Finally got my first LINUX server up-and-running for the fire department. It’s a great indication of how some distributions are much better than others. Read on to see how it progressed.

Debian

My initial research showed the best distribution of LINUX to be Debian. I disagree. I first had a computer donated to the fire department (thanks Mary-Sue!) to run the server. The machine in question was a 6+ year old IBM Aptiva, with a Pentium III, 512 MB of RAM and a 30 GB HDD. I immediately backed up the 30G HDD and replaced it with a 250GB drive.

I downloaded the 3 DVDs via torrent for Debian 3.1r5 (labelled disk 1, disk 2 and update). I inserted the first one in, and lo-and-behold, the installation screen came up. I started madly choosing defaults, thinking this would be the right approach. After a complete install of the “core” (off disk 1), it rebooted. The GRUB loader promptly returned the dreaded “Error 18”, which is supposed to mean I needed to update the BIOS. So I did, but Lenovo’s latest two BIOS images for this machine (an Aptiva 2198) returned “bad CRCs”. Finally, the third oldest flashed OK. Aha, I said, we’re in business. No dice. Turns out after more reading, that you just can’t partition using the standard arrangement and expect it to work (the “update” enabled access to 137GB, still far short of the 250GB I was providing). So I learned to put a “small” boot (1024MB), big ext3 for / (245 GB), and then the mandatory swap (1.5 GB). This worked much better. BTW, GRUB people reading this, please note that you should change the description of the error message for Error 18, to something like (“may not be able to address this big a HDD OR requires BIOS update.”).

Got it up and running, Microsoft MN-130 10/100 Ethernet card had no driver, so I replaced it with another of my own which did.

GUI wouldn’t start, turned out I had selected the WRONG mouse driver. They have a useless screen in the Debian install that describes the different types of mice, but not how to relate those types to the subsequent list of drivers. Really sad. Nothing really worked well after I did get the GUI with KDE working. I couldn’t shutdown from any account, and had to perform constant hard boots just to turn the server on and off.

Ubuntu

Downloaded one CD (not DVD). It opened up a rich graphical installer, and after combatting the same GRUB error as above, I was up and running in about 15 minutes. My mouse was found without intervention, as was full sound support.

Installing wvieweather on Ubuntu

For those who follow, here’s MY version of the instructions, starting from a 6.10 Ubuntu DESKTOP (not server) distribution. This was all trial and error, so maybe this will help someone googling this:

In system >> Administration >> Synaptics Package Manager

Settings >> Repositories >> Select “Community maintained Open Source software (universe)”

Hit reload button

Use search to find the following packages and apply to install them:

  • tnftp
  • build-essential
  • apache2
  • apache2-common
  • php5
  • php5-cgi
  • php5-curl
  • php5-gd
  • php5-mysql
  • mysql-server
  • libgd2-xpm-dev

Then, compile and install radlib. This seemed to go well per the instructions.

Couple of deviations on the installation of the program.

  1. Since Ubuntu doesn’t have a root login, instead of “becoming root”, you’ll need to sudo everything to do with the installation (after you were supposed to “su root”.)
  2. Also, to make it startup with the machine, you need to know that Ubuntu is at runlevel 2, which means you’ll need to make a softlink from the executable in /etc/init.d/wview to /etc/rc2.d/S98wview.

To see the results of my work, check out this link.