Linux Installation

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Serial console

If the machine is only providing serial output during bootup, then it may not have been configured for serial logins. Check that the /etc/inittab file contains a line like

T0:23:respawn:/sbin/getty -L ttyS0 9600 vt100

which tells init to start the program to provide login prompts.

The original kernel shipped with Debian sarge has a broken serial driver for Ultra 5s. The version in the security updates should work.

This page is out of date and needs rewriting.
The content is likely to be incomplete or incorrect.

I found this guide to be very useful as it lists answers to the debconf questions. The only difference between the recommended configuration and tardis' is that "Local crypt to use when changing passwords." should be 'exop'.

Getting user information from LDAP

The libnss-ldap package handles fetching account information from LDAP. Also make sure that nscd is installed, otherwise bad things may happen.

To tell libnss-ldap where to look, you need to edit the /etc/libnss-ldap.conf. At the very least, you'll need to give the host and base (dc=tardis,dc=ed,dc=ac,dc=uk).

To tell libc to use libnss-ldap, you need to amend the appropriate lines in /etc/nsswitch.conf:

passwd:         files ldap 
group:          files ldap
shadow:         files ldap

The other databases are best left alone; we don't bother putting host information or such like in LDAP because we don't see much benefit.

The getent program is useful for testing.

Authenticating with LDAP

The libpam-ldap package is used for authentication against LDAP. You need to configure /etc/pam_ldap.conf along the same lines as /etc/libnss_ldap.conf. A typical example is:

host piper
base dc=tardis,dc=ed,dc=ac,dc=uk
rootbinddn cn=admin,dc=tardis,dc=ed,dc=ac,dc=uk
ldap_version 3

# NSS lookups need to be restricted to the appropriate parts of the tree.
# If other lookups are added to /etc/nsswitch.conf, they need to be put
# here too.
nss_base_passwd ou=People,dc=tardis,dc=ed,dc=ac,dc=uk
nss_base_group   ou=Group,dc=tardis,dc=ed,dc=ac,dc=uk
nss_base_shadow ou=People,dc=tardis,dc=ed,dc=ac,dc=uk

# Use funky generic LDAP password changing.
pam_password exop

PAM needs to be told to use libpam-ldap, as well as the normal authentication for root. Canonical /etc/pam.d/common-auth:

# ** Use trick from /usr/share/doc/libpam-ldap/README.Debian
auth    [success=1 default=ignore] nullok_secure
auth    required               use_first_pass
auth    required              

Note the use_first_pass option. Without it logins will ask for a password for pam_unix, then one for pam_ldap, and so on, causing every other attempt to enter your password to fail even when you get it right. You need to set up /etc/pam.d/common-account in the same way.

For Red Hat-based Distros

This guide was tested with Fedora Server 21 (on Valiant).

  • Run `authconfig-tui` (if not installed, `yum install -y authconfig`
  • Check 'Use LDAP' and 'Use LDAP Authentication'. Make sure 'Local authorization is sufficient' is also checked.
  • Leave `Use TLS` unchecked.
  • Set server to `ldap://ldap/`
  • Set Base DN to `dc=tardis,dc=ed,dc=ac,dc=uk`


Restricting access to admins

In /etc/security/access.conf add

-:ALL EXCEPT root admin:ALL

[Hmmm... maybe that should be LOCAL instead of cron.]

Ensure that /etc/pam.d/common-account ensure that the pam_access module is used to restrict access. For example,

account [success=1 default=ignore] debug
account required               debug
account required              

Multiple VLANs

Some systems need to appear on several VLANs, most notably the router. First, add


to the end of /etc/modules so that the kernel knows how to deal with the VLAN tagged packets. (Use modprobe 8021q to load it immediately if you don't want to reboot.) Then install the vlan Debian package, and add extra stanzas to /etc/network/interfaces for the new VLANs. For example,

# Admin VLAN
auto eth0.1
iface eth0.1 inet static

where eth0.1 means VLAN number 1 on interface eth0. Finally, configure the switch so that the port is on the extra VLANs.

Some ethernet hardware does not like the slightly larger ethernet frames used by VLAN tagging. We have already had problems with sunhme and a four port tulip card. You can test it by sending large pings:

ping -s 1472

These will produce a frame that is as large as possible (fragmenting the ping, if necessary). If the hardware or driver does not support large frames properly then that frame may be lost. If you are curious about which direction is failing, you can check with wireshark (tshark) or tcpdump.

We have had success with a 3c905 PCI card, and the old 10Mb/s subqe interfaces.

Logging to the Log host

To make syslog send logs to the log host, put

*.*     @loghost

into /etc/syslog.conf. To make rsyslog send logs to the log host, put

$template sysklogd,"<%PRI%>%TIMESTAMP% %syslogtag%%msg%"
*.* @loghost;sysklogd

into /etc/rsyslog.conf. (At least until we change the syslogd on the loghost.)

It is a good idea to keep the local logging too, in case of network problems.

Email config

Install the exim4 package and execute 'dpkg-reconfigure exim4-config' to configure it with the details below:

Split configuration into small files:                      NO
General type of mail configuration:                        mail sent by smarthost; no local mail
System mail name:                                
IP-addresses to listen on for incoming SMTP connections:
Other destinations for which mail is accepted:   
Visible domain name for local users:             
IP address or host name of the outgoing smarthost:
Keep number of DNS-queries minimal (Dial-on-Demand):       NO

Email client config

Email clients need to be told to look in ~/Maildir.

For mutt on Debian you can create a file /etc/Muttrc.d/tardis.rc (creating the directory if it isn't already there) containing:

# On Tardis we deliver here by default
set spoolfile='~/Maildir'


Our router, davison, provides other machine with an NTP service. In turn, it synchronises with the (external-facing) Informatics servers. Here's how to update '/etc/ntp.conf':

--- /etc/ntp.conf       (revision 17)
+++ /etc/ntp.conf       (working copy)
@@ -10,17 +10,8 @@

 # You do need to talk to an NTP server or two (or three).
-#server ntp.your-provider.example

-# maps to more than 300 low-stratum NTP servers.
-# Your server will pick a different set every time it starts up.
-#  *** Please consider joining the pool! ***
-#  *** <> ***
-server iburst
-server iburst
-server iburst
-server iburst
 # By default, exchange time with everybody, but don't allow configuration.
 # See /usr/share/doc/ntp-doc/html/accopt.html for details.
 restrict -4 default kod notrap nomodify nopeer noquery


Install munin-node on the client (the new Linux box) and update '/etc/munin/munin-node.conf' like so:

--- etc/munin/munin-node.conf   (revision 28)
+++ etc/munin/munin-node.conf   (working copy)
@@ -34,4 +34,4 @@
 # the allow line as many times as you'd like

 allow ^127\.0\.0\.1$
+allow ^$

Then run '/etc/init.d/munin-node restart' to update the daemon. Connect to the web server and update '/etc/munin/munin.conf' like so:

--- munin.conf.pert     2007-06-22 17:47:27.593900598 +0100
+++ munin.conf  2007-06-22 17:48:26.781493093 +0100
@@ -101,9 +101,11 @@
     use_node_name yes

+    address
+    use_node_name yes

Server addresses

This page is out of date and needs rewriting.
The content is likely to be incomplete or incorrect.

This provides the addresses of various servers which a Tardis machine might need to use.


We have an internal caching nameserver, currently leela, However, other machines should be able to cope if it's down for maintenence, so we also use one of the university's servers. (Currently, but we should check if that's what we're supposed to use.)

Thus most machines have a /etc/resolv.conf along the lines of:



See also

Other stuff that should be documented here, but isn't

  • Configuring machines to pass mail on to the mail hub
  • Configuring ntp
  • Booting our suns from the LAN
  • Installing munin