[conspire] (real) Installfest in a Box

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon Jun 15 16:09:12 PDT 2009

Quoting Grant Bowman (grantbow at gmail.com):

> Rick,
> The idea you mentioned on Sunday at the table at
> http://www.berkeleylug.com struck a chord.  Can you outline this idea?

Probably later when I have time.

The idea came out of observing what goes wrong at many install events 
(and I'm as guilty of this as anyone, some plans to improve the
situation at CABAL having been temporarily shelved after ending up with
dramatically less hard disk space than I used to, plus a truly
regrettable Apple WAP-based NAT network compared to what we used to have
with the Linux-based "kitchen network" at the old hose).

People used to come to our old house and I'd often have to coax them into 
connecting to the wired network -- and then walk them through setup of
static IP.  So, the first step was going to be establishing ISC DHCPD on
the installfest LAN.  

Second, I observed that installation CD/DVD media ended up being a
limited resource, and attendees actually ended up _waiting_ for other
attendees to finish with them -- really silly, given that _both_
attendees could have had much faster and easier installations, if only
they'd been doing _network_ installations (http, NFS, ftp, whatever)
instead of fighting over media.

(I pointed this fact out at a LUG meeting, once, and a guy decided to 
"fix the problem" by NFS-sharing /dev/cdrom.  So close, and yet so far.)

So, the second level of the solution, then, becomes supplementing the
dhcpd with PXE services and other aspects of network installation -- and
http would be more than sufficient.

Which then brings up the third layer I'd want to add:  People should by
default, upon connecting their machines to the installfest LAN and
dhcp'ing, be able to see on their Web browsers a set of information 
Web pages about whatever installation options (distros, whatever) are 
offered -- attempting to answer their questions about why they might
wish to install one rather than the other.  You inevitably would not 
be able to answer all likely questions (not to mention the problem of
people not bothering to read what's in front of them), but could deal
with the most-common concerns.

Ideally, the user would then navigate to a page that explains how to PXE
boot, then pick out the desired installation image from those offered --
and maybe print out a "I've just installed [distro foo].  What next?" 
pamphlet to take home.

Boiling this down to a templated setup on a live CD would be the
(entirely optional) _last_ step after the basic approach has been
validated and the user-psychological (and other) bugs shaken out.

> I have been physically traveling to quite a few LUGs of late.  I don't
> see a reason why a workstation could not be setup to burn discs on
> demand.  Do you think your idea is compatible with a "Freedom Toaster"
> a la http://www.freedomtoaster.org/ ?  Their sources are out of date
> and unsupported, but http://cdot.senecac.on.ca/projects/toaster/ is a
> more recent example.

It's tempting to leverage someone else's work, but experience suggests
that getting a little practical experience, to see what works and what's
needed, is a good idea first.  It's not like setting up dhcpd, PXE,
network installation, and Web pages is exactly difficult.

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