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Arch Linux Backup Server-- Headless Administration

Installation and Serial Console

  • October 29, 2010
  • By Carla Schroder

Earlier this week I reviewed the Antec 300 case that houses my new home fileserver. Now it's time to talk about what's inside.

It's rather minimalistic right now, running headless and using a single 2-terabyte SATA hard drive. There are three desktop PCs and one laptop that will backup to this machine. I don't need a big RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) array, though one of these days I'll move up to a RAID 1 array, using Linux software RAID. Nice simple mirroring with no parity or striping complications. This doesn't need to be complicated because all I want are plain, easily-recoverable copies of the data on all of my home computers.

Screen Better Than Minicom

I like using a serial terminal emulator to run headless servers because the serial console always works when Ethernet goes haywire. Linux Planet author Akkana Peck clued me in to using GNU screen to administer the server instead of Minicom. Screen has a number of advantages over Minicom: there is no setup, and it draws 20 lines at a time instead of Minicom's one, which makes it a lot more comfortable for editing configuration files. First set up your server to accept a serial console connection, connect it to another PC with a serial cable, and then connect like this:

$ screen /dev/ttyS0 9600

Sometimes when you're connecting to a running server you have to press the return key once or twice to make the login prompt appear. I'll write this up in more detail next week, since screen is weird and wonderful.

Installing Arch Linux

For the initial installation and configuration of Arch Linux I hooked up a keyboard and monitor, and installed it from a USB stick. These live USB distros are wonderful; I could have booted the USB stick on a different machine, entered all the configurations, and then installed it headless. Provided the BIOS were already set up to boot from USB, that is.

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