Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gentoo on a 1&1 vServer

Last update: 2008/04/30

Companies like 1and1 and Strato offer virtual servers based on the Virtuozzo virtualization technology. While these machines are quite cheap and provide a full linux work environment they run SUSE by default. Not my favorite linux distribution...

I was pretty certain that I could also switch the server to Gentoo. But when I asked the customer support they told me that they have no one running Gentoo on any of these machines. And that they would have no clue if that could work.

So I tried and it is definitely possible. Just in case there are others who would like to have a Gentoo vserver on a Virtuozzo system this HowTo will provide some instructions on how to achieve that.

Do I need to give the usual warnings? You'll completely wipe the old system and if something does not work, you will have to reinitialize the server. If you don't want to take that risk, do not continue.

Cleaning up

First you will have to log into your "Virtuozzo Power Panel" in order to switch the system into repair mode. The original system now resides in /repair and you work in a safety mode.

Now log into your system via ssh and make a backup copy the old /etc/mtab (this helps to have a working df command at a later time point, reported by Gian):

cp /repair/etc/mtab /root/mtab.old                                                                                                                                                 

Now remove the old suse system:

cd /repair                                                                                                                                                                         
rm -rf *                                                                                                                                                                           

In case this results in a failure your repair directory might be mounted as read-only (reported by Ulrich):

mount -o remount,rw /repair                                                                                                                                                        

Install the basic Gentoo system

Now (still in /repair) start to download the stage and a portage snapshot from your nearest mirror:

tar xvjpf stage3-*.tar.bz2                                                                                                                                                         
tar xvjf portage-*.tar.bz2 -C /repair/usr                                                                                                                                          
rm stage3-*.tar.bz2 portage-*.tar.bz2                                                                                                                                              

The basic tools are now in place. Next we need the original network information:

cp /etc/resolv.conf /repair/etc/                                                                                                                                                   

In addition copy the original mtab back into place:

cp /root/mtab.old /repair/etc/mtab

And now we can chroot into the new Gentoo environment:

mount -t proc proc /repair/proc/
mount -o bind /dev /repair/dev
chroot /repair                                                                                                                                                                     

Time to fix the timezone information and sync the portage tree:

source /etc/profile                                                                                                                                                                
export PS1="(chroot) $PS1"                                                                                                                                               
cp /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/Berlin /etc/localtime                                                                                                                                
emerge --sync                                                                                                                                                                      

Set a root password:


Please note that this password becomes your new master password for the server!

Optional: Configure a build host

The vServers are not the most powerful machines and they definitely benefit from pulling packages from a central build host. If you have such a machine you should complete your /etc/make.conf with the following variables:

EMERGE_DEFAULT_OPTS=" --usepkg --getbinpkg --getbinpkgonly"

Move to baselayout2

The old baselayout-vserver probably still works but the newer baselayout2 also copes for vServers and I recommend to use it.

First we should ensure that we link to the current Gentoo profile:

rm /etc/make.profile
ln -s ../usr/portage/profiles/default-linux/x86/2007.0 /etc/make.profile

Now we unmask the newer baselayout and the OpenRC package:

echo "sys-apps/baselayout ~x86" >> /etc/portage/package.keywords
echo "sys-apps/openrc ~x86" >> /etc/portage/package.keywords

In case the kernel of the system underlying your virtual server is somewhat older, you should also ensure that you do not use the newer glibc-2.4 and that nptl is disabled:

echo ">sys-libs/glibc-2.5-r4" >> /etc/portage/package.mask
echo "sys-libs/glibc -nptl -nptlonly" >> /etc/portage/package.use
Time to update the system:
emerge -uND world

Configure Gentoo as a virtual server

Now you can configure the network:

emerge iproute2                                                                                                                                                                    
cd /etc/init.d                                                                                                                                                                     
rm net.eth0                                                                                                                                                                        
ln -s net.lo net.venet0                                                                                                                                                            
rc-update add net.venet0 default                                                                                                                                                   
rc-update add net.lo default                                                                                                                                                       

You will need to provide a static definition of your network parameters in /etc/conf.d/net. In order to determine the necessary parameters, follow the steps below:

# ip addr                                                                                                                                                                          
326: lo: <LOOPBACK,UP> mtu 16436 qdisc noqueue                                                                                                                               
    link/loopback 00:00:00:00:00:00 brd 00:00:00:00:00:00                                                                                                                          
    inet brd scope host lo                                                                                                                             
327: venet0: <BROADCAST,POINTOPOINT,NOARP,UP> mtu 1500 qdisc noqueue                                                                                                         
    inet scope host venet0                                                                                                                                            
    inet scope global venet0:0                                                                                                                                    

From the output note the ip of the venet0 adapter. Here it is

Now you need the routing information:

# ip route                                                                                                                                                                 dev venet0  scope link                                                                                                                                    dev lo  scope link                                                                                                                                                     
default via dev venet0                                                                                                                                               

The necessary parameters are the first netmask and the default gateway ( and

Adapt the following settings to your specific parameters and echo it into your network configuration file:

echo '                                                                                                                                                                             

config_venet0=" netmask broadcast"

routes_venet0=" scope link
               default via"

' >> /etc/conf.d/net                                                                                                                                                         

I am not an expert on the network settings and the proper routing on a vserver but these settings did work for me. Please send me a mail if you have suggestions on how to improve the configuration.

Another comment by Ulrich:

I did put spaces between the config_venet0, routes_venet0 and the equal sign. It's not allowed to do so. Adding this as a don't to your explanation might save an hour or two to some guys out there.

Finally you need to add the ssh server to the default services so that you will be able to log into the system:

rc-update add sshd default                                                                                                                                                         

Reboot into Gentoo

Now you should be able to end the repair mode. Log into your Virtuozzo Power Panel, select "Finish repair" and try to log into your vserver via ssh a short while later.


  • 2008/04/30: Included moving to baselayout2


  1. Thanks for this nice howto, worked w/o problems for me.

    While digging through the 1&1 customer mirror I found a gentoo distfile and gentoo-portage rsync mirror! :)


    The hosts seem only to be reachable from 1&1 ranges ..

  2. also thanks from me...

    i was always looking for something like that!!!

    unfortunatelly, for me it doesn't seem to work, because i always get an error telling me i cannot allocate enough memory, which is true. i just wonder why it doesn't seem to use the swap. in your tutorial i haven't found anything concerning swap. do i miss something?



  3. OR you could just move to a provider that offers Gentoo Virtual Private Servers.

  4. @alex: I am using a buildhost structure with the vServers. Otherwise I'd get the same memory problems on the smaller hosts.

    That way I avoid problems with swap and I believe you don't get swap with the vServers from 1&1. But since I rely on my buildhost I was never really pressured into asking them. Maybe it is possible to activate swap somehow.

    @anonmyous: The link is definitely interesting. I always enjoy it to see Gentoo being used in a commercial environment.

    But you must admit that they are extremely expensive. At these rates it quickly becomes worthwhile to convert a cheap vServer to Gentoo yourself.

  5. See and search for 'gentoo', there are some hosting provider which offer gentoo vservers out of the box.

  6. You should do:
    mount -o bind /dev/pts/ dev/pts/
    If you get PTS errors

  7. And don't forget to edit your fstab ;)

  8. I've used this guide for two Hosting Europe servers. With VPS 3.0 SuSE, everything worked fine. With VPS 4.0 Ubuntu, you also had to copy over the /etc/network directory and its content from the rescue/repair system to Gentoo.

    BTW: Don't get confused when the repair systems routing table and network config looks bit confusing (like on loopback and as a second IP for venet0). Just do it as described above.

  9. I managed to do this with a Host Europe virtual server. Like in the comment above, I had to copy over the /etc/network directory, otherwise the system refused to boot.

    It might be worth noting that chrooting to the Gentoo directory and emerging stuff often failed on the rescue system, sometimes it told me that it “Could not allocate memory”, sometimes portage failed with not finding some Python classes without any reasonable explanation for that. In both cases it helped to reboot the rescue system or to just try again at a different time of day, as the rescue system at Host Europe does not seem to run on the same machine as the virtual server usually does (it seems to be a much faster machine but you probably share the memory with more people).

  10. Edit /etc/conf.d/net:
    config_venet0=( "YOUR IP netmask" )
    routes_venet0=( "" "default via" )

    and don't forget:
    ln -s /etc/init.d/net.lo /etc/init.d/net.venet0
    rc-update add net.venet0
    rc-update add sshd
    cp -R /etc/network /repair/etc/

    After that you can start without repair mode and without merging iproute2 so you can avoid out of memory errors.

    This guide seems to be outdated since profile is selected via eselect and openrc and baselayout2 are stable now (distributed with the stage archive).

    Besides I used and no vserver stage which seemed to be outdated, as well.