Sunday, 14 October 2007

7.04 -> Server

My Server is an assembly made up of individual components that had a high price/performance ration at the time of purchase. You can always get cheaper or better equipment if you wait but eventually you have to start. This is what I started with.

Installing the hardware

Right after the first boot we ran into several issues:
  • CPU frequency would only operate at 2,2 GHz
  • Memory access was half the frequency than what was advertised
Installed BIOS update that I downloaded from the EliteGroup website. This solved the issue of CPU speed. The documentation of the motherboard mentioned nothing about specific banks that you should install memory in, it turned out though that leaving a gap between two memory banks would provide the desired improvement in access time.

Intalling Ubuntu 7.04

Booting with the LiveCD did not work. Sometimes the CD would boot and perform as expected, but this was not reproducible.
  1. At first, after the initial loading dialog, the screen blanked. This could be resolved by selecting a display resolution using F4.
  2. Next, the boot process would continue providing the well known splash screen. After a short period the boot process terminated and dropped out into a recovery console (a special ash).
  3. Quick research on the kernel hompage did not help.
  4. I found an online copy of O'Reillys Kernel in the Nutshell. Two parameters -irqpoll and (the more resource saving) -irqfixup solved the problem of hangups during the boot process
Currently I boot the machine with -irqfixup as this performs significantly faster than -irqpoll (which polls all IRQs and rebuilds an IRQ table inside the kernel, irqfixup does this on the fly where needed).

LiveCD installation worked fine from there on.

As this was intended to be a server, a Gnome front end was not required. LiveCD does not allow to install the logical volume manager LVM or RAID functionality. So I reinstalled from the Alternate 64 bit CD.

Installing from the Alternative CD

With -irqfixup in place, installation went without interuption. Some issues that required consideration:
  • The LVM2 requires you to define physical volumes, volume groups and logical volumes. While the installation is straightforward it helped me to read through the RedHat LVM webpages to gain a better understanding and build confidence in the software (I later ran into problems that I cover in a separate blog entry). Another source of information is the LVM HowTos. Other than those two pages other web pages were mostly junk.
  • Ubuntus native webbased administration tool was too limiting. Only a few services were supported. I installed webmin instead. Webmin comes as a Debian package and a clear concise installation script. It supports a full range of services (including a nice LVM administration).
After the basic installation I added servers as required:
  • File services, I installed Samba. Configuration was straight forward. Adjusting security required a bit of fiddling as the modifications recommended on the Ubuntu wiki page were simply not correct. I followed the original Samba documentation and got usable results.
  • Print service, I installed a HP 4500DN on the server. The printer driver that comes with the Alternative CD is different from the one that comes installed from the LiveCD. It allows for duplex printing, 3 Trays and even PCL works fine. I copied the PDD file to all workstations and get better results and faster print times.
  • DHCP server installed fine. Defining scopes was straightforward, help from the ICS homepage was available and useful.
  • DNS server required some tweaking. I use the DNS server internally and also service several domains externally. Not so straight forward was the adjustment to allow dynamic DNS updates only internally. I will cover this in a separate blog entry.
  • OpenSSH requires not separate configuration
  • VMWare Server and web administration will be covered in a separate blog entry.
The server runs stable. LVM survived some tweaking and several power outages. Just as expected.

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