Two Intel NUC servers running Ubuntu

Two Intel NUC servers running Ubuntu

A week or two ago I took the plunge and ordered a pair of Intel NUC systems. Here’s what happened next as I worked to build a pair of Ubuntu servers out of the hardware:

I ordered the components for two Linux servers from Amazon:

  • Intel NUC D54250WYK [$364.99 each]
  • Crucial M500 240 GB mSATA [$119.99 each]
  • Crucial 16GB Kit [$134.99 each]
  • Cables Unlimited 6-Foot Mickey Mouse Power Cord [$5.99 each]

for a total of $625.96 per machine. Because I have a structured wiring system in my apartment I didn’t bother with the wifi card.

Assembly was fast, taking ten or fifteen minutes to open the bottom cover, snap in the RAM and the SSD, and button the machine up again.

Getting Ubuntu installed was rather more work (on an iMac):

Download the Ubuntu image from the Ubuntu site.

Prepare a bootable USB with the server image (used diskutil to learn that my USB stick was on /dev/disk4):

  • hdiutil convert -format UDRW -o ubuntu-14.04-server-amd64.img ubuntu-14.04-server-amd64.iso
  • diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk4
  • sudo dd if=ubuntu-14.04-server-amd64.img.dmg of=/dev/rdisk4 bs=1m
  • diskutil eject /dev/disk4

This then booted on the NUC, and the install went relatively smoothly.

However the system would not boot – did not recognize the SSD as a boot system – after the installation was complete

Did a little searching around and learned that I needed to update the BIOS on the NUC. Downloaded the updated firmware from the Intel site, following a YouTube video from Intel, and applied the new firmware.

Redid the install, which ultimately worked, after one more glitch. The second machine went more smoothly.

Two little Linux boxes now working quite nicely – completely silent, 16G of RAM on each, 240G SSD on each.

They are physically tiny … hard to overemphasize how tiny, but really tiny. They sit on top of my Airport Extreme access point and make it look big.

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Computer scientist born and raised in NYC and living here and raising my family. Working in high tech.

13 thoughts on “Two Intel NUC servers running Ubuntu”

  1. So what was the purpose of the exercise? I mean what do you use them for? Can you link to the YouTube video which shows the firmware update?
    I tried installing Windows 7 from a boot stick but got a blues-screen complaining about the device not being ACPI compatible. I had to adjust the BIOS to choose both legacy and UEFI options on boot but as my preferred OS had to choose Win 7 over Win 8 I’m sure a lot of people get this issue?

    1. The purpose?

      Well, as an old UNIX geek I wanted to have some systems to play on. I wanted to have “enough” that I could keep my sysadmin-at-scale chops going. We now have a total of five machines – our original Dell machine running Ubuntu 12.04 plus four of these little NUC machines.

      In addition, my son has been doing some WordPress consulting (and I do some pro-bono web work as well) and I wanted some Dev servers that we could play on without exposing our screwups to the cold hard Internet.

      Beyond that, in RL I run infrastructure for a midsize firm and I like to keep my hand in so that when people make assertions that I don’t believe I have a way to independently verify technical reality.

      And I wanted to run DNS and DHCP on my home network so that I could stop referring to the printer in the kitchen as and instead call it simply kitchen.

      Plus, it’s sort of cool to have a tiny little data center in my apartment! (OK, I’m an unashamed geek. So sue me.)

      The YouTube video was linked from the Intel site.

      The Google search I used to find it is: “ nuc bios download”

      The page on which I found the YouTube video is:

      The actual video is here:

  2. Do you think these small boxes (Intel NUCs) are powerful enough as LTSP servers (Ubuntu)? Can they power 4~5 thin clients for light development work? I have a bunch of HP T5740s and initially thought Mac Mini maxed out should do but more driver issues and expensive.

    – A geek at heart!

    1. I don’t know much about LTSP, but some casual Googling and reading suggests that each of my configurations is stronger than what at some folks are using to support 20 users. YMMV, of course.

  3. Hi, I’m a bit late to the game but I’m looking to use a NUC as a home server but I’ve read loads of pain about using them ‘headless’. It looks like you’re using (at least one of them) without a monitor. Is that the case?



    1. I’m using them *all* headless. I plug in a keyboard and mouse and use my HD TV via HDMI during initial setup.

      I added two more and got automatic install working (I will post about that) but BIOS update, which you need to do to boot Linux, still needs keyboard and display.

    1. Jiggi,

      If I understand your question, you ask if various services run on Ubuntu on the NUC. As near as I can tell, anything Ubuntu can do, it does on this box. The engine is a bog-standard Core i5, so it does what any comparable Intel machine does.

      It certainly runs Java, Tomcat, MySQL, and PHP.

      I haven’t checked if it runs samba, but I know it runs other file servers (NFS).

      I run them 24×7 and they typically stay up for months at a time … the only time I’ve needed to reboot them is when I apply something that demands a reboot.

      I hope this answers your question.



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