For the purpose of this course, Ubuntu will typically be installed by the students on one or several second-hand servers or PCs.
Hardware specifications (and possible costs involved) are modest, any machine with a dual-core processor, a couple of GIGs of RAM, an hard disk (70GB or more), a CD/DVD slot, an ethernet port will be fine for setting up a great web server able to hold all the students accounts for the duration of the course and beyond.
The installation of Ubuntu has been documented in great details, and is generally easy and user-friendly on most systems. Here’s a good pointer to get started: Installing Ubuntu.
In order to keep this initial installation process as smooth as possible, we generally proceed to the installation of a Desktop Ubuntu release, which is more user-friendly, as first impact, then server releases. For one, desktop releases come with a graphical environment similar to the one that users of other operating systems are used to. Few additions (software installations) will turn a Desktop Ubuntu in a perfect web server. We will discuss the required software (LAMP server, SSH server) and related installation procedures and configuration in detail further on during this tutorial.
Once students become familiar with Linux Ubuntu, they might want to go ahead and install Ubuntu alongside or maybe instead of the operating system they already have on their laptops. Indeed, the Ubuntu installation CD offers, as an installation option, to format the disk of the computer to create a dedicated partition for Linux installation. We will not go in the details of this here, but just remember that before any major computer operation such as the installation of a new operating system it is a wise idea to make a full backup of the existing data. Data loss is always a possibility, should something go awry during installation.
Under these circumstances, a Boot-loader is also installed, that will allow the selection of the operating system to use, at boot time (for example Windows or Linux). At the time of this writing, the default boot-loader installed with Ubuntu is Grub 2.
The possibility to work and develop locally on one’s own local hardware, either laptop, desktop or server should be pursued actively as it allows a full control of the system (you often cannot get a full privileges/root access on somebody else’s machine) and ultimately leads to a development of system administration skills that are difficult to develop as a mere guest user. Having full control is more difficult, because, especially at the beginning some tasks, such as for example apache configuration, might seem complicated and will take a fair amount of time. On the long run however, this means having full control of your environment and a more aware and skilled user.
We encourage you to select the hard path of taking full control, it will pay. Put you hands on a used PC, install linux from scratch as the only operating system, connect the machine to the internet, have fun. Then install Linux alongside your existing OS on our laptop, if you have one.
- 2-1: Installing Ubuntu Linux
- 2-2: The Linux Filesystem
- 2-3: Basic Linux Shell Commands
- 2-4: Installing and using Open SSH Server for remote connections
- 2-5: Installing a LAMP (Linux, Apache PHP, MySQL) Server
- 2-6: Apache Web Server Configuration
- 2-7: Setting up an Ubuntu Linux Web Server – Reference Summary