a rubbish computer to run it on, zero Linux experience and the fact that using Linux drives me round the twist.  I mean, what is the point in having a GUI if getting anything done requires the command line?

Still, I was using Ubuntu for a couple of years and was starting to think it was getting better when Canonical went and did something stupid.  I tried their new-fangled dock thing.  I decided the reason I didn't get it was probably because I'm so old and crusty, maybe all the kids are into this UI.  I tried asking some - they said "Nope, that sucks."

So I nuked the box and tried something else.  I tried Fedora but I've been using apt-get for too long now.  Learning a whole new set of package names was not an option.  I went hunting for new Debian builds.  I tried Lubuntu, Xubuntu, Bodhi, CrunchBang and Debian its self.  I couldn't find anything I really liked.  Finally I remembered reading about Linux Mint.  I tried it, it took a bit of getting used to but I'm hooked.  So, why did I spend so long running Ubuntu?

Unfortunately by this time I'd formatted my old box and reinstalled XP.  I had a nice and useful set of apps on it.  I didn't want to risk damage to my setup.

I added a second hard drive and installed Mint on it with very little problem.  I had to do the partitioning manually but at least I was sure the Windows drive would be untouched.  Then I went looking for a way to make BOOT.INI pass control to my second hard drive.  Yes, I could have swapped the two drives around and then used Grub to remap the drive numbers for Windows' benifit but that seemed a bit more of a bodge than the answer I found.

I tried dumping my second drives boot sector using both dd and bootpart you see this suggested in various locations around the Internet but this method really doesn't seem to work.  GRUB4DOS on the other hand works beautifully and my XP drive remains almost entirely untouched.

How to multi-boot Windows without changing your boot disk

The method is to make NTLDR call GRUB4DOS which calls GRUB on the Linux drive.  This is called chainloading and takes next to no time.  Yes it sounds tortuous but these are all tiny little programmes that load in a fraction of a second.  You won’t notice it happening.

  • Download the latest GRUB4DOS zip file from SourceForge.  It is dated 2009 but don't worry it works fine.  The archive is rather smaller than 1MB.
  • Extract the file grldr (no extension) from the archive.  You don't need anyof the other stuff.  The one I'm using is 213kB.
  • Stick grldr into the root of C: next to ntldr and boot.ini.
  • Make a new file in the root of C:  Call it "menu.lst"  Edit it in a text editor and add the following text
    # Pass control to second HD
    #
    # Some options
    color blue/green yellow/red white/magenta white/magenta
    timeout 0
    default /default
    #
    # Chainload second HD
    title Linux (hd1)
    chainloader (hd1)+1
    rootnoverify (hd1)
  • Finally, one tiny change to your Windows configuration - add this text to a new line at the end of boot.ini.
    C:\GRLDR="Linux"

Job's a good'un.  It works and my Windows installation is practically untouched.