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I am wondering if there is any difference between the installation methods of Ubuntu minimal and server.

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up vote 18 down vote accepted

The Minimal CD will download packages from online archives at installation time instead of providing them on the install CD itself. Downloading packages at install time reduces the size of the install CD to approximately 5 to 20MB depending on architecture, as well as providing only the packages needed for installation. The download time savings achieved by using a Minimal CD can be significant, as only current packages are downloaded, so there is no need to upgrade packages immediately after installation. The Minimal CD uses a text-based installer like the Alternate CD, making the CD image as compact as possible.

Basically you get whatever is needed to get you to command line and you will need to install anything else yourself: so next you install a window manager if you want. You can use tasksel on the command line to install servers (where you end up with a server install)

The Server Edition provides a common base for all sorts of server applications. It is a minimalist design providing a platform for the desired services, such as file/print services, networking, DNS, web hosting, email hosting, wiki server, version control server.

Basically you get to choose at installation what server applications you want.

Regarding the kernel these should be the basic differences between a server and other installs:

  1. Preemption is turned off in the Server Edition.
  2. The timer interrupt is 100 Hz in the Server Edition and 250 Hz in the Desktop Edition.
  3. The Server Edition is optimized for i686 processors while the Desktop Edition is optimized for both the i586 and i686.
  4. Virtualization is better supported in the Server Edition through the enabling of IPC namespaces, and the Xen hypervisor.
  5. Multiple routing tables for the IPv6 protocol are also supported in the Server Edition.
  6. For 32-bit systems the Server Edition is configured to use PAE which allows addressing up to 64GB of memory while the Desktop Edition is configured for 4GB.

Note: Since 12.10 the Deadline I/O scheduler is the default for both Desktop and Server Editions (previously CFQ was the default for the Desktop Edition).

A minimal install where you install a desktop afterwards will get you an Ubuntu Desktop Edition. A minimal install where you install servers afterwards will get you an Ubuntu Server Edition but you will need to optimize the kernel yourself.

You would be better off starting with the Desktop or Server Edition instead of a minimal install if you intend to end up with a normal version of Ubuntu.

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Hmm from your description, I think I should use Server edition? I am a developer, so I will install LAMP, GIT, SSH, Virtual Box etc. Also able to use beyond 4GB RAM seems like a decision maker? But can you explain whats the diff between the schedulers and what is Preemption? It will be good for knowledge – Jiew Meng May 21 '11 at 6:53
@jiewmeng yes server if you want LAMP (other options you need do not even matter then: server is the way to go)! – Rinzwind May 21 '11 at 7:07
@jiewmeng: I edited in some wiki links to scheduler and preemtion. – Rinzwind May 21 '11 at 7:18
hmmm - I use the same developer tools on a day-to-day basis. I disagree that ubuntu server is the correct way to go with the information you've given. Call me a purist (and many do :) ) but a server runs a toolset providing stuff for many client machines. GIT & VirtualBox are all client based tools and work best on the desktop. I run apache on a client as well since its best to keep control stopping and starting stuff. – fossfreedom May 21 '11 at 9:37
@jiewmeng: the server edition gives best perfomance for servers:the kernel is tweaked for best perfomance. The desktop version does not use the perfomance tweaks because the tweaks slow the desktop down: you focus on servers you loose out on desktop performance. – Rinzwind May 21 '11 at 9:38

Besides using different kernels, I don't believe there is. If your going to install a Desktop stick with minimal.

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Ubuntu server gives you the choice (at install time) to install packages like apache2 (or LAMP), or openssh-server.

On Minimal, you are on your own and you have to install everything you need manually (with the aid of apt-get or aptitude.

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You can install different features with minimal by using tasksel. – wojox May 21 '11 at 1:33

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