Thursday, 17 July 2008

Installing Ubuntu On A TinyTuxbox

With my new toy now in hand the time soon came to get it installed with Linux. At first glance it might appear to be tricky to install given the lack of CD or Floppy drives. However, it boots from just about anything you attach to it whether that's USB, Compact Flash or Network Boot. Setting up a one-time PXE server seemed a little over the top so I was planning to boot from a USB stick until I found someone at work with a USB CDROM.

Ubuntu IconUsually I like to run Fedora at home, it's the thing I'm most comfortable with having spent my career tinkering with Red Hat and SUSE based distributions so one of the things I wanted to do with this box was install the much hyped Ubuntu distribution. This wasn't to see what all the fuss is about (I'm familiar with Ubuntu having tried it a couple of times before but always gone back to Fedora) but really just so I can get to know it even better. This machine is going to be part desktop and part server so Ubuntu kind of makes sense too.

I installed the hard disk into the box myself and once I got over some initial hardware niggles (that I caused I should add) the installation was simple. Boot from USB CDROM with the Hardy Heron CD in it and the rest is history. It's amazing how such a small box can run a full whack desktop operating system and do all that on just 8 watts.

In these early days, I have three things in mind for the box. The primary use will be to serve my music collection to my stereo; next is to connect my current cost meter to allow some more in-depth analysis of our power usage at home; then there's simply using it as a desktop for the simpler day-to-day computer usage i.e. browsing the web.

Setting up the music streaming was pretty easy after transferring my collection to the hard disk. I added the apt sources for the SqueezeCenter software that operates with my SqueezeBox Duet, did an apt-get update and an apt-get install squeezecenter and job done. The TinyTuxbox can much better cope with running the MySQL server this is based on along with the web front end and the music collection scanning services associated with the software than the SLUG I tried previously. All in all, couldn't have been much easier.

I've not tried hooking up my current cost meter yet, ironically I've run out of power sockets near the computer with only a six-way adapter and plugs for the PC, TinyTuxbox, Printer, Monitor, ADSL Modem Router, and speakers although it shouldn't be a hard problem to rectify.

Last of all, one of the additional benefits of this low-power box is every day usage. It can easily run a web browser so instead of starting up a large PC just for this, we can switch to the TinyTuxbox desktop and browse there. This should add to our power saving, even though it's likely the TinyTuxbox will be run all the time soon to serve the current cost data. That reminds me, I really should discuss batch-uploading of current cost data so I can save even the 8 watts the TinyTuxbox uses most of the time too.

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