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Most Reliable Linux Distro With No Desktop/GUI

Posted on 2014-03-31
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Last Modified: 2014-04-02
I just need to be able to SSH to this device and run basic networking commands - ping, curl, traceroute, dig, etc.  I will be running it off of a USB - creating it with linuxliveusb.  What would be a solid basic gui-less distro that would work?

http://www.linuxliveusb.com/en/
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Question by:amigan_99
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by:arnold
ID: 39968337
Any will do, every one of the distros can be run in non-GUI setup.
DSL (damn small Linux) might be what you are looking for.
Presumably your secure/reliable actually mean can boot any USB bootable system.
How large is the USB you are looking to use?
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by:amigan_99
ID: 39968473
32GB USB
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by:arnold
ID: 39968479
Any distro will do what you are looking for.  Which distro are you comfortable with?
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by:amigan_99
ID: 39968487
I am most familiar with Ubuntu.
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by:rindi
ID: 39968824
As mentioned above, any distro will do fine. Since you are familiar with Ubuntu, use Ubuntu Server. It comes with no GUI as default.
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by:amigan_99
ID: 39969010
I tried both - damn small and ubuntu.  Using utility LiLi I first created a DSL USB.  My computer booted from the USB but it did come up to some kind of GUI and neither the mouse nor the keyboard were operating although I could see some kind of rough desktop.  So onto Ubuntu server.  Again I used LiLi and it finished.  But when it booted it asking me if I wanted to install ubuntu or to run as a demo or a few other options.  I had gone down this path a few days ago and tried the install option and things failed when I tried to install from the USB to the USB.  Might I be missing something or is there a better utility I should try?  The laptop I am at the moment typing on is Ubuntu desktop.  Perhaps there a utility that runs on Ubuntu that would be better than LiLi or Pendrive USB creator for Windows?  Or do you think I'm just taking a wrong turn somewhere when using the Win utilities?
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by:rindi
ID: 39969085
What do you mean with "LiLi"? Why don't you just do a normal installation of Ubuntu server to your USB disk? It should install and work just the same as a normal installation to an internal HD.
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by:arnold
ID: 39969089
I've not used the program you referenced, so not sure what packages you chose to install if it lets you.
The quick answer is as long as you do not install any graphical packages the GUI will not come up.
Just to be sure  which keyboard do you have, USB?
Pull the keyboard and reinsert.

You could unplug the windows drives. Insert the USB stick, boot of the Ubuntu DVD and see whether that will do what you want. Disconnecting the drives, will prevent the inevitable error that many of us made at one time or another.
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by:amigan_99
ID: 39969097
Linux Live USB Create - LiLi.  http://www.linuxliveusb.com/  I could try that - make the ISO on one USB and see if I could then install to a second USB drive.  Good thought.
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by:Ryan Smith
ID: 39969935
Use Windows and pendrive linux installer.

Boot up the USB and open a terminal.

run this command

sudo init 3

it will reboot into text mode.
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by:serialband
ID: 39970112
If you want it to always boot to run level 3:

In Upstart, you'd change /etc/init/rc-sysinit.conf and change
env RUNLEVEL=3

In System V, you would edit /etc/inittab and change the default init from 5 to 3
id:3:initdefault:

If you didn't install X, it should already be set to runlevel 3.

Here's someone that's already done a 32 GB USB Mint install.
http://sandeepbhalla.com/2014/02/28/installing-linux-mint-on-32-gb-usb-drive-with-separate-home-folder/
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by:Ryan Smith
ID: 39970163
Serialband, I believe that running "sudo init 3" will permanently change it to text mode.  Of course he could edit those two files depending on the OS.
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by:amigan_99
ID: 39970513
The latest thing I tried use using Pendrive Universal-USB-Installer-1.9.5.2 to create a USB from ubuntu-12.04.4-server-amd64.iso.  I keep getting stuck at the same place.  I will attach the screen grabs so you can see what I am bumping into.
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by:serialband
ID: 39970529
init, at least in system 5, only makes a temporary change to the run level.  You have to edit the inittab to make the change permanent for the next reboot.

I haven't had to set upstart run levels yet, but the ubuntu upstart information suggests that it's also temporary when you run init 3.  https://help.ubuntu.com/community/UpstartHowto
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by:amigan_99
ID: 39970546
Permanently changing to text mode would be fine with me.  I just can keep ending up with a USB stick that wants to install linux rather than RUN linux.
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serialband earned 500 total points
ID: 39970575
It might be easier to just burn or copy a smaller sized live linux distro to your USB stick.  A live bootable disc or USB is different than just copying the installer image.

http://www.linux.com/directory/Distributions/livecd
http://www.techradar.com/us/news/software/operating-systems/8-of-the-best-tiny-linux-distros-683552
Since you liked ubuntu
http://crunchbang.org/
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by:Ryan Smith
ID: 39970604
If your not formatting the system it might be booting off something else.  I've had that happen before.
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by:amigan_99
ID: 39970625
Ok - downloading the crunchbag iso http://crunchbang.org/download/.  Will try the pendrive universal installer and see if that is the mojo.
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by:rindi
ID: 39970665
As I said earlier, just install the OS normally to the USB stick as you would install it to a harddisk, and it should work just like a normal installation. The tools you've been using are meant to put LiveCD isos on USB sticks instead of CD's or DVD's, and not for installations, so you end up with the same functions those LiveCD's or DVD's have. They aren't installations, but rather Live Media, from most of which you can install the OS more permanently.
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by:amigan_99
ID: 39970749
Progress.  Crunchbang with the Pendrive is giving me a workable Linux off the USB.  Perhaps I should start a new thread.  The only things now..

-When the system boots up it is asking me if want a Live Session, Install or Memory test.  I want to get it to just rull into the Live session and not stop here.  Any thought there?  Perhaps ask on crunchbang's boards?
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Author Closing Comment

by:amigan_99
ID: 39971221
This was the solution that came the closest to working.  But it does not full boot - gets stuck at a menu and it does not remember that I installed users and ssh server when it does get rebooted.  I'll ask this again with my more fleshed out set of criteria.
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by:serialband
ID: 39972673
The live distros are usually designed to not write to the boot media.  It's usually loaded into RAM, so changes are not saved unless you actually mount the USB stick and save the files to the live distro image.

If you used the other distros as suggested by other users, you would run the installer and install it onto the USB stick by choosing the disk you wish to .  You wouldn't burn or copy the distro to the USB stick.
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