A What? Linode?

Linode offer VPS. If you don't know what VPS is, ask Wikipedia. Since my shared hosting was up for renewal in less than a month, I decided to look around and see if I could find a better deal. There was some things I wasn't happy with at my shared hosting, particularly the lack of shell access to my account. There were a lot of other niggly things too. I came to the conclusion that doing it all myself would make me much happier.

The Problem

So I purchased a Linode to replace my existing shared hosting service. Their prices are reasonable, and they offer ArchLinux as an O/S option. I use ArchLinux on my Work Desktop, Home Desktop, 2 x Laptops and my home File Server. I'm comfortable with ArchLinux so it made sense to use Arch on my web server.

After opening my account, and ponied up my USD$20, I was immediately logged in and being asked where I would phsyically like to locate my Linode since there are 4 data centers across the US that I could choose from. A quick transfer test from work, home and a friends place showed that the Atlanta facility offered the best performance for my locations.

As easy as that, I now had a Virtual Machine in Atlanta, GA. Cool!

Having a look around the Linode Management Console, I quickly found the option to create a VM with ArchLinux as the O/S. Done. Boot. Login.

As I said, I'm familiar with ArchLinux, so I poked around to discover the 'physical' attributes of the box and the peculiarities of the installation. This is where I hit my first wall:

root ~  # df -h
Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/xvda             1008M 506M  493M  51% /
none                  175M     0  175M   0% /dev/shm

Well that's annoying. I get 2 partitions -- a root and a swap. This would have to be rectified.

The Solution

This is how I ended up solving my problem. There's probably other ways, but this is what I did.

Create a Virtual Disk

From the Linode Dashboard, click Deploy Linux Distribution and select ArchLinux. The disk we will create here will ultimately end up being the / for your installation. In the meantime, it's going to hold everything so it has to be at least the minimum size required for ArchLinux (436mb). I made mine 500mb. You should be able to resize this at a later date, but I haven't bothered to do that. Setup your swap and root password, then Create Profile.

Rename the Virtual Disk

Back in the Linode Dashboard, click "Image Options" next to the disk that was created for your Linode and rename it to something easy to identify. I called mine "arch-root" and will refer to it as that throughout this post.

Create a Virtual Disk for the LVM Physical Volume

Select "Create a new Disk Image" from the dashboard. Label the disk as arch-lvm or something else you can easily identify. I will be referring to it as arch-lvm. Choose whatever size works for you. I used 5408mb for my Linode (8 websites, including PostgreSQL and MySQL databases, plus a mail server and DNS server). Make sure you select unformatted / raw as the Filesystem Type.

Boot Rescue LiveCD

Linode includes a setup for a LiveCD called Finnix. This assists you in being able to resuce your Linux install if something goes wrong, as well as being handy for other maintenance tasks that are better done from outside the environment on the disk. We need to create a second configuration profile for Finnix so we can boot it and do our partitioning. Click 'Create New Configuration Profile' in the dashboard, and set the following options:

  • Label: Finnix LiveCD
  • Kernel: Recovery - Finnix (Kernel)
  • Memory: Max
  • Run Level: Default
  • Drive Setup: /dev/xvda = Recovery - Finnix (iso)
  • Drive Setup: /dev/xvdb = arch-root
  • Drive Setup: /dev/xvdc = arch-lvm
  • Uncompressed initrd image: Recovery - Finnix (initrd)

Leave everything else as default and click Save Profile. Now you can boot this configuration by clicking Boot next to it profile in the dashboard.

Create the LVM

Finnix doesn't give you an SSH server to login to, so you need to login to the Console provided by Linode. Look on the Console tab in the dashboard if you're unsure how to do this.

Once you are logged in to the console, you should be at a root prompt. From here we can setup our LVM. A strange quirk about Linode is that we don't treat the virtual disks like physical disks -- we treat them as a partition. So instead of creating a partition table and partition on /dev/xvdc called /dev/xvdc1, we just create the LVM Physical Volume directly on /dev/xvdc.

So let's get the LVM Setup. I'm not going to guide you through LVM here, there's plenty of other guides on the interwebs for that. This is based on how I custom partition. Suit yourself, just remember what you do here, because the rest of my guide will be using the scheme I've got here ;)

pvcreate /dev/xvdc
vgcreate lvmData /dev/xvdc
lvcreate -L 256M --name home lvmData
lvcreate -L 512M --name tmp lvmData
lvcreate -L 512M --name var lvmData
lvcreate -L 1G --name srv lvmData
lvcreate -L 2G --name usr lvmData

Format the LVM Volumes

Needs to be done. I'm not going to argue with you. Use whatever file system tickles your fancy here. Personally I'm not much of a fan of ext3, but it supports growing and shrinking which fits well with our LVM setup.

mkfs -t ext3 /dev/lvmData/home
mkfs -t ext3 /dev/lvmData/tmp
mkfs -t ext3 /dev/lvmData/var
mkfs -t ext3 /dev/lvmData/srv
mkfs -t ext3 /dev/lvmData/usr

Mount the Arch disk and LVM volumes

Now we need to mount everything so we can shuffle all our files about to their proper places

mount /dev/xvdb /mnt
mkdir -p /new/{home,tmp,var,srv,usr}
mount /dev/lvmData/home /new/home
mount /dev/lvmData/tmp /new/tmp
mount /dev/lvmData/var /new/var
mount /dev/lvmData/srv /new/srv
mount /dev/lvmData/usr /new/usr

So now we have our default Linode Arch installation mounted to /mnt and all our LVM volumes mounted to their respective directories within /new/

Move the Data

We only want to copy here, as we need to keep the files on the original disk temporarily so we can chroot in to it later.

cp -a /mnt/home/* /new/home/
cp -a /mnt/tmp/* /new/tmp/
cp -a /mnt/var/* /new/var/
cp -a /mnt/srv/* /new/srv/
cp -a /mnt/usr/* /new/usr/

Update Arch config files and mkinitcpio

So now that our data has been moved, we just need to update the fstab file in Arch so it will know where to find everything.

mount -o bind /dev /mnt/dev
mount -o bind /sys /mnt/sys
mount -o bind /proc /mnt/proc
chroot /mnt/

We are now inside a chroot environment of our Arch installation (faking that we booted Arch and not Finnix, without actually having to boot Arch). Edit /etc/fstab and add our new mount points:

# LVM Mount Points
/dev/mapper/lvmData-home      /home  ext3   defaults   0 0
/dev/mapper/lvmData-tmp       /tmp   ext3   defaults   0 0
/dev/mapper/lvmData-usr       /usr   ext3   defaults   0 0
/dev/mapper/lvmData-srv       /srv   ext3   defaults   0 0
/dev/mapper/lvmData-var       /var	   ext3   defaults   0 0

Fix rc.conf so Arch know's we're using LVM now. Change USELVM to yes

''Update: The lvm2 package is missing from the Linode Arch image, so you need to exit the chroot, unmount everything in /new to /mnt and then re-enter the chroot to install lvm2:

pacman -Syf lvm2


That's it! Everything should be good to rock'n'roll so we can cleanup and reboot. First, exit our chroot:


Then cleanup the original directories that we've moved to the LVM:

rm -Rf /mnt/home/*
rm -Rf /mnt/tmp/*
rm -Rf /mnt/var/*
rm -Rf /mnt/srv/*
rm -Rf /mnt/usr/*

Don't forget the /* on the end of the rm commands. We only want to remove the contents of the directories, not the directories themselves. Next, we can unmount everything...

umount /mnt/dev
umount /mnt/sys
umount /mnt/proc
umount /mnt
umount /new/home
umount /new/tmp
umount /new/var
umount /new/srv
umount /new/usr
shutdown -r now

Back in the Linode Dashboard, you should be able to boot your Arch Linux configuration and enjoy your new custom partitioning :)