Ah, automation! Where would we be without it? (It is a little-known fact that the total mileage of railway line in England did not exceed the total mileage of canals in England until 1861 -some 80 years later than is commonly supposed, and proof that the Industrial Revolution never really happened -except in Germany, funnily enough. Britain, though, had an Industrial Evolution).
Anyway, I digress. Automation is good, and it helps produce nicely-standardized things which are therefore more predictable and more stable than their chaotic hand-built equivalents.
This goes for operating system installs, too.
Having got Gladstone doing his thing to hand-built servers, ensuring a level playing field when it comes time to install Oracle; having then got Palmerston working overtime to do the same thing for a Kickstart-automated server build; it is now time for me to introduce Portland: the script you run to standardize and automate your builds when you don’t want to install Oracle.
Perhaps being a little more positive, I should say that Portland is the script to run when you want the Gimp, VLC, Eclipse, Java, Apache Directory Studio, Opera, Rhythmbox, Handbrake …and all those other good productivity programs (like Solitaire and Chess)… added to an otherwise standard and minimalserver installation. Preferably without all the hassle and confusion that the bazillion-and-one ‘how to do a perfect desktop’ articles out there seem to want to inflict on you!
Portland turnsservers into usable desktops, in other words (including switching from OpenOffice to LibreOffice).
I particularly like it because it makes continued and almost-exclusive reference to mirror.aarnet.edu.au (and, indeed, changes the standard yum repositories so that they point there too). That mirror happens to be (a) close to Australians and (b) completely unmetered in use for us poor Telstra
customers shmucks. For me, it means I can install servers until the cows come home without running up huge ISP bills or excess download consequences. For others, it will be a disaster, of course, since it will be using perhaps the remotest, non-free repositories in (their) existence. I’ll work on that for a future update! Meanwhile, you could do a global search-and-replace of the mirror URL before running it.
So, to sum up:
- Build a minimal-desktop portland.sh to it. server, then download
- Provided you have a functioning Internet connection, you log on as root and invoke that script (a simple sh /portland.sh will do it).
- 20 minutes later, your server build will complete. including a nice set of top-panel application launchers for all the apps I consider to be vital (you might disagree with my choice of launchers, but that’s life!)
- There are two interactive prompts throughout the entire process: Dropbox asks you if it’s OK to close all Nautilus windows (the answer is ‘yes’), and Calibre says it’s going to install to /opt (press Enter to accept). If I can get those two working in a non-interactive mode, I will.
There are still a couple of things I definitely won’t automate, the most significant of which is the installation of proprietary graphics drivers: I can’t find a reliable way of working out what graphics card is installed in a PC, so can’t automate the installation of the right binary blob. Install the wrong one, however, and the PC may well refuse to display anything at its next reboot. I’ve therefore decided to leave well alone for now!
But for the most part, I can now roll out a bundle ofservers in double-quick time and have them all look as I want them to, without really having to do anything. And that’s the sort of automation I can live with!
Footnote 1: because I know literally tens of thousands of people will be asking, William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck was the 3rd Duke of Portland and served as British Prime Minister twice (in 1783 and 1807-1809, which is the longest gap between ‘turns’ of any British Prime Minister. If Margaret Thatcher wanted to achieve the same thing, she’d be making a fresh run for office right about now). The Portland Vase (see left, being peered at in the British Museum by yours truly, circa 2010) gets its name from the Duke’s family, since his mother bought it from the British Ambassador in Naples. Don’t ask how he came to be selling in the first place, though!
Footnote 2: Portland installs an, er, “eclectic” mix of software that suits my needs -which may not suit everyone or anyone else’s. I’ll take comments/suggestions on what ought/ought not to get included, if it helps make the script as a whole more useful. Suggestions need to be in the repositories (and thus a yum install away), or easily obtainable with wget (which rules out Oracle and VMware Workstation, for example).
Footnote 3: The complete list of packages/applications Portland installs currently is as follows:
alacarte, alltray, ApacheDirectoryStudio-linux-x86_64-2.0.0, brasero, calibre-ebook reader, cheese, cuetools, dia, dropbox-0.7.1-1, dvd95, dvdbackup, easytag, eclipse, ekiga, evolution, gftp, gimp, gnome-games, gnome-games-extra, gnote, gstreamer-plugins-ugly, gthumb, guake, handbrake-gui-0.9.5-1, hardinfo, keepassx-0.4.3-1, libdvdcss, libreoffice 3.5.0, mencoder, mozilla-vlc, ntfs-3g, openjava, opera-11.61, pidgin, rhythmbox, rlwrap, shntool, sound-juicer, soundconverter, stellarium, thunderbird, transcode, transmission, tsclient, VirtualBox, xsane