The Switch

As I previously threatened, I migrated from the fantastic elementary OS to Ubuntu Server. Simply put, I was tired of endlessly logging in and typing sudo aptitude update && sudo aptitude safe-upgrade just for more Pantheon GUI and web browser updates. I spent a whole three minutes pondering how I might try to gently remove those elements out of the existing setup before laughing at myself and building an Ubuntu Server live USB drive. It’s just way easier (and smarter) to start fresh than to deal with all of the time and things that will break otherwise.

Easier Than I Thought

Isn’t she lovely?Isn’t she lovely?

So my server accomplished three main things:

  1. OpenVPN

  2. Web server

  3. Experimentation

I leave the media server on my wife’s computer because I use iTunes Home Sharing to push to AppleTV, etc. Backups aren’t a concern with the mighty Time Capsule silently doing its thing and a couple of external drives to keep in the car. Since I do most everything from my Macbook, I already had an awesome script built for making a bootable USB drive. Fifteen minutes later, I was ready to take the Mighty Dell XPS M1530 down from its perch in the closet and shove that thing in.

Setup is wildly simple for Ubuntu Server. Simply follow the prompts to input your login credentials and verify that you’ve got the computer hooked up to the internet to download any updates. One slick addition to the Ubuntu Server installer is a prompt to download and install unattended-upgrades, which will periodically update and install security patches.

So, it’s not prettySo, it’s not pretty

It doesn’t replace good server administration, but it can save your butt if you’re caught with your pants down. Next, Ubuntu Server will prompt you to install some server software, saving you a trip to the repositories!

So FUNctional!So FUNctional!

The only package I selected was OpenSSH for remote administration. A “LAMP server” might make sense for a web server, but I prefer nginx to the Apache and I didn’t need SQL or PHP, anyway.

After that, it was time to:
– remove the thumb drive
– reboot
– put the Dell back into its closet
– delete my old RSA key from the known_hosts file
– ssh in!

Back up and running

First, I installed my preferred package manager and downloaded the most current updates. Then, I added ddclient and OpenVPN Access Server. Finally, I installed and configured nginx. I once again followed Lee Hutchinson’s great instructions and set my site’s location in the same directory it was when it was on elementaryOS. This last step was critical, because then all I had to do was ask Octopress to perform a regular rsync generate/deploy, wait a minute, and POOF; my blog was completely rebuilt and sitting on the server, ready for business.

My total downtime was about an hour and a half, including downloads. Not too shabby! One additional feature I appreciate about Ubuntu Server is how much more useful information automatically pops up on login via ssh. Like so many of the other features, I could have modified elementaryOS to do this for me, but it’s always nice to have a great turn-key solution.