Thursday, December 27, 2012

Surprised by CentOS

Since I've moved my main machine to the Mac platform, my Mini-ITX sidekick PC has gotten a little more important. It's now my primary physical Linux box. It is now my externally facing SSH box that I can hit from the outside world, and it's my "irssi server" also. Although I have quite a few Linux machines in VirtualBox on my Mac, this little guy has to be up and running, reliably for me 24/7.

Before, it was always my "toy" box - one I would use to try out various Linux distros, dev builds, even BSD from time to time. Now I wanted something a little more reliable.

This box isn't really a speed demon. It's got a little Atom D525 CPU and 2GB of RAM, it does however have a fairly nice 60GB SSD inside which really breathed new life into it. It's just a shame the box only has a SATA-II connection (the SSD is SATA-III). I had a few options for distros to run, and here is my rundown.

First up, and really the most obvious choice was Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. For some reason Ubuntu past 10.04 does not run well on this box. I can't (don't want to) run 10.04 as it's lacking TRIM support for the SSD (or at least I can't verify for certain that it has or has not been backported into the 2.6.32 kernel in 10.04). I tried asking around on the TRIM thing and mostly got smart-aleck answers about 10.04 being 'old' and I needed to upgrade to 12.04+ (very helpful, fellow community folks on AskUbuntu!).  I've even tried the variants such as Xubuntu and even Lubuntu, and they are still very sluggish on this box.

Debian was also out due to Debian Stable lacking TRIM support, and I wasn't sure I wanted to run Testing. I did load it, and it worked okay, but never felt "right". I tried it with Xfce, and for whatever reason Debian + Xfce felt very unpolished.

On a whim I loaded CentOS 6 since I knew that RH had backported TRIM support into the 2.6.32 el6 kernel. First, I love the fact that GNOME 2.x is still there. I don't need particularly up-to-date packages on this box. On this box, most of what I use is text apps anyway, irssi, and also stuff like Apache and MySQL will likely get installed at some point, as I plan to put up some sort of home intranet on it soon (gotta get around to developing it first). After install, I enabled TRIM, set the I/O scheduler to 'noop' and disabled any un-needed services and startup-apps and this little baby flies now. Really happy. Long Term support, TRIM support for the SSD, access to a huge amount of apps through the CentOS repos, EPEL and other 3rd party repos if needed (not needed now). Plus, now that this machine is in more of a 'server' mode, there is a certain comfort level there, since I trust CentOS, and I have great familiarity with administering RHEL/CentOS servers.

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