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Unattended Ubuntu installations made easy

Jun 29, 2010, 16:02 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Michael Reed)

[ Thanks to Linux User & Developer magazine for this link. ]

"In creating Ubuntu Linux, Canonical has focused on ease of use, and this extends to the install procedure. To this end, Ubuntu eschewed many of the detailed questions that had discouraged potential Linux users of an earlier era. However, despite relative improvements in that area, the installation is still peppered with questions. This means that an admin tasked with the deployment of more than three or four computers is doomed to spend an entire morning dashing around, typing in responses to the same questions over and over again.

"Fortunately, there is a solution in the form of unattended installs. An admin can alter a standard Linux distribution so that it no longer asks the user questions while installing. Obviously, the installer will need the information that it normally acquires by prompting the user for details, and the trick is to provide this information in advance in the form of what is called an 'answer file'. It's possible to divide automated installs into two main categories: customised CD-ROM and network installation. Both approaches have their relative strengths and weaknesses.

"As with most things on Linux, there is more than one system that you can choose from, but we're going to use something called Kickstart. Kickstart is an automatic install system that started life on Red Hat-derived Linux distributions, but it's supported on Ubuntu. It comes with a GUI tool to create the configuration file, making it very simple to use. Let's start with a quick breakdown of its core settings…"

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