It's a common scenario: you've been given the task of rolling out dozens of Linux boxes, but you'd rather not have to go through the pain of installing every one them manually. Automated installations with Redhat are well documented, but what about Ubuntu?
Ubuntu inherits Debian's ability to preseed the answers to its installation questions, but the instructions for this are rather haphazard and seems to quickly become out of date as newer versions are released.
In this article, we'll look at setting up automated installations for Ubuntu Jaunty, entirely from the network. We'll start out with one assumption however - that the workstation being used has the ability to perform network boots using PXE. Most modern workstations and servers have this feature, which is usually enabled via the BIOS. If your computer doesn't have this, then you will most likely need to initial your boots from a CDROM, floppy disk drive or USB key.
The release of Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake), back in June, brought not only a new desktop system to the Linux world, but also a server system with long-term commercial support. It has one key advantage over similar offerings from Redhat and Novell; the flexibility of the Debian dpkg packaging system.
This was of particular interest to me, as a system administrator who generally installs Debian, if given a choice. One of the annoying problems with Debian has been its potentially short support lifespan; essentially as long as it takes to get two more releases out. Admittedly this hasn't been a real problem, to date, but not having firm dates has been an issue in some environments in which I've worked.
Another was its perceived lack of commercial support, which often made it very difficult to bring into a corporate environment. While I've worked in situations where I had complete authority to use whatever OS I chose, I've also been in workplaces where it has been made clear that Debian simply would not be used, due to the lack of a commercial organisation providing security support.
Ubuntu's server release solves both of these problems, so I installed a copy to see how it held up.
The Ubuntu Linux distribution launched itself into the Linux community only eighteen months ago, and in that short amount of time has managed to gather a considerably large amount of publicity.
The fifth alpha release, Dapper Flight 5, was released on March 10th, 2006; the final release of Ubuntu 6.06, codenamed "Dapper Drake", is expected in June, after founder Mark Shuttleworth recommended a six week delay to iron out usability issues.
This release will be promising considerable more than Ubuntu's earlier releases - making a big grab for the commercial desktop by supporting it for five years. Five years is a long time, and clearly the Ubuntu people want to make sure it's every bit as good as it can be. So how is it stacking up so far?