So here's the plan, as it stands right now. (Yes, I have a plan already! Yes, that was quick.) First, build an image that's good for all workstations (laptops, staff machines, standard workstations, etc.) throughout the lab with:
- Base OS (Mac OS X Leopard 10.5)
- A DHCP network connection
- Apple applications
- Adobe applications
- Drag-and-drop applications
- Other third-party applications
- One admin user
- ARD active
IMAGE THIS SYSTEM
This becomes the base system build, the Master Image — the replacement system if a machine ever needs rebuilding. It is the only full system image. There is only one.
Everything else that is machine-type specific — that is, users, applications, application components, crontabs, anything — gets turned into and installed via either a downloaded or hand-rolled package. So far I've been using Apple's PackageMaker, which has matured a great deal since last I tried it. It's pretty nice. I'm also taking a look at Iceberg, which also looks to be pretty full-featured and nifty.
These packages can be machine-type specific and stored in a simple folder hierarchy by machine type — laptop packages in the laptops folder, etc. — for organizational purposes. In addition to being machine-type specific, packages can also, I believe, be machine specific. That is, I think we can make settings like computer name and network settings using packages as well. So what we're talking about here is a system of computer building that happens completely over the network, and that can be directed almost entirely from one ARD-toting computer, that computer being mine, of course. (I've always said, the sign of a good SysAdmin is that he never leaves his chair.)
I've gotten pretty good at making application packages, at this point (not that it's terribly hard, mind you). My next step will be to learn how to make system settings with packages as well. My other next step is going to be, of course, creating the Master Build. None of this building happens 'til summer. But still, something tells me it's going to be smart to start this process now and see what crops up over the next couple of months.
As usual, I'll be reporting any new and/or interesting developments.
Oh, and thanks to everyone who commented on the last post. The comments were extremely useful!