Best Raspberry Pi Server Linux Distribution

Since I got my first Raspberry Pi have have wondered: how to turn it into a proper server. Options that I have not been entirely satisfied with:

  • Arch Linux: probably a great option if you know Arch… I have been too lazy to learn.
  • Gentoo Linux: is Gentoo still relevant? Building everything on the RPi sounds very painful (slow)
  • OpenWrt: nice, but slightly too minimal for a server
  • Raspbian: nice, but a little bit too big standard installation (perhaps it does not really matter, but every apt-get upgrade takes longer time, and so on)
  • NetBSD: such a disappointment 🙁

I now found, and tested, Raspbian Unattended Netinstaller. For me, this is the shit.

If is really this simple:

  1. Format your SD-card with FAT32 (just as usual)
  2. Unpack (unzip) the raspbian-ua-netinst on your SD-card
  3. Connect the SD-card, ethernet and power to your Raspberry Pi
  4. Wait (about 25 minutes, they say, that was ok with me)
  5. SSH into your new lean Raspbian system (root/raspbian).
  6. Read under “first boot” what to do next

Clearly, you need a properly configured network (DHCP, allow fetching of packages, and you need to know what IP address it got).

The entire experience is much enhanced if you connect to your Raspberry Pi with a serial cable during the entire procedure. Jokes aside, I used a serial with my first installation. Second time when I felt confident with the process I did not bother with the serial cable.

First boot quick guide

#dpkg-reconfigure locales
#dpkg-reconfigure tzdata

/boot/config.txt: add the line
gpu_mem=16

Upgrade to jessie
For some reason, Raspbian installation is still based on wheezy, not jessie (you don’t get the latest version of Debian). I suggest, upgrade immediately:

/etc/apt/sources.list (replace wheezy with jessie, two places)

# apt-get update
# apt-get dist-upgrade

It is almost as fast as the installation itself 😉

Conclusion
I think, for the Raspberry Pi V1, Raspbian installed this way is the best server system you can have (perhaps Arch is better if you know it). For a Raspberry Pi V2, perhaps standard Debian is better (I have never used an RPi v2). Everthing I have written applies perfectly to the RPi v2 as well.

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