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I'm familiar with the setup Ubuntu comes with so I would like to stick with it, but feel free to suggest another distro if it works almost exactly like Ubuntu.

Question: How do I install a Ubuntu system with everything Ubuntu Desktop has, but without X, just a console? AFAIK, Ubuntu Server has a lot of extra server-related overhead that are unnecessary on a desktop system.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

I think Ubuntu Server is still the best path for you if you want something that "works almost exactly like Ubuntu."

You can choose to not install many server-related features during the installation and I'd expect any remaining "server overheads" would be mitigated by not having a GUI installed.

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There isn't really any server overhead. The default install from Ubuntu's server CD is pretty minimal - there is a little more there than Debian's "minimal" install, but very little. – David Spillett Jun 30 '10 at 0:02
Agreed with David there. A clean install of Ubuntu server is about as lightweight as you can get. – peelman Aug 14 '10 at 4:43
@peelman and as easy as it gets ;) All the other solutions mentioned below require you to select what you want... Ubuntu server has all you need already but no more if you unselect the server features during install. – BloodPhilia Aug 14 '10 at 9:37

As I recall, if you start an Ubuntu non-graphical installation, you can choose your packages: just deselect X.Org, xserver, gdm, gnome and the like.

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If you use the text-based installer on the Ubuntu alternate install CD, you can specify from the ground up exactly what you want, including a window manager (or the absence thereof).

See this page for details.

The only trouble with this might be that it probably won't come with "everything" the normal Ubuntu distro would have (as you mentioned). But a lot of those programs are X-based anyway.

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You can use the ubuntu-standard (small) and ubuntu-minimal (smaller still) metapackages to trim down the installation.

sudo aptitude markauto '~i!~M!~nubuntu-standard'

debfoster can also help you remove packages, interactively sorted by the combined weight of their dependencies.

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+1 Very nice tool! – dag729 Jun 30 '10 at 1:51
+1 didn't know about the other ubuntu metapackages. Now only if they had ubuntu-desktop-lite... – TheLQ Jun 30 '10 at 18:48

Use the Minimal ISO. It'll download from the network only what you want. So, just don't select a desktop task or a server task, and you're good.

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