[CentOS] Mass installs of desktop systems on identical machines

Niki Kovacs contact at kikinovak.net
Tue Oct 14 11:44:19 UTC 2008


Hi,

I'm running a small Linux consulting business here in a group of small 
villages in the South of France (http://www.microlinux.fr). I'm using 
CentOS for everything, servers as well as desktops. The desktop installs 
are usually highly customized. My approach is to list the client's 
needs, find the corresponding applications and then install these, to 
avoid the bloat and increase usability. So far, this approach worked 
quite well. One complete install and configuration takes about 4 hours, 
depending on various factors such as bandwidth (internet is not very 
fast in our remote places here) and sometimes exotic hardware that is 
tricky to configure.

Yesterday I had a conversation with the boss of a computer store in 
town. One of his standard PC models (desktop) is an ACER (PIV dual core, 
3 GB RAM, 320 GB HD, ATI card) shipped with Windows Vista, and sold for 
a price of 315 euros. He told me he would be very interested to sell 
these machines with Linux installed, as this would allow him to lower 
the price.

Now I wonder:

1) Say I want to install my own customized version of CentOS on it, I 
usually charge a fixed amount of 240 euros for installing and 
configuring a complete desktop, tailored to the customer's needs 
(average: 4 hours of work = 60 euros / h). But I think that this is not 
what's expected here (neither the price nor the amount of work). How 
would it *technically* be possible to replicate these installs as easily 
as possible? The hardware is always the same, so I wonder: I have a 
vague idea about disk images (to be more precise: I know disk images 
well as far as burning CDs on the commandline is concerned, or when it 
comes to installing an OS in VirtualBox using the .iso)... but is there 
a way to somehow transform an existing install into a disk image, and 
then simply copy these over to all the other machines? (I've never done 
this)

2) Otherwise, go for a more mass-oriented distro like Ubuntu, Mint or 
the likes? What speaks for it: they can be installed very easily, insert 
the CD or the DVD, fill in the form (username, password, hostname, there 
you go). On the other hand, I've always been careful about picking my 
applications in a "best of the breed" way, and I would feel like a 
traditional taylor working for C & A.

3) Let's not forget about the users who are going to buy this. Whereas 
folks can always be expected (more or less) to "administrate" their own 
Ubuntu install, this looks less obvious with CentOS. Or let's say: 
forums.centos.org is not exactly a newbie forum, at least compared to 
Ubuntu. I guess your average newbie will not be very pleased with the 
prevailing tone of competent techno-laconism (compared to Ubuntu or the 
likes).

I'd be curious to read your suggestions about this.

Cheers,

Niki


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