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blandoon
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 6:39 pm    Post subject: Other distros for lightweight headless servers Reply with quote

I have had a home server happily running Gentoo for quite a few years, essentially as a glorified NAS box - running samba, bind, ampache, mpd, and a few other things. It's an Atom-based machine with near-passive cooling, so not much CPU horsepower, no monitor, and no GUI.

Now I am confronted with this business of udev not working with a separate /usr partition unless it has an initramfs. I have always compiled my own kernel and never even thought about using initramfs before - and ironically, the only reason I even have a separate /usr is because the Gentoo LVM guide recommended it the last time I rebuilt the server. For this reason and many others, it's becoming harder and harder to keep this box up to date while still remaining within the framework of portage.

This is all fixable, I am sure, but I have to honestly evaluate whether it would be more or less effort than simply reinstalling to a different distribution. I am neither a fanboy nor a hater when it comes to specific distros; I have several boxes running openSUSE, Fedora, and Ubuntu at home, all for different purposes, plus RHEL at work. I'm just curious what distros other people who have run Gentoo would consider for this particular use case.
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DaggyStyle
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 6:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

if it is the udev issue only, don't update.
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NeddySeagoon
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

blandoon,

The problem with a separate /usr is not a Gentoo problem. Its the way udev is being developed.

You can go with an initrd you make in Gentoo, either by hand or with the aid of one of the tools or you can go to another distro that will work the black magic for you.
One thing you can't do is have a separate /usr and no initrd - regardless of Linux distro.

I'm not happy but I want to understand how my systems boot so I can fix it when, not if, they don't.

I'll be staying with Gentoo and rolling an initrd by hand. I've been using a separate /usr since it was the Red Hat default in 1999.
I shall also be testing a few other ideas, since I hate the idea of a complex initrd I don't understand.
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blandoon
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 7:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree it isn't a Gentoo problem, in that Gentoo and its maintainers aren't the cause. However, with this change the "normal" Gentoo way I have been maintaining my kernel will no longer work, without the addition of an extra step that I have no experience with yet. I also agree with you about not wanting to have to do things in a "cargo cult" fashion by doing things whose purpose I don't clearly understand. But as I am just starting to look into it, the whole initrd process seems to make the system much more difficult to maintain the "Gentoo way" and I have to question whether there is any point in staying with it, instead of going with a system that will ship a prebuilt kernel and binary packages. There are only so many hours in the day to mess with this, particularly as this is now my last remaining Gentoo system.

And the "don't update" option will work for the short term, but (as many of us have found out the hard way) that is a very fine line to ride with Gentoo. If you update constantly, daily for example, there's a much higher risk of emerging a newly-unmasked package with serious problems, which would hopefully have been masked or fixed within a few days. But if you wait months or longer between updates, the process tends to fall apart, as multiple large changes start to collide with each other and render the system unusable. I have personally been bitten by that before, on little-used systems that I tried to delay updating but eventually had to write off when portage basically collapsed under its own weight.
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NeddySeagoon
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 8:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

blandoon,

The gentoo way will lead to very little extra overhead, you will be able to buid the initrd and use it for a long time to come ... unless you put kernel modules in there too.

I agree with your updates statements and therebeing only so many hours in the day too.
Gentoo is about choice - feel free to use another distro if it suits your purposes better.
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Jaglover
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 8:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Server? No hotplugging/automounting? Go with static /dev and forget all udev/initrd troubles.
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ryao
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2012 6:39 am    Post subject: Re: Other distros for lightweight headless servers Reply with quote

blandoon wrote:
I have had a home server happily running Gentoo for quite a few years, essentially as a glorified NAS box - running samba, bind, ampache, mpd, and a few other things. It's an Atom-based machine with near-passive cooling, so not much CPU horsepower, no monitor, and no GUI.

Now I am confronted with this business of udev not working with a separate /usr partition unless it has an initramfs. I have always compiled my own kernel and never even thought about using initramfs before - and ironically, the only reason I even have a separate /usr is because the Gentoo LVM guide recommended it the last time I rebuilt the server. For this reason and many others, it's becoming harder and harder to keep this box up to date while still remaining within the framework of portage.

This is all fixable, I am sure, but I have to honestly evaluate whether it would be more or less effort than simply reinstalling to a different distribution. I am neither a fanboy nor a hater when it comes to specific distros; I have several boxes running openSUSE, Fedora, and Ubuntu at home, all for different purposes, plus RHEL at work. I'm just curious what distros other people who have run Gentoo would consider for this particular use case.


You might like Gentoo FreeBSD:

http://wiki.gentoo.org/wiki/Gentoo_FreeBSD

X Windows is not working yet, but it should work wonderfully for a headless system.
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