Linux Mint - Free and powerful

Monday, 13 January 2014

1. Creating a Linux Mint Power Server - Clean Install

Creating a Linux Mint Power Server - Installing a custom Linux machine

The easy method - summary.

  1. Install a clean version of the OS of choice - Linux Mint of course.
  2. Do some base customisation and add a new user.
  3. Copy the .debs from the old system (var/cache/apt) to the target system to save time if you have a slow internet link or you are installing multiple systems manually.
  4. Copy a previous home directory if applicable.
  5. Copy the /opt directory if applicable. 
  6. Install dselect and update.
  7. Run dselect and install all software.
  8. reboot, customise and check.
  9. Install other debs and packages.
  10. Customise.
  11. Enjoy.
The advantages of this method is a clean system with the latest software installed properly. Using this install method you can cater for different hardware configurations and base configs such as host names etc. You can also, should really, create the disks with LVM and Encryption.

Here are the steps required:

Install LiveUSB.

Live usb allows you to create a persistent file for Linux Mint so that you can save settings on your USB key. Linux Mint does not support this by default but it seems to work.

I recommend two partitions. One less than 8GB for compatibility and the second to carry your copied debs around to save time.

Boot via the USB and install Linux Mint.

Here are the key considerations:
  • Consider using encryption. It is easy to do.
  • Use a pass phrase not password.
  • Change the host name to a descriptive name.
  • Don't forget your username and password, duh?
  • No need to encrypt the home directory if LUKS encryption is used.
  • If auto signon is used as it will not open the password file properly. This is a good thing.
Here is a good point. I always install the desktop even on a headless server. You can always set the run level to 3 after all the work has been done and simply issue a startx from the command prompt if required.
While I am at this point, did you know yo can start multiple X's? Sure you can - Press CTL + F1/2/3/4, enter an appropriate userid and password and issue this command: startx -- :1/2/3/4.

Verify the system before moving on

Reboot and sign on with your new userid. Check for general system integrity. Is everything where it should be, does the menu items work, are you in Cinnamon or Unity? If Unity then you have messed up big time.

Customise cinnamon a little:
  • Change the panel to traditional (2 panels top and bottom).
  • Switch off the damn frikken left top hotspot. Drives me nuts.
  • Add some applets: Recent Docs, Display, workspace switcher. Get more online: Screenshot and desktop record, User menu, System Monitor, World Clock etc.
  • Change the power settings to your preference.
  • Change the background. There are some very nice once pre-installed.
  • In Windows activate coverflow for alt tab.
  • Whatever else tickles your fancy.

Optional step - copy a pre setup system:

(Only do this if you are moving systems that are at the same level and also only do this if your current system is running well. You can also selectively copy hidden files across if required but only do this if you know what you are doing.)

Here are the steps:
  • Logoff and logon to root (use sudo passwd to activate root). 
  • Start a root nemo session.
  • Traverse to /home and rename the primary user.
  • press CTL + T to start a new session in nemo.
  • Connect the USB drive with the data to be transferred. If not automounted then use nemo without SU to mount the drive.
  • Go the USB disk with SU nemo and copy the /home/user directory locally.
  • Now go to /opt on the USB drive, select everything and copy into local /opt.
  • As this system will have IBM Domino copy /notesrv into the local disk.
  • If the USB did not have the debs go to /var/cache/apt/archives and copy locally.
  • Copy any VMWare machines from /var/lib/vmware/Virtual Machines and /var/lib/vmware/Shared VMs.


Install current packages to the new target

Start software sources and select backports and if required the romeo packages.  Update.

Use Dselect to update the system

Issue this command in terminal first:

sudo apt-get install dselect
sudo dselect -u
# install dselect
Get a list of the packages from your previous system.
Start a terminal session and issue the following command:

sudo dpkg --get-selections > ~/Desktop/packages

(edit this file and only keep the applications you think are important to you. You do not need to keep in lib files etc as dependencies will automatically be installed)

Now install all the packages from you previous installation on the new target system.

Start a terminal session and issue the following command:

sudo dpkg --set-selections < /media/user/Storage/PrimaryPackages && sudo apt-get -u dselect-upgrade

Hopefully every thing worked OK.

Install standalone Debs.

This is a list of my favourite apps that I always install over and above what was installed by Dselect. The applications are for desktop use but sometimes I remote to the server and it is handy to have the apps ready.
  • Atunes - a java based media player. 
  • getlibs - the easiest way to get 32bit libraries on a 64bit system.
  • crossover office - Awesome software I have a license for that runs Windoze software.
  •  i-nex - a CPU-Z Alternative for looking at the hardware.
  • jnetmap - a quick network mapper.
  • Openproj - a nice project manager.
  • Teamviewer - Awesomeness.
  • webmin - can't live without it.
  • xmind - great mind mapping software.
  • yEd - a great gml tool.
  • virtualbox and extensions - the latest is always best.
  • VMWare 9- /usr/lib/vmware/bin/vmware-enter-serial
  • Android Developer Kit - must have

In this section we have installed a clean server and installed our favourite applications on Linux Mint. We may even have copied over an existing system to preserve all settings. 


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