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As a learning experience I recently downloaded and set up Ubuntu 10.04 Server edition. When I logged in for the first time, all I saw was a terminal. I stared blankly at the screen, wondering what in the world do I do from here.

That's my question. How do I configure a server and maintain it from the terminal? Tutorials, books, guides, things like that would be the most useful. Thanks!

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

No worries, it's common in a server environment to have no windowing system installed. A few reasons why:

  • Resource consumption - depending on the usage of the server, you typically want most of the resources to be utilized by the program serving clients, and not running the server itself.

  • Security - the less you have installed, the less facets of your server are open to attack.

among others you may want to consider stability (if using up-to-date windowing software), faster boot times (can typically be modified in inittab though to avoid GUI), and PEBKAC problems. On some of the GUI logon screens you'll notice options such as shutdown, restart, change window manager and so on. With a text-based interface, a passerby will have a hard time messing up the system if the tower is locked away. There isn't much you can do with a black login prompt. With the GUI on the other hand, people can easily shut the system off. On Linux, you'll notice the majority of administration is faster in the command line, assuming you know the basic commands as well.

Some valuable links:

The Official Ubuntu Server Guide (10.4)

The Linux Documentation Project

The first one is your companion for administering Ubuntu 10.4 from the command line. TLDP is the classic reference for all things Linux. I'd stick with the server guide initially as TLDP has resources pertaining to Redhat-based distributions as well, which may confuse you at first.

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The Ubuntu Server Guide is exactly what I'm looking for, thanks! – Steve Stifler May 11 '10 at 2:53


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Yes, RUTE is an excellent guide. Seconded. – Jack May 10 '10 at 22:41
Some parts are a bit dated but it's still greate for learning the basics. – Florian Diesch May 10 '10 at 23:57
Wow that's extensive. I'm only shallowly familiar with Linux, so this will be a great resource. – Steve Stifler May 11 '10 at 2:56

Though maybe a little outdated, the Linux Documentation Project has an impressive collection of howtos and guides.

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How to Forge is a nice place to begin with, very visual, very friendly and detailed how to's.

Click here for Ubuntu specific tutorials on How to forge

I would highly recommend this tutorial: The Perfect Server - Ubuntu 10.04.

Its the perfect tutorial to get your server up and running from scratch plus you learn from focused setup experience rather than just reading and experimenting experience (which is a good thing but its always better to get your hands dirty right at the beginning.)

I found this site very helpful while working with CentOS

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