On Thu, 31 Jan 2002, Chris Howells wrote:
It's a long story, but basically I have been
increasing annoyed with
RM recently. Therefore, I would like to create a Linux distribution
which works in a similair manner to RM connect. What do people think
of these proposals?
Not sure that any of us have the resources to create a distro, even if we
all combine. Our preferred approach is to customise existing distros (in
our case, Mandrake, for now).
I wasn't going to put this on public release yet, but take a look at
- it's the in-progress design
document for FenConfig. A brief summary:
'FenConfig is a flexible system configuration tool for enterprise-class
networks. It allows you to create "configuration rule sets" which can be
applied to any set of configuration files (including application
configuration files). Configuration can be hierarchical, so that a
configuration rule set could apply to a single computer or an arbitrarily
large group of computers. The goal of FenConfig is to ease the
administrative burden of maintaining large groups of computers. In an
ideal world, the difference between maintaining one computer and
maintaining an enterprise-wide network of five thousand computers should
be barely noticeable.'
A few of the features:
o Allows installation of workstations with only a floppy disk and two
keypresses (the two keypresses are required only as a safety check). No
further manual intervention required.
o For all servers other than the first: allows installation of servers
with only a floppy disk and about 10 keypresses. No further manual
o Uses RCS: all configuration files are version-controlled so there is a
clear audit trail and it is possible to revert the configuration to any
previous point in time.
o All configuration is hierarchical and group-based. It will be possible
to delegate responsibility for configuration. As a very simple example:
you could specify a site-wide browser home page within your
configuration rule set but allow department heads to alter the home page
for people logging on to computers in their department. You can do this
*without* allowing them to alter anything else (e.g. proxy settings!).
o Will work alongside almost any existing configuration tools. If you
like SWAT then use SWAT to design your configuration and FenConfig to
distribute it sensibly around the network.
Although the design document is incomplete beyond the specification, the
code has passed proof of concept stage and is nearing alpha release.
You might find this tool helpful; it's a lot easier to take a 'standard'
distro and reconfigure it than it is to repackage everything with your
desired configuration. :-)
A few answers to some specific points:
By simply booting a machine with a boot floppy, it
should be easy to
install Linux on to the macine, after just asking a few questions such
as the hostname to use, and the kind of mouse that the box has.
Use DHCP wherever possible. There is, from long experience, a *big*
difference between an automation system that requires one user interaction
per computer and an automation system that requires zero user interactions
A Linux distribution based on Red Hat 7.2 would be created. The main
reason that Red Hat is suggested is because it can be installed based
around the Kickstart installation system, which enables an
administrator to stored the installer settings in a configuration
file, rather than needing to sit in front of the computer and tend to
the the installation every time a question is asked.
Kickstart is nowhere near flexible enough to be relied upon as a primary
distribution method. Believe me; we have tried this type of method for
some time and it is not adequate to the task. Essentially, it comes down
to a concept flaw shared by many, many systems (including some that I have
written myself): there is a reliance upon a known initial state.
On the server side, CUPS would be used for the
printing system and all
machines will have ext3 formatted hard discs.
* Have a central administration databases where:
- User names and groups are managed
- Print and disc quotas are managed
- Software can be allocated to a machine/group of machines
- The central configuration files are located
If any configuration files (e.g. /etc/host or similair) have been modified,
the updated versions would be downloaded. Perhaps CVS could be used here.
* A database such as NIS would probably be used for the administrative
LDAP is more flexible, has many desirable side-benefits and (in theory)
interoperable with Win2K.
It will also be possible to define the desktop menus
(e.g. KMenu) that
will appear on the user's desktop. This will be based around .desktop
files, and a utility will convert these files to Blackbox menus so
that the menu is kept consistent between different desktops.
The Debian menu system (also integrated into Mandrake and probably a few
other distros) will keep all window manager menus synchronised. Well
worth a look.
Best of luck!