Installing RHEL on my home server
Everything that can go wrong does, and hopefully I learned from it
6 min read
For reference, my one and only server (which I love very much and is named Judy) is a Dell PowerEdge r710.
A few years ago, I "won" a server during a summer internship at DeltaV, and had to decide what OS to put on it. I knew that I wanted to install a long term, stable release, distro. So something like Arch or Fedora were immediately out. And I also wanted something that was popular. So openSUSE, as much as I love chameleons, was unfortunately also out of the running. So it all came down to a RHEL based distro and Ubuntu. I was running Fedora on my desktop at the time, so I was already predisposed to like Red Hat. As I mentioned in my introduction post, I'm a bit of a fangirl.
The only problem was that I didn't want to pay for licensing it, and I had no idea that Red Hat gave away free licenses for small-time peeps, so I decided to go with either Rocky or Alma (for reference of the timing this was just after CentOS moved to its current release model). I did some research on the best and most trustworthy sites, Reddit, and came to the conclusion that they were both basically the same thing, but that Rocky was a bit better. So I flashed a flash drive and installed Rocky Linux.
It worked excellently for about a year and a half, but a few weeks ago I woke up itching for a change. I figured that I'm already running Rocky Linux, why don't I just get RHEL straight from the source. I'm well within the 16 machine limit to free licenses. So I looked up how to move from Rocky Linux to RHEL, and was on my way to success. Of course, as is somehow almost the usual, something went wrong. In this case, very wrong.
I followed all the instructions from Red Hat's website, using some magical script to move everything. And it worked! It rebooted and everything was going fine... until I decided to update the machine. It all updated, and everything was going great, and so I rebooted the machine and patiently waited for Cockpit to pop back up on IP address 192.168.0.116 on port 9090, but nothing came up. One minute turned into two, which turned into five. I went down to the basement to the server that I gracefully plopped on a desk to see what the matter was.
I turned on the screen attached to the server and was greeted by the grub interface. "No problem," I thought, "let me just reboot this and everything will be fine." So I rebooted it, and was still met by this interface. So by now I'm kinda freaking out. I have important stuff on there. Sure, it's just a Minecraft world and some very legally obtained movies. But I had just gotten full Diamond armor and tools! I didn't want to give that up!
So I simply did what I did with all my tech problems. I googled it, and I quickly found a solution. If only life was that easy. According to Red Hat's docs, the solution was easy. All I had to do was manually select a boot image in Grub and boot into the system. So I follow the instructions and select one of the three images available. It hangs. "No problem, I'll just select another image." It hangs. "Third times the charm, right gals? Right?" It hangs, and a very loud "FUCK" comes out of my mouth. I'm going to have to reinstall Linux. Maybe this was unnecessary and someone smarter than me could have figured it out, but I couldn't. Plus, this was an excuse to upgrade from RHEL 8 to 9 anyway. I know I said that I like long support distros, but at the same time I'm addicted to using the latest version of software.
As a chronic distro hopper I usually have a small handful of flashed thumb sticks with various distros on them, and, somewhere, a 32 GB Ventoy flash drive. So I rummage around in my messy room and find a flash drive that I think is Fedora. I plug it into my PC only to see "Windows" pop up. Darn. I find another one and plug it in, "Fedora 36". Now we're cookin'! So I run down two flight of stairs back to the basement dwelling Judy and plug it into her. Fedora's loading and the screen flashes the Gnome interface and then goes black. I jiggle the mouse and nothing. I punch a few keys on the keyboard and nothing. I turn the monitor off and then on again, and nothing. "Huh, this is weird, but it must just be a fluke or something." So I turn off the server and turn her back on again (get your mind out of the gutter. I'm not turning Judy on that way!). Once again, it boots into Fedora. Once again the screen flickers, the Gnome interface pops up and disappears without skipping a bear. And once again, a very loud "FUCK" echos throughout the basement.
I pull my thumb stick out of Judy and trudge up two flights of stairs to try flashing another distro onto the flash drive that I help in my hand. I quickly downloaded EndeavourOS, flashed the flash drive, grabbed a portable HDD, and sprinted back to the basement and my beloved Judy. I plugged it in, pushed the on button, and waited with bated breath as it booted up. First the bios, then the EndeavourOS loading screen, and finally the wonderfully ugly XFCE DE. It worked! I quickly plugged the portable HDD onto the front of the server. Finding the /home directory was relatively easy, and within a few minutes I had copied all the files from the server. With them, my Minecraft world and my very legal movies (the movies being copied to the server from the flash drive in the first place).
I then quickly shut down EndeavourOS, pulled out the flash drive, and flashed RHEL 9 to it. Then, booting it up, I selected the "custom" partitioning option to hopefully be able to keep my home drive. I selected the /home partition and mapped it to /home, and then saved it and went and set up the rest of the installation. Once it had finished installing, I was able to finally boot into a fully working RHEL OS! I quickly enabled cockpit, and then navigated to it using the best browser, Firefox, and cd'd my way to /home and the files that I had copied 30 minutes earlier. Meaning that the entire process was useless, and I could have just installed RHEL 9 fresh and been fine.
So, what did I learn? Realistically, nothing. What should I have learned? Why change what works. What I will take away though is that I was able to walk away without loosing anything, so what's the problem with chronic distro hoping other than a headache for a few hours?
Till next time.
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