Linux Installations Made Easy

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2006-09-04 Print this article Print
  is a handy Web site from which users can create customized installation images for a handful of different Linux distributions. is a handy Web site from which users can create customized installation images for a handful of different Linux distributions. The sites service, SystemDesigner, is free, and administrators should find it particularly helpful when provisioning multiple machines—either physical or virtualized.

The Instalinux site was put together by former Hewlett-Packard employee Chris Slater, and SystemDesigner is based on HPs open-source Linux Common Operating Environment project.

During tests, Instalinux.coms System-Designer made it easy for eWeek Labs to create network installer disks that were preconfigured with the software packages we wanted to install on our target system, along with the repository from which we wanted to fetch the packages and the _network information our new system would require to get online and reach the repository.

We appreciated the option of having all available updates applied at install time. We also could choose to either set up our disk partition layout in advance or to take care of it interactively once wed booted into our systems installer.

At, users can create installation disks for CentOS CentOS 4.3, Debian 3.1 and 3.2, and Red Hats Fedora Core versions 3 through 5. The site also supports Novell SUSE 9.3 and 10, but not yet SUSE 10.1, as well as Canonicals Ubuntu and Kubuntu. The site does not support the latest Dapper Drake versions of Ubuntu or Kubuntu, however.

We could create installers for the x86 versions of each of the supported distributions; for the newer Fedora and Debian releases, we also could opt for x86-64 versions.

Instalinux.coms SystemDesigner acts as a front end to the automated install systems of the Debian, Red Hat and Novell SUSE distros, and it was interesting to compare the differing levels of customization that each automated installer offered.

For example, from the interface, we noted that Red Hats kickstart installer enabled us to set the sizes for our swap and boot partitions and to opt for our root partition to grow to consume the remainder of the disk space. For Debian-based install images, we werent offered that option.

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. Jason's coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at

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