Installing Ubuntu 8 Hardy Heron, server and workstation

IT Infrastructure

I’ve finished installing last week a Ubuntu server (on an old DELL PowerEdge server) and a workstation on my Lenovo X61 tablet PC. Here are some time savers for those of you who are planning to follow the same path.

Just a first note: ubuntu server and workstation are two different downloads and ISO images (this is clearly indicated at download time on ubuntu.com).

Ubuntu server

I just love the Linux command line. I’ve worked for some years in a server room buried in the depths of an ancient building in Geneva’s old town, facing a Unix System V console, viing (ie writing) and compiling "embedded C / Oracle" code. How fun.
The Ubuntu server comes only with a console like interface, so given my past experiences with Unix and my training with Linux, not having a GUI to work with is something perfectly acceptable for me. Besides I’ve already installed a Debian sarge at least 20 times (hey, I’m a Microsoft guy, doesn’t that make this sound somewhat "huge" ?).

Watch your keyboard layout
First time saver tip. On the first screen that you’ll see, you can select your setup language. Ok that’s fine, but once done, don’t forget to hit F4 (if I remember it right), in order to select the correct keyboard layout. I didn’t do it the first time and I had to reinstall. If you forgot to do it and did not choose an as huge as mine password, then you can dpkg-reconfigure console-setup to get your correct keyboard layout working.

Carefully assign your server’s network name
When you come to network setup, you’ll be prompted for the server’s network name, which by default will be proposed to be something like "dhcppc06". Change that to the name you want to be shown in the Windows Explorer network places folder, as your server name.
You can anyway change it later by editing your /etc/hostname file with sudo vi /etc/hostname.

Two network cards
At some point I got a screen asking me to choose which one of my network cards I wanted to use as the primary network interface (eth0), as two were found by the installer. I had no idea which card I plugged the network wire in, so I tried the first. In the next step, the installer tries to assign an IP to the server from a DHCP server. It failed for me, so I simply got back to the network card selection dialog and choose the other network card for being my primary network interface and it all went well then.

Don’t forget to check OpenSSH server
When I was offered to select the packages to install, I choose LAMP and SAMBA, forgetting OpenSSH server. I had to install it manually after to get remote control of the machine via putty. It’s just easier not to forget to check it at installation time.

From DHCP dynamic IP to a static IP
You’ll find that documented in many other blogs on the net if you Google for it, but here is a my short version:

  • sudo vi /etc/network/interfaces,
  • comment out the iface eth0 inet static line,
  • just below that line, insert these lines:
    iface eth0 inet static
        address 192.168.1.234
        netmask 255.255.255.0
        gateway 192.168.1.1
        network 192.168.1.0
        broadcast 192.168.1.255
    Notes:
    • I put a TAB before "address…", "netmask…", etc.
    • change the IPs according to your own network, of course.
  • Specify your name servers, sudo vi /etc/resolv.conf, one "nameserver IP" per line (example: nameserver 195.186.1.108). The bluewin DNS IPs (at this time) are 195.186.1.108 and 195.186.4.108 (just to save you still more time if you’re in Switzerland and go with bluewin like me).
  • Ditch the dhcp client: sudo apt-get remove dhcp3-client.
  • Restart the network: sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart.

That’s it.

Ubuntu workstation on Lenovo X61

I downloaded the ISO image, mounted it with MagicISO and installed Ubuntu 8 Hardy Heron from Vista. I decided first to make some space on my laptop’s hard disk first, about 35 Gigs. And then, no problems; after the installation finishes, you can reboot and the Vista boot loader integrates a new option for starting Ubuntu.

Now let’s stop here for a moment. There are two very cool things that are worthy of taking note:

  1. Did you catch that I said the boot loader is the Vista boot loader, not GRUB. Man, that is so cool and well done; especially when you’ll want to remove Ubuntu (if you ever happen to have to…), you can then rest assured that you’ll not have to grab your Vista CD to restore the boot loader.
  2. I did not mention that I had to partition my disk. No, no. Because we don’t have to. Ubuntu relies on the "fuse" file system technology (that is the same used in products like TrueCrypt) to implement its whole file system in a big (hidden) file, without disrupting our disk partitions.

So far, so good. But I had nonetheless two serious problems:

  1. I couldn’t uninstall Ubuntu from its un-installer application in the Windows control panel. This is rather unpleasant and may be very disturbing for non power users that would eventually want to get rid of Ubuntu from their laptop;
  2. WiFi. What a pain in the ass this has always been with every single one of my laptops and wireless network cards under Linux. Mandriva, Gentoo, Debian, and ubuntu are the distros I used on them, and with each one, I always fell in the category of people that had the only wireless card that caused problems or was so hard to setup.

I finally got my integrated wireless card to work after reading this forum post. The solution was to sudo vi /lib/modules/2.6.24-xxx/modules.alias (where xxx is the kernel version that we can get with uname -a), and comment out the first two occurrences of AES that link to padlock and geode hardware. The other mentioned solutions (blacklisting) didn’t work for me. Also there is no LED indicating the wireless activity. Anyway.

Happy Ubunting.

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