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Trying Ubuntu Server

Ubuntu Server

In Part 1, we got a basic Intel Atom-powered NAS up and running, using FreeNAS as its operating system. Read performance was good, write performance, so-so, but speeds were far from being limited by drive and network speeds.

So, taking another suggestion from the SNB Forums, I loaded up Ubuntu Server and gave it a spin. Ubuntu Server edition might look big and enterprisey from its webpage description, but it's perfectly usable for SOHO and SMB NAS use. The key is to add two more pieces: the Webmin administration GUI; and Neil Brown's mdadm Linux RAID utility.

Webmin is the Linux-world standard for GUI-based server administration. My first exposure to Webmin was years ago when I briefly set up my first Linux LAMP server for local website development. It was really a godsend to me as a Linux newbie and sure beat the hell out of editing Apache and other config files!

In a similar way, mdadm is the Linux world's solution for software RAID arrays. It allows you to create, tweak, grow and reconstruct RAID arrays and supports linear and RAID 0, 1, 4, 5 and 6 arrays. Forms of combination striped and mirrored arrays (variously referred to as RAID 0+1, 1+0, 01, 10) can also be created. (I found the MythTV Wiki to be the most informative about this.)

Since this isn't just a download, install and go process, I'll spend some time showing you how to put it all together.

Software Installation

I first downloaded Ubuntu Server and installed it on the Atom NAS. The install did not go well with several attempts, each one eventually hanging before completion. After some Googling, I found that there is a bug related to the Realtek RTL8102EL chip driver.

Since I was going to be using the Intel gigabit NIC anyway, I took the suggestion I found here. Once I disabled the onboard NIC, the install went as smooth as buttah! Note that when you reach the point in the Ubuntu install where you are asked which servers to install, just select the "Samba File server" option.

Installing mdadm was very easy. All I had to do was log into Ubuntu and type the following at the command prompt (with a working Internet connection, of course):

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install mdadm

Webmin doesn't appear to be in the standard apt-get or aptitude databases. So you either need to add the webmin download site into the apt-get sources list or download the package from the Webmin site and install it.

Following the Webmin Debian install instructions, I opted for the apt-get method (Using the Webmin APT repository section). So I opened up /etc/apt/sources.list in the vi editor (command summary here) and added this line:

deb sarge contrib

After saving the edited file, I then installed by entering:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install webmin

With everything now installed, pointed my browser to the Atom NAS' IP address like so:

Note that you must specify port 10000 since Webmin won't auto-forward. But if you forget to specify a secure connection, you will get an error page with a proper clickable link. When you successfully connect, you should see the Webmin home screen shown in Figure 1.

Webmin Home Page

Figure 1: Webmin Home Page

Note that the install would have fit nicely on a 2 GB flash drive. But I used an old 10 GB Maxtor IDE drive that I salvaged from a long-gone system.

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