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Hi I am learning how to manage and set up a ubuntu linux server. I'm reading a book called beginning ubuntu lts server administration.

It suggests setting up the hard drive manually and also gives an example set up. The book is based on 8.04 and I am using 10.04, so my question: is this example set up still valid or can it be improved? Given that the ext4 filesystem is more popular now for example.

Here is a screenshot of the example setup:

enter image description here

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Ubuntu 10.04 changes two important things related to the choice of filesystem types and layout: GRUB 2 and ext4.

When Ubuntu's default filesystem was ext3, it made some sense to look for alternatives, because ext3 is pretty reliable and flexible, but somewhat slow. Ext4 is perceptibly faster. Barring special requirements, I would recommend ext4 over the alternatives (ext2, ext3, ReiserFS, XFS, JFS, ZFS, Btrfs). Ext4 sees wider use, so it gets more testing and more optimization on typical Linux platforms. Ext4 has generally better tool support (data recovery, resizing, etc.) under Linux, as well (most ext2/ext3 tools were quickly adapted for ext4). The main contenders now are ZFS and Btrfs; but ZFS isn't well-integrated into Linux and Btrfs isn't quite ready for production use yet.

Wikipedia has a comparison of filesystems. Look there if there's a feature that really matters to you and that ext4 doesn't have. If at all in doubt, pick ext4.

What GRUB 2 changes is primarily the need to have a separate /boot partition. This is higher-maintenance, and no longer has any benefit unless you have old hardware where the BIOS can't access the whole disk (old, as in older than Ubuntu at any rate). GRUB 2 can be installed on LVM.

So just keep it simple:

/      LVM    ext4     50GB
swap   LVM    swap     varies
/home  LVM    ext4     everything else

A separate /var doesn't do much for you. Separating out specific pieces of /var (e.g. /var/log, /var/mail) can make sense if that piece gets a lot of action (e.g. a busy mail server).

How much swap to put depends on what you're going to use the machine for. On a server with many users with shell access, be generous since there'll be a lot of idle applications. On a dedicated web server, you aren't going to be swapping much. There's a historical recommendation of 2*RAM; the reason for that recommendation is wrong but the figure isn't stupid.

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Thanks alot that's very informative. The reason of a separate /var was the fact that Apache by default puts the files to be served in /var/www and I would like to retain the freedom to reinstall the OS or other distro without touching such files. Am I correct or is there a better way to do this? – drtanz Jul 6 '11 at 20:11
@drtanz For a web server I'd put /var/www on a separate partition (same principle as my mail example). – Gilles Jul 6 '11 at 20:24
Also if you are going to use LVM it is a good idea NOT to allocate all of the space to logical volumes up front so that you have free space to use later to either dynamically extend a volume when needed, or create new volumes, or for making snapshots. – psusi Jul 7 '11 at 1:58

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