Good minimal Linux server distribution for VMs?

Discussion in 'General Questions' started by itsdapead, Nov 24, 2006.

  1. itsdapead

    itsdapead

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    Can anybody recommend a good linux distro for building small, server-like (i.e. no need for a fancy desktop environment) virtual machines and virtual appliances? Typical application would be a single-purpose LAMP setup for a particular project.

    The ideal list would be:
    • Fairly lean and mean - but not one of those extreme "how much can we get on a business card mini-CD" or "run everything from RAMDISK" jobs
    • Runs in (lets say) <100M of RAM and <2G of hard drive
    • Includes basic startup/shutdown/cron/logger/network conf stuff and the usual build tools
    • Anything else exotic gets compiled from tarballs.
    • Definitely avoids the sort of "apache depends on ghostscript" (I exaggerate) syndrome
    • Designed to be configured by editing files! - although webmin might be nice.
    • Optional lightweight X desktop (e.g. XfCE) - not essential

    I've used Core Linux in the past - which came pretty close (maybe erred too far on the side of minimal) but that seems to be dead now. Server installs of Ubuntu still seem to have a lot of clobber, and although APT makes sense for multi-use machines I think tarballs are better for dedicated VMS, as I inevitably end up compiling things like PHP from source to get the options I want.
     
  2. David Corrales

    David Corrales

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    Go debian. Do a minimal install and then just add whatever you need. Rock solid also.
     
  3. tgrogan

    tgrogan

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    Perhaps, you didn't take the time to explore DSL. It is Debian based and allows you to grow it into any level of Debain that you would choose thru standard Debian methods. I use it as a MySQL server. It can be saved as a standard Linux functioning distro to a VM or hard drive. You may have incorrectly assumed/read the DSL description since you seem to be parroting some of their option descriptions as their only capability. You should probably re-read their description also, as it surely performs exactly what you are looking for.

    Besides that, you're stuck with Gentoo if you're man enough....
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2006
  4. David Corrales

    David Corrales

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    DSL has a lot of crap not needed for servers. If you want to install only what you need, use Debian. It's been a great server distro for years.
     
  5. tgrogan

    tgrogan

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    Oh, I wouldn't argue that. I thought the OP was looking for a quick working solution that was small. Granted that you can make Debian small, but that also entails a lot of work. The 'crap' in DSL is all small and also somewhat useful in a pinch. The nice thing about DSL is that with a few clicks it becomes a Debian install that doesn't have all of the crap that you get when you select any of Debian's default installs.
     
  6. David Corrales

    David Corrales

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    189
    For a server I'd do a minimal netinstall, then add whatever I need along the way.
     
  7. itsdapead

    itsdapead

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    177
    I looked at DSL - maybe I'm missing something but its unique selling point still seems to be a complete desktop on a USB pen. Its clearly a handy tool to have around, but for the required purpose I don't see the advantage over the other poster's suggestion of a minimal Debian install (which is probably a good solution).

    I'd found Core Linux ideal - although it was definitely "some assembly required" once you have one VM you can just clone it. Although it still does the job, development seems to have stopped - and while I prefer compiling the major apps from source its useful if the basics are all up to date.

    I'm looking at CRUX Linux - which seems fairly similar to Core, and although it does seem to have acquired a package management/ports system (nobody's perfect!)

    Hey - my personal video recorder box runs MythTV under Gentoo. I'm not scared. Gentoo's portage has the same flaws as every other package management/install system - its fine until you need some feature, option or support file that the package author didn't find important, then you hit the vertical learning curve.

    Perhaps I should try Linux from Scratch...
     
  8. David Corrales

    David Corrales

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    189
    With Debian based systems, I use an utility called checkinstall. It allows me to create .deb files, that the package manager will handle from compiled code. So you can pretty much compile your own php and then install it through Synaptic.
     
  9. tgrogan

    tgrogan

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    I think you missed all of the part about saving it to a hard drive, and the options available when doing it. Also, if you look at the distro activity on LinuxDistro, DSL has stayed quite active for some time while some of the 'physically' small distros are supported by one part-time person. The are also working on a 'larger' version DSL-N.

    One of the big problems I have with keeping feature creep bugs from annoying me with other distros is the desktops. Seems like you have to suck up a lot of overhead even while trying to stay away from K and Gnome, risk going into dependency h*ll, or constant fiddling around to get the right mix of apps. DSL is based on X programs using GTK so it stays quite lite that way.
     
  10. itsdapead

    itsdapead

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    177
    Unfortunately all of the in-depth parts of the DSL website (the wiki etc.) seem to be b0rked at the moment - so I'll avoid passing judgement and give it another try when I can RTFM (all I've managed to do so far is to copy the bells-and-whistles version to HD).

    I'd probably look at it very seriously if a lean GUI was a central requiement.
     
  11. tgrogan

    tgrogan

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    I just found another one that ought to meet with David's satisfaction - xUbuntu. They seem to have the same general philosophy as DSL-N, but they are keeping with the general Ubuntu/Debian approach. The CD is normal sized and has a lot on it, but has some pretty slim requirements. I loaded it today and can say that Xfce feels much better when it is the primary desktop than when trying to use it after K or G are loaded, and the tools are usable.
     

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