[clug] Nearly diskless installs

David C cottrill.david at gmail.com
Sun Feb 2 05:36:10 MST 2014

Hello all, just spreading some of my hard won wisdom.
I've just pushed through a xbmc Ubuntu build with only /boot on local
storage and it was a surprisingly painful process.

The good: boot time improved from the USB sticks it used to use for / and
/usr, and there is plenty of space left over as the root NFS share is on my
NAS. Also, the default Ubuntu installer won't allow you to begin
installation without 4.5GB contiguous space (no override without getting
the alternate install CD). My USB sticks are only 4GB and I don't mind a
challenge so that's how I got here.

The bad: don't use a minimal install to build a media display box, there is
a lot of stuffing around installing tools so that you can do relatively
normal activities. Ubuntu minimal isn't as small as Debian, but it is still
genuinely minimal.
There is very sparse information around about nfsroot, and the setup
parameters moving from kernel arguments to initramfs.conf (which is great,
by the way).
Full 3D acceleration requires proprietary drivers, which are still terrible
to install from a terminal, the Ubuntu tools for this assume a full desktop
build and are therefore unavailable.
Making the initial disk image is usually documented as build minimal
locally then copy to NFS and finish the job. I had some permissions issues
doing the copy. Don't ever trivialize permissions problems. Sorting them
out afterwards was all kinds of terrible.

Last and not least is something I had assumed had gone away. 'alsactl init'
is the way to make a soundcard work.

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