Minimal Ubuntu Install

I wanted to do a minimal install with Ubuntu as I used to do with Debian. I found out I could from This site only served as a prompt as I have been doing minimal installs with Debian for some time prior that web-site. As Ubuntu is based on Debian, I thought I could use my Debian base insall experience to install a base Ubuntu (and write it up).

Get yourself a very fast system, faster than the default Ubuntu install. I did so on my 400mhz iMac DV.

First of all, Hoary has some multiseat problem with some computers. I circumvented the multiseat install failure using d-i’s step by step menu selection. On the first pass it fails after naming “hostname”. At this point, I was still missing filling out the domain name, so I selected ‘back’ and reran network configuration (or the like). The second time around it failed after setting “domain name”, which is what I wanted.

I did a server install by typing ‘server’ at the install prompt. Initially, I installed using XFS. I will now only use ext3 and ext2 (XFS was a bust). ‘/’, ‘/tmp’, and ‘/var’ can use ext2 for better performance; These last two partitions aren’t critical so they can use the faster ext2 that does not use journalling. ‘/usr’ and ‘/home’ should be ext3 because they benefit from journalling, or have more to lose without journalling. (‘/boot’ uses its own ‘neworld boot partition'[a MacPPC thing]).

This article may be outdated and of historical value.

Hint: if you don’t know how to create this multi-partition scheme, you can use Sarge’s/Debian’s credit card installer (burned onto a regular sized CD) to partition it. Just select multi-user set-up. Once it formats and writes the partitions you can back out. If it starts to install the base install, just control-c to stop. Then backup to main menu, and reboot, then hold mouse button down to spit out the CD and reboot to OS X [if yaboot appears, hit “X” to boot OS X, assuming you have OS X installed]). Then throw in the Ubuntu CD, once in partitioning, accept manual partitioning, look over previously written-by-Sarge partitions, and select “write” again.

If you didn’t set the fs types for the partitions before, you should commit these before writing again if you want to have say over the fs types the partitions take. Just highlight each partition and hit enter, then specify fs type (except for ‘/boot’ which gets a ‘neworld boot partition’). You can also assign the mount point in that dialogue window. This is just a matter of typing in ‘/home’ for ‘/home’, ‘/tmp’ for ‘/tmp’, and so forth (leave the swap partition alone).

Base Install
You then can apt-get a few things like your favourite window manager (I chose ‘fluxbox’), ‘xserver-xorg’, ‘xlibmesa-dri’, and ‘xfonts-base’, ‘xfonts-100dpi’, ‘xfonts-75dpi’, ‘xfonts-scalable’ (and in Breezy install ‘xinit’ to get the ‘startx’ utility. Breezy predicates “xlibmesa-dri” for “libgl1-mesa-dri”.)

X Windows
To get X, run dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg and mainly choose defaults. For your mouse, /dev/input/mice has always worked for me (on my iMac and iBook). Or just boot up on a live CD (ie., Ubuntu-PPC live) and copy the xorg.conf (or XF86Config or XF86Config-4 file) and throw it in to to the /etc/X11/. Rename it to xorg.conf if you’re using xorg.

Although Ubuntu sets up rather securely, install Firestarter and configure it a.s.a.p..

(My trial with XFS eventually did not fair well, so keep that in mind while reading the paragraph below.)

With this minimal install and presumably more due to XFS, glxgears reports better performance. With a regular Ubuntu install I’m sure I was getting an inconsistent rate circa to 400 FPS (peaking at about 416FPS on a good day regardless of WM), and now it is consistent 427FPS. My machines needs 16 default depth for accel to work (with a Rage128VR video card).

External Firewire Burner

  1. Power-on the external, and throw in a written CD.
  2. Install xcdroast and start it with sudo I believe, and let it scan for your external. This was easier than when I had GNOME installed, as it immediately found my Lite-On (packaged as a Lacie). With a full Ubuntu install, I was beginning to think that GNOME doesn’t allow other CD apps to even ‘see’ my external.

Sound should be as easy as installing alsa-mixer or your favourite front-end which will install back-end deps. For reference and double checking, you can install alsa-base and alsa-utils as well as as back-ends. To restart alsa after installing this software,

/etc/init.d/alsa restart

The following two commands might be in order:

adduser YOUR_USERNAME audio
adduser YOUR_USERNAME cdrom

I just don’t understand how Ubuntu has disabled the cups web-interface but apt-getting ‘gnome-cups-manager’ (and running it from command) should set up printers easily. Just run ‘gnome-cups-manager’ from term to start it. ‘kprint’ (or is it ‘kprinter’?) should work as well and last time I checked it had less dependencies than gnome-cups-manager. You can also pass kprint in term to evoke it or just open a browser and go through the motions to print to gain access to kprint and add your printer.

Normally, on a minimal Debian install I would install ‘cupsys’, and ‘foomatic-bin’. You can also install ‘cupsysbsd’ if necessary. Then I would open a browser and point it to http://localhost: 631 then sign in as user: root, password: ROOTPASSWORD and configure my printer. Ubuntu doesn’t allow this. I don’t need to know why as it is a security issue. The root password gets carried as a simple text. But I’ve read that this is really a security problem when the cups server changes from its default location. I’m not sure if this helps in this case, but there is a firewall up, so can’t the web-interface be enabled safely?

Non-essential Things Left:
Font sizes
Fonts are a little larger than I normally set it to but are more than acceptable. I know these can be adjusted manually. More on this to come.

You can open up /etc/X11/xorg.conf (or /etc/X11/XF86Config-4) and make sure all instances of 75dpi come before 100dpi, and this will change font size used in the wm.

You can also install xfs-xtt and edit its config file in /etc/X11/fs-xtt/config/ to list 75dpi lines before 100dpi and change the line “default-resolutions = 100,100,75,75” to “default-resolutions = 100,100,75,75”, and also change the port xorg.conf (or XF86Config-4) listens to. Xfs-xtt (xfs-xtt) seems to listen to 7110 while without it the system listens to 7100. Thus the new setting should be “unix/:7110” (with the parenthesis) after line that starts with FontPath. Then log out of X and pass /etc/init.d/xfs-xtt restart in console. But this did this did not show to be any more advantageous than only editing ‘xorg.conf’ or a combination of the two hacks, just more complicated. For simplicity, only edit ‘xorg.conf’.

Screen Positioning
Xvidtune installs default. From X windows, start it up from term, modify, test. When happy with tests, press ‘show’ and take a note of the long line of numbers output in term. Highlight the line, and

vim /etc/X11/xorg.conf

and append the copied line below the resolution lines. Add the new line with ModeLine and append xvidtune’s output after that with a space between.

Non-macppc Notes
As a side note, this paragraph notes difficulties on a P1 with a Cirrus Logic GD 5446 (Knoppix doesn’t fair better [or FBSD 5.4 for that matter]): Firefox menu icons and its text still show up large. Most info I googled on this is just explains how to configure the text size of web-pages displayed, not the Firefox menus. This is manageable until you have to open a dialogue in preferences. It then goes off screen. Setting Display Size? 280 210 to not permit displaying off screen but it does not help. (DisplaySize uses physical screen size values in mm.) xfce4 allows for expanding windows to other windows. This takes care of the off screen issue with this video card. I haven’t tried but I assume Fluxbox’s tabbing apps together feature would also take care of this.

Previous Trial with ReiserFS on PPC
I tried ReiserFS prior to this with devastating results on the first reboot. It reported problems of corruption with the journal, irq problems (something I never have had with any mac OS or Gnu-Linux distro on the same exact hardware), and suggested rebooting with irqpoll. Reboot, halt, or shutdown -h now did not work. They returned a buffer?, I|O? error. I read and hear that Ubuntu is going to push ReiserFS in the future. Man I think this is a mistake. If Hans wants us to become alpha testers he better improve his software to the point where it is workable/stable, a point that makes the testing of his fs both mutually productive for the end user (in terms of user end stability) as it is for his, presumably, pet project. The PPC version seems more like a toy at this point in time, according to my limited experience.

Update: I tried ReiserFS on a P1 and it boots much faster than ext3, and I didn’t have any problems there, although I didn’t run it for more than a month. Seems that there might be a schism between the level of development between PC and PPC. In my readings there I also found out about a hack that optimizes ext3 performance but it never gained acceptance. Its called “dir_index”. Fedora/RedHat apparently have tested it successfully. Here’s how to optimize your partitions:

sudo tune2fs -O dir_index /dev/hdXY

then either:

sudo updatedb

or unmount and pass:

sudo e2fsck -D /dev/hdXY

I imagine you can do this with every partition you created.

After enabling dirindex, you can check dirindex status with:

sudo tune2fs -l /dev/hdXY | grep dir_index

as per

tune2fs -l _device_ | grep dir_index; lsattr -d _dir_ | grep I

as per

Previous Trial with XFS
As far as performance, I find XFS faster than ext3 in almost every respect. The one exception is only the initial start of X (with startx at console). It’s acceptable, but seems slower. Eventually XFS gave me similar problems as ReiserFS. They are both gone off of my macs! Chances are that this minimal install will give you better performance even without ReiserFS or XFS. Besides, you can mix ext2 and ext3 as mentioned above to benefit from performance (ext2) and safety (ext3) on the same system.

Maurice Cepeda
a.k.a. Chascon

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This article may be outdated and of historical value.


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