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posted by LaminatorX on Wednesday March 26 2014, @06:51PM   Printer-friendly
from the Pencils-&-Penguins dept.

Phoenix666 writes:

My daughter attends a small public school in Brooklyn that has asked me to help them figure out the best way to get working computers into the hands of more of their students. They are too small to have their own sysadmin or to be allocated budget to simply buy all new laptops for everyone, and they're so small that they fall far down on the Department of Education's list of priorities.

They do have 50 old Dell laptops running XP that are so full of cruft now as to barely work, so I have suggested loading them up with Ubuntu and a light-weight desktop like XFCE. Installing 50 laptops one-by-one, though, is still a lot of work so I have been exploring doing a mass installation with PXE or Clonezilla.

I haven't attempted anything like this before, so I thought perhaps there are Soylentils who have and could give me a heads-up about potential gotchas they have come across in the past, and which aren't so easy to find via Googling. Ideally I'd like to be able to set aside a Saturday to go in, queue up the machines in the library, and get them chunking through the installation in parallel. Thanks, folks!

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Tork on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:03PM

    by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:03PM (#21666)
    Are they all identical?
    --
    🏳️‍🌈 Proud Ally 🏳️‍🌈
    • (Score: 2) by GungnirSniper on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:09PM

      by GungnirSniper (1671) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:09PM (#21673) Journal

      How much does that matter on current distros of Linux or even Windows 7? Last time I did cloning, it mattered down to chipset level. :(

      • (Score: 5, Informative) by Tork on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:18PM

        by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:18PM (#21684)
        Dell laptops vary so much on a monthly basis that chipsets could very well be different. It's a fair question.
        --
        🏳️‍🌈 Proud Ally 🏳️‍🌈
        • (Score: 4, Informative) by fliptop on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:29PM

          by fliptop (1666) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:29PM (#21693) Journal

          Dell laptops vary so much on a monthly basis

          Agreed, there have been times when I thought Dell never makes the same laptop twice. Identical models can have different wireless NIC's, hard drives, and yes, chipsets. In fact, the only parts you can reliably assume are the same are the keyboard, battery and screen.

          --
          Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
          • (Score: 5, Informative) by melikamp on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:59PM

            by melikamp (1886) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:59PM (#21716) Journal
            I concur. I went through this when trying to buy a Linux-compatible laptop from them. Dell themselves can't tell which chipsets are in use.
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by fliptop on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:05PM

    by fliptop (1666) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:05PM (#21668) Journal

    They do have 50 old Dell laptops running XP

    If that's the case you'd better do hardware tests 1st. I've found the Ultimate Boot CD [ultimatebootcd.com] very helpful and it may have all the software you need. I usually run Seatools on the hard drive and Memtest86+ on the RAM.

    If it all checks out ok, and the hardware is similar, you can then use the CopyWipe clone tool after you finish your 1st install of Ubuntu (or whatever).

    --
    Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @09:03PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @09:03PM (#21751)

      It's useful to have that kind of stuff on a PXE boot menu, at least memtest86. I did not know that Seatools was useful for some checks (do you do something in particular with it, or just read SMART information?)

      Those utilities and many other come on .img files, floppy disk images. PXE can load memdisk which can load one of them. If you set up a menu (which can be crude : just display a list of options and you type what you want to run and hit return) you can boot from the network and have the choice of running memtest, seatools, a DOS boot floppy, debian and ubuntu installers for multiple versions, sbm (tool for booting arbitrary local drive or media), a command-line "linux rescue" that runs in ramdrive and was specially pacakged to load over PXE (if you can find one)

      It's much better than a CD, since you don't even need to carry the CD around (and burn it) and failed or missing optical drives (as well as BIOS unable to boot a USB thumb drive) aren't a concern.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by fliptop on Wednesday March 26 2014, @09:32PM

        by fliptop (1666) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @09:32PM (#21762) Journal

        I did not know that Seatools was useful for some checks (do you do something in particular with it, or just read SMART information?)

        If the hard drive controller is recognized (which it sometimes is not), Seatools can be used to do a surface test on a hard drive to locate bad sectors and other errors. It works on any brand of hard drive. It's the 1st thing I do when I get a computer on the bench, because there's no point in trying to fix anything if the hard drive is (going) bad.

        In the event the controller is not recognized, I usually pull the hard drive and plug it into a desktop I keep for that purpose (and also for cloning). It has a motherboard w/ both IDE and SATA connectors.

        --
        Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
        • (Score: 2) by davester666 on Thursday March 27 2014, @05:47AM

          by davester666 (155) on Thursday March 27 2014, @05:47AM (#21937)

          So, for the guy posting the question, your responses are, well, useless. Or rather, they amount to, no, you can't mass install Ubuntu, you need to disassemble EVERY SINGLE LAPTOP, verify that the components are the same or not [i guess, try to put them in piles where the laptops use the same components, hope he doesn't wind up with 50 piles], and then figure out which ones will actually run Ubuntu.

          Who doesn't think Open Source is fun.

          • (Score: 2) by nukkel on Thursday March 27 2014, @11:31AM

            by nukkel (168) on Thursday March 27 2014, @11:31AM (#21991)

            Fair enough, but what else is he going to do when faced with 50 different laptops each of which may or may not be working compeletely or partially.

            I guess he could mass-install anyway and then weed out the bad ones...

            • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Thursday March 27 2014, @02:12PM

              by Phoenix666 (552) on Thursday March 27 2014, @02:12PM (#22054) Journal

              This is the sort of thing I was asking about. In my mind's eye I pictured setting up 50 laptops on big tables in the school library, setting them to netboot from the BIOS, and then walking down a line clicking OK 50 times over and over. Running disk checks is a good idea, and it means another iteration I need to budget time for. I haven't seen all the machines yet but take it for granted that it's a heterogeneous mix. In the end I'm trying to ballpark the time/space I need to do it, and I'd like to get it done as smoothly as possible. Through the PTA I've been championing the idea of raising the school's profile by starting a makerspace, implementing Coding in Schools, and participating in programs like Dean Kamen's FIRST, but I see this first effort as a confidence building measure.

              Thanks for the comments and thoughts, guys.

              --
              Washington DC delenda est.
  • (Score: 5, Informative) by dotdotdot on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:07PM

    by dotdotdot (858) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:07PM (#21670)

    I setup a FOG server [fogproject.org] to do something like this last year. It's pretty straight forward. Here [spiceworks.com] is a basic tutorial.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by coolgoob on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:45PM

      by coolgoob (822) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:45PM (#21707)

      I would second FOG. It works wonderfully for what you are looking to do. You could also combine that with the memtest recommendation above. Have a memtest boot off of PXE using fog and then do the installation.
      You could set this up where if a machine needed re-imaged all the teachers or others would need is a password.

      • (Score: 1) by NeoNormal on Wednesday March 26 2014, @08:31PM

        by NeoNormal (2516) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @08:31PM (#21734)

        I would "third" FOG. We use it in our organization to great success.

    • (Score: 2) by Popeidol on Thursday March 27 2014, @06:01AM

      by Popeidol (35) on Thursday March 27 2014, @06:01AM (#21939) Journal

      +1 for FOG. You build the image you want on one computer, PXE boot it into fog, and upload the image. Then you PXE boot the other computers and pull it down. You can track everything through the web interface, and it lets you set up different groups - in your case it might be for different hardware configurations or for different computer labs.

      It also lets you batch deploy new images to existing hosts. You could skip running individual updates on each machine, run them once on your master, and then push it out to everybody overnight.

      The most labour-intensive part is adding each host to the FOG server, after that it's a breeze.

      • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Thursday March 27 2014, @02:18PM

        by Phoenix666 (552) on Thursday March 27 2014, @02:18PM (#22057) Journal

        Thanks, guys, this sounds quite workable for the situation.

        --
        Washington DC delenda est.
  • (Score: 4, Informative) by tynin on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:12PM

    by tynin (2013) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:12PM (#21675) Journal

    Setup a kickstart server [redhat.com]. Boot them up and select which ever OS you have configured to get installed (or define a default to take), and walk away for a few minutes.

    • (Score: 1) by dublet on Wednesday March 26 2014, @08:03PM

      by dublet (2994) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @08:03PM (#21719)

      This, very much this. Once you have the basic configuration set up, it's so easy to replicated. I used it in a previous job where one of my many duties was deploying installs on new machines for a turn key software/hardware solution. Being able to configure the kickstart with the appropriate rpms meant it was a piece of cake as took almost no time at all.

  • (Score: 2) by marcello_dl on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:31PM

    by marcello_dl (2685) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:31PM (#21695)

    If you have sysadmin skill try aptosid or siduction. They are debian bleeding edge, rolling release *check before update and do it with X taken down*, but aptosid/siduction install in 1.5 to 5 mins depending on hardware. Then a local cache of packages is needed. Aptosid is outdated until a new iso ships.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:33PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:33PM (#21698)

    I have suggested loading them up with Ubuntu and a light-weight desktop like XFCE

    How about Debian and XFCE? Ubuntu has been going downhill for a while, and giving kids Ubuntu will further train them that being spied-upon is normal and acceptable, due to Ubuntu's past and ongoing practices. Since Ubuntu is based on Debian there shouldn't be any issue learning Debian if you're not already familiar with it.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @08:49PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @08:49PM (#21743)

      Debian is good, I have it running on a special laptop that is slower than anything else, with LXDE ; but I needed to download a .deb for the wifi's firmware manually and sudo dpkg -i (after installing from the .iso put on USB stick)

      It's better to install it from PXE booting (with wired networking), and the installer can actually offer you the option of enabing non free firmware if it is connected to the internet.

      Set up a proxy and use it when installing ; maybe just a squid with gigabytes of cache is enough to not download the same packages over and over again? else there are more specific proxy solutions or even cloning the whole debian repository (all + i386 architectures) if you can download ~200GB or more over ipv6.

      An issue is the default debian desktop is Gnome 3, which is too heavy and "3D accelerated" (that means decelerated on random old hardware) so you would need to install it command-line only and then apt-get a big list of packages, like running these commands : su ; cd ; scp blah@192.168.0.1:packages_list . ; apt-get install `cat packages_list`

      So you might as well use Ubuntu 12.04, which has the very same PXE installer and is used much the same as debian.. You can select the Xubuntu desktop during installation.

      • (Score: 0) by crutchy on Wednesday March 26 2014, @08:52PM

        by crutchy (179) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @08:52PM (#21745) Homepage Journal

        can easily override default desktop to xfce at start of debian installer

      • (Score: 5, Informative) by stderr on Wednesday March 26 2014, @09:56PM

        by stderr (11) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @09:56PM (#21773) Journal

        ... but I needed to download a .deb for the wifi's firmware manually and sudo dpkg -i (after installing from the .iso put on USB stick)

        You know there are unofficial install CDs with the non-free firmware blobs, right?

        Set up a proxy and use it when installing ; maybe just a squid with gigabytes of cache is enough to not download the same packages over and over again?

        I doubt you would need "gigabytes of cache". You don't really need to download that much.

        else there are more specific proxy solutions...

        ... like approx, apt-cacher or apt-cacher-ng.

        ... or even cloning the whole debian repository (all + i386 architectures) if you can download ~200GB or more over ipv6.

        A full Debian mirror would be totally overkill for most sane people and I have no idea why you even mentioned IPv6?

        An issue is the default debian desktop is Gnome 3, which is too heavy and "3D accelerated" (that means decelerated on random old hardware) so you would need to install it command-line only and then apt-get a big list of packages, like running these commands : su ; cd ; scp blah@192.168.0.1:packages_list . ; apt-get install `cat packages_list`

        No, no, no, no, NO!... That's not how you should set up and clone a Debian system to another box. For example, where did you get the packages_list from? Did you make it by hand? And what about the rest of the configuration, like the network settings, what mirrors to use and the timezone?

        A better way would be something like:

        First you select xfce during the initial install, so that's taken care of and Gnome won't be installed.

        Second you install debconf-utils and run dpkg --get-selections > packages.txt ; debconf-get-selections > debconf.txt on the box, thereby getting a list of the installed packages and their configuration.

        On the other boxes, you make a minimal install and copy packages.txt and debconf.txt to each of them.

        (If you want to, you can run dpkg --clear-selections, but I doubt it's needed and in case of very different hardware, you probably want to avoid it. The command will make the box forget about the state of all packages, but won't actually uninstall anything.)

        Then you run debconf-set-selections < debconf.txt ; dpkg --set-selections < packages.txt ; apt-get dselect-upgrade on the boxes. This will first configure all the packages (installed or about to be installed) the same way as on the original box, then tell the system about which packages to install and then finally install them.

        Keep the packages.txt and debconf.txt around in case one of the machines needs to be reinstalled later.

        --
        alias sudo="echo make it yourself #" # ... and get off my lawn!
    • (Score: 1) by xorsyst on Thursday March 27 2014, @10:43AM

      by xorsyst (1372) on Thursday March 27 2014, @10:43AM (#21975)

      I recently switched from Ubuntu to Mint for my test VMs, and I find Mint w/ XFCE to be an excellent choice.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by VLM on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:33PM

    by VLM (445) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:33PM (#21699)

    Do you have a package cache for Debian (or whatever) and/or at least a http cache? 50 installs completing will result in 50 simultaneous security updates, so a decent cache could cut your total used bandwidth by a factor of about 50. Just thinking ahead a little.

    An obvious question is what are they going to actually use the laptops for? My kids school seems to use google docs as the "office software" of choice and for file sharing, so you may as well install chrome while you're at it. And flash player.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by canopic jug on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:37PM

      by canopic jug (3949) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:37PM (#21702) Journal

      Apt-Cacher or Apt-Cache-ng would be very, very useful. If you are on a 1GB LAN, then you get full LAN speeds for every installation after the first one.

      --
      Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
    • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Thursday March 27 2014, @02:25PM

      by Phoenix666 (552) on Thursday March 27 2014, @02:25PM (#22063) Journal

      I haven't gotten to survey all the machines yet, but it being the Department of Education and the school being small with outdated machines and software, I'm surmising much of what they need to do is online, which linux can handle, and some of it will be pet programs to teach the alphabet, math, and that sort of thing. The latter I'm thinking I can set them up to run in WINE or some such if they're really attached to it. Else, I'll argue for open source equivalents installable from the usual repositories.

      --
      Washington DC delenda est.
      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Friday March 28 2014, @12:36PM

        by VLM (445) on Friday March 28 2014, @12:36PM (#22478)

        Ah well what I was getting at tangentially is the kids probably need different software depending on local requirements. A great job for an automation system like Puppet.

        So R, Pari/GP and Octave are probably not in much demand for 2nd grade compared to the pre-calc class in high school, of course I bet chrome and flashplayer are in near universal demand.

        There are automation systems other than Puppet. If puppet didn't exist, I'd be forced to invent it, probably poorly.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by randmcnatt on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:36PM

    by randmcnatt (671) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:36PM (#21700)
    FAI [fai-project.org] sounds like the sort of thing you are looking for, although you may have to wipe xp first.
    --
    The Wright brothers were not the first to fly: they were the first to land.
  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by pjbgravely on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:47PM

    by pjbgravely (1681) <{pjbgravely} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:47PM (#21710) Homepage
    I would install on one box, get everything working perfectly. Set up a local ubuntu repository in a small dedicated server. Point the install to that and check updating. Set up automatic updating and a user account. Lock down sudo account. Set up shh with a key

    Use a cloning tool and put the clone onto each machine. Change IP address and host name and the box is good to go. If you want to add software add it to your repository and change the xfce desktop .apt file to add your program change up a point. The next time the machine updates it will automatically install.
  • (Score: 5, Informative) by pendorbound on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:53PM

    by pendorbound (2688) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:53PM (#21714) Homepage

    Given that this is a school environment, I have a feeling that on-going control of the systems (IE for patching, installing new software, etc.) may be desirable in addition to simply imaging them and throwing them into the wild.

    I've recently run an install at work for 25 Linux desktops using Foreman and Puppet. Foreman provides a DHCP/DNS/PXE boot environment that all of the machines connect to for their initial boot up as well as a Puppet ENC for on-going maintenance. It uses various Linux distro's network scripted install process to run an initial installation, then relies on Puppet for continued monitoring and configuration of the systems. Foreman supports Redhat & derivatives, Debian/Ubuntu, and SuSE as the host operating system. It provides install script templates for those distro's various net install processes which include installing & configuring Puppet as the final step. After that, the machines boot normally (locally, not PXE), and check-in hourly to the puppet master to retrieve updated configurations, report any unauthorized deviations in configuration, etc.

    We've had the configuration in service for about three months now, and it's worked out great for us. As new software packages are required, we push them out via Puppet. Several occasions where we've found configuration issues that might have necessitated visiting a bunch of PC's manually or providing instructions to everyone on how to fix their own machines have been quickly remedied with a Puppet manifest change and all's well in 30 minutes or less.

    Info about Foreman is here: http://theforeman.org/ [theforeman.org]

    For what it's worth, we ended up *not* using the DNS or DHCP capabilities since we already had those in our infrastructure which weren't vendors Foreman can control directly (nor would organizational boundaries have lent to that happening anyways). Instead, our DHCP admins manually setup PXE boot entries for the MAC addresses of our machines (two entries for 25 machines, took them a few minutes), and we were ready to go from there.

    Total install per machine ended up being a bit under an hour (we push a LOT of development software like Eclipse, Oracle, etc. as part of the process), and we ended up running them in batches of 10 at a time, mostly because that's how many KVM ports we had available. The server wasn't taxed in the least at that level, and I suspect we could have run all 25 at once without any trouble.

    To be clear, Foreman/Puppet only get you part way in terms of configuring your systems robustly enough for a bunch of people to start using them. We had to write Puppet manifests to push antivirus software and configure it to use a virus def local mirror, to enable Ubuntu's automatic updates process, and report back on machines that have pending updates not yet applied. The benefit is that we figure out how to do that kind of stuff once, write the Puppet manifest to apply it, and sit back while 25 minutes get the config applied automatically.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by toygeek on Wednesday March 26 2014, @08:09PM

    by toygeek (28) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @08:09PM (#21723) Homepage

    Consider this my Official recommendation for #! linux. If you can do one install and customize it and then distribute it, it'll serve you well. I am currently running it on a Compaq V5000 laptop, Celeron 1.46 with 1.5GB memory. It runs *great*. You can read my overview of it here:

    http://www.tidbitsfortechs.com/2014/02/project-505 0-conclusion/ [tidbitsfortechs.com]

    I have $100 into this laptop including a $40 battery, and its runs great even for the work stuff I need to do (which isn't minimal). #! has proven itself to be a great OS for this older machine. My boot time to a web page is just over 60 seconds. Check it out!

    http://crunchbanglinux.org/ [crunchbanglinux.org]

    --
    There is no Sig. Okay, maybe a short one. http://miscdotgeek.com
  • (Score: 5, Informative) by NCommander on Wednesday March 26 2014, @08:46PM

    by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Wednesday March 26 2014, @08:46PM (#21741) Homepage Journal

    The problem with doing mass deployment is some internal aspects will get copied across machines. If you setup something like sshd, then clone, every machine will have to same host key and such. This is a main reason I dislike clone based deployments because it can be tricky to eliminate all the specific machine based aspects. This gets more complicated because you have a lot of different hardware which means things like paritioning and such will be different machine to machine which means you image based deployment. If you want to look into this route, then create an OEM install from CD, do an OEM installation, then generate a clonezila image from it. OEM's firstrun script is pretty decent at scraping out user specific bits, but its not perfect.

    The biggest gotcha here is you need to make sure all machines are BIOS booting, with no UEFI (some of those laptops can have UEFI firmware, UEFI been around for a *long* time), and that you use a 32-bit only setup.

    That being said, you're best bet in my professional experience (and I deal w/ mass deployment for a living) is to leverage preseeding, and the netboot installer. Ubuntu has an OEM install which is exactly what you want, after deployment, it will run a first launch wizard to create the initial user, home folder, etc. I've never tried to fire oem-setup out of the preseed file so this might be more complicated than it appears at first glance.

    This has the added advantage of making sure system updates are installed on the fly at upgrade time, instead of dealing with an increasely stale image, and (for the most part) preseeds are compatible between various versions of Ubuntu, so when 14.04 LTS drops down the shoot, it should just be a matter of setting up the 14.04 netboot installer with the same preseed and clicking run, as well as allowing machines that are 64-bit capable to get 64-bit software, and 32-bit only to only get 32-bit only.

    Ubuntu preseeding is documented here: https://help.ubuntu.com/lts/installation-guide/i38 6/preseed-intro.html [ubuntu.com]

    OEM installation information here is here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Ubuntu_OEM_Insta ller_Overview [ubuntu.com]

    The actual command that needs to be run is: oem-config-prepare (http://manpages.ubuntu.com/manpages/precise/man8/ oem-config-prepare.8.html)

    Incidentally, I'm NYC-based (in Manhattan) for the moment. While I can't make any promises, spending an afternoon getting this worked out over a weekend sounds like an enjoyable side project.

    --
    Still always moving
  • (Score: 5, Informative) by kstox on Wednesday March 26 2014, @09:10PM

    by kstox (2066) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @09:10PM (#21754)

    Quick, easy, flexible. http://drbl.org/ [drbl.org] I have done Call Centers with hundreds of clients with this.

  • (Score: 2) by Nobuddy on Wednesday March 26 2014, @11:37PM

    by Nobuddy (1626) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @11:37PM (#21820)

    Gods, I love linux. The question is not "is it possible". Of course it is. the question is "Which solution works best for this."

  • (Score: 2, Informative) by calmond on Wednesday March 26 2014, @11:41PM

    by calmond (1826) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @11:41PM (#21824)

    While it is probably not the best way to go, you can actually image a computer with just ssh. Boot a live cd on the target system, and run this command:

    ssh root@sourcesystem dd if=/dev/sda | dd of=/dev/sda

    You can image one, then two, then four, etc. and depending on the network, have it done in an afternoon or two.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by KiloByte on Thursday March 27 2014, @05:41AM

      by KiloByte (375) on Thursday March 27 2014, @05:41AM (#21936)

      dd-ing a whole drive that's only 1% full is a major waste of time, though.

      --
      Ceterum censeo systemd esse delendam.
      • (Score: 1) by calmond on Friday March 28 2014, @12:47PM

        by calmond (1826) on Friday March 28 2014, @12:47PM (#22481)

        No doubt - that's why I mentioned that it probably isn't the best way to do it - but it is a nice trick to know!

  • (Score: 1) by Subsentient on Thursday March 27 2014, @12:41AM

    by Subsentient (1111) on Thursday March 27 2014, @12:41AM (#21842) Homepage Journal

    Build a busybox installer CD that downloads a squashfs image that has the preconfigured distro, creates a filesystem and copies it over, installs EXTLINUX, sets up the hostname after copy, etc, and unmounts. I have such a CD if you want it.

    --
    "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." -Jiddu Krishnamurti
  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by jackb_guppy on Thursday March 27 2014, @12:51AM

    by jackb_guppy (3560) on Thursday March 27 2014, @12:51AM (#21845)

    Ask for help and man power. Yes, there are a lot of solutions to this, but modt likely a local LUG alright has solved parts of this.

    When I was involved with local installfests, we had a server, network and cards (remember ISA bus??) to load pc from/with. We even gave the ISA NIC away. Worked great and no CD to spin. The last net install I did was with redhat, a few years ago using a diskette to boot the box. Though now with thumb-drives, would be just as quick.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 27 2014, @06:09AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 27 2014, @06:09AM (#21940)

      This. Find out what talent exists locally and use all available resources.

      FTFS: They are too small to have their own sysadmin

      Blogger and Linux advocate Robert Pogson taught high school in the Great White North in one of the poorest communities north of the Rio Grande.

      He started with a pile of disused Lose95 boxes infected to the gunwales, without a COA anywhere to be found, zero budget, and with no Linux experience.
      The cost of shipping anything to that remote area was ridiculously expensive.
      Your situation can't possibly be any worse.

      One thing he found was that every year there were a few kids who wanted to learn even more than the basics.
      He channeled that energy and that made his workload lighter.
      M$ teaches dependency--specifically corporate dependency; don't fall into that trap and don't teach the kids that.

      -- gewg_

  • (Score: 1) by cbiltcliffe on Thursday March 27 2014, @02:40AM

    by cbiltcliffe (1659) on Thursday March 27 2014, @02:40AM (#21881)

    Your suggestion of Clonezilla is a good one.
    There are mentions of testing RAM and hard drives, which is also a good idea; but you don't need SeaTools, etc to do it.
    Clonezilla includes Memtest, and you can get to a command prompt, too.
    Burn a dozen or so copies of Clonezilla, and set up a decent machine as a server.
    Boot each laptop, test with Memtest. When it's finished, reboot into Clonezilla, get to the command prompt, and do a "dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/null bs=4096" That'll do the equivalent of a full read scan on the HD. If it errors out (make sure you don't use dd_rescue; just dd) then the drive is failing.
    Do a full install with updates on a single laptop. Configure everything you need, including user accounts, desktop options, etc. I'd recommend running sshd, too, and configuring it for remote management.
    Finally, use Clonezilla to image this to the server.
    Now, you can boot a dozen laptops and start applying this image to them.
    Write a script that sets the hostname to something that is either randomly generated, based on the MAC address, or whatever unique thing you want to name it to. You can either set this to run on the first bootup, or use it remotely from your server through ssh.

    Unless you're installing a lot of software and your image is pretty big, you probably won't be able to do more than a dozen or so at once, as they'll be finished one step before you've got the rest of them going on it, so a 16 port switch to run this on should be enough.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 27 2014, @03:10AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 27 2014, @03:10AM (#21894)

    This would be a good time to not just provide computers for them, but to help the students develop valuable technical skills. You could select a number of interested students and train them on how to do install the install. That knowledge could also be used to have them re-image the computers on a periodic basis to keep them clean and well configured.

    If some of the kids do well at it they may become interested in providing technical support and learning more about the systems they are using, a gateway drug to potentially valuable skills.

  • (Score: 1) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 27 2014, @04:21AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 27 2014, @04:21AM (#21920)

    dunno.
    apply for 50 kids and 2 hours (?) of curriculum time.
    get a 50 port switch and one "server" with samba / tftpd / dhcp.
    start lessons on net-installing a computer operating system?

  • (Score: 1) by lajos on Thursday March 27 2014, @04:55AM

    by lajos (528) on Thursday March 27 2014, @04:55AM (#21928)

    Installing is one thing. You could make an image that fits the smallest of HDDs and dd those onto all the other machines from a gparted live cd.

    Then you'll have to go through each of them and make sure at least the wifi and ethernet works (you'll probably find at least 10 different wifi cards in that many laptops).

    Up to this point it will take you several days, especially on old slow hardware.

    But what happens after that? Who's gonna administer those 50 laptops?

    • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Thursday March 27 2014, @02:41PM

      by Phoenix666 (552) on Thursday March 27 2014, @02:41PM (#22073) Journal

      I share your caution. I have general notions of doing the install, setting update to automatic, handing root to the music teacher who doubles as their de facto sysadmin, and parachuting in as needed when he gets in over his head. There's a broader picture, though. My daughter is in pre-K at the school, which is down the block from us. It has been traditionally neglected by the Dept. of Education because it is small, in a neighborhood that was always populated with poorer families/demographics. Now it is in the middle of half a dozen high-end residential high-rises in the hottest family-oriented neighborhood in NYC. So there's an opportunity to remake the place into a kick-ass STEM-focused wunderkind that will set my daughter and son (a year behind her) up for permanent academic success. So the mass installation is a confidence-building measure that will help me make the case for doing much, much more. I have dreams of getting Raspberry Pi's into the hands of every kid and teaching them to code with Scratch, of Arduino-based robotics and interactive features in the school, and basically turning it into a wonderland of STEM that the kids are clamoring to get to every day.

      --
      Washington DC delenda est.
  • (Score: 2) by Jaruzel on Thursday March 27 2014, @01:11PM

    by Jaruzel (812) on Thursday March 27 2014, @01:11PM (#22022) Homepage Journal

    Pick any installation method from the above comments. That's the easy bit.

    It gets hard when you realise that all kids have this innate and almost magical ability to completely f*ck up any computer within 5 minutes of touching the mouse.

    What you have to plan for is the quick and easy re-imaging of EACH box, at any time, and by any one.

    If you go the route of a central distribtuon server (or even if you dont), I seriously recommend a clone image of EACH laptop on large HDD somewhere, preferably easy to get to (maybe bootable), with a nice menu so that even a numpty can re-install 'LAPTOP-nn's personal image if they need to.

    Trust me, if you don't do something like this, you'll never get your life back, and you can kiss goodbye to every free Saturday you have from now until eternity.

    -Jar

    --
    This is my opinion, there are many others, but this one is mine.
  • (Score: 1) by youngatheart on Thursday March 27 2014, @02:38PM

    by youngatheart (42) on Thursday March 27 2014, @02:38PM (#22069)

    I try to keep a copy of Trinity Rescue Kit from http://trinityhome.org/ [trinityhome.org] around because it's useful for a variety of things. Last time I had cloning to do, I tried it because it was already handy. It made the job easy. Some of our machines wouldn't netboot, so I had to burn extra CDs, and in the end just started that way because it was faster than netbooting. It is easy, runs from bootable CDs and doesn't (necessarily need to) copy empty sectors.

  • (Score: 1) by resignator on Thursday March 27 2014, @03:39PM

    by resignator (3126) on Thursday March 27 2014, @03:39PM (#22090)

    Burn a few live CDs or USB boot your favorite linux distro and test the machines first. You dont want to find out 5-10 of those computers wont play nice after you have committed yourself.

    Pick a live distro:
    Knoppix -http://knoppix.net/ [knoppix.net] - optimized for speed and uses some default Debian apps

    #! -http://crunchbang.org/ [crunchbang.org] - optimized for speed and uses some default Debian apps

    Ubuntu -http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop/try-ubuntu -before-you-install [ubuntu.com] - too bloated for my tastes but it makes windows users feel at home

    Debian -http://www.debian.org/CD/live/ [debian.org] - I typically go this route. Openbox, Thunar, and tint2 or xfce4-panel make for a great desktop environment that is fast and lightweight. You can even use Remastersys once you have it set the way you like and create your own custom live cd.

  • (Score: 2) by redneckmother on Saturday June 21 2014, @02:55PM

    by redneckmother (3597) on Saturday June 21 2014, @02:55PM (#58417)

    Looks like I am tardy - I usually was in high school, too...

    You may wish to investigate K12Linux at some point https://fedorahosted.org/k12linux/ [fedorahosted.org] - it is reported to have saved money for many schools. I tried to get the local folks interested in it, but they have big bucks (Texas oil), and are joined at the you-know with M$.

    --
    Mas cerveza por favor.