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NetBSD/Desktop: Scalable workstation solutions.


Jan Schaumann


While BSD in general and NetBSD in particular has had a reputation for being
primarily a reliable and secure operating system for servers, it is (in the
mainstream, at least) still not considered "user-friendly enough" for the
desktop. Yet aside from the sheer number of available applications there are
distinct advantages to choosing NetBSD, a complete open source operating
system with emphasis on code quality and standards compliance, especially when
it comes to managing a large number of identical desktop workstations.

This paper will elaborate on these advantages as well as present techniques
and strategies to install, maintain and update large installations, accounting
for the various needs of many hundreds of users and the implied complexities
of thousands of third-party applications.

The infrastructure presented has been in production use in the Department of
Computer Science at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, USA for
over 3 years, where it is used to manage several public laboratories as well
as most faculties workstations. It consists of a dedicated build server and
an IPSec'd server-push strategy to update the clients, providing scalable,
secure and easy updates of the operating system as well as of all third-party

The installation procedure of new workstations consists of either a
semi-interactive network install or a completely unattended installation from
a customized bootable CD containing the workstation image. NetBSD's Packages
Collection is used (in addition to a few select non-pkgsrc'd commercial
packages) to create binary packages inside a chroot which then are deployed on
individual workstations for testing before they are pushed out to all





Time schedule


Authors Description 

Jan Schaumann has the privilege of getting paid for what he likes to do: his position as System Administrator in the Department of Computer Science at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, USA, allows him to manage a large, almost homogenous NetBSD environment in an academic environment; to port and maintain NetBSD pkgsrc tools and packages on non-NetBSD platforms such as IRIX and Linux; to teach classes in UNIX programming and System Administration. (Other activities that he unfortunately does not get paid for usually involve a board and some form of H20.)

Jan holds a BS and MS in Computer Science and joined the NetBSD Project as a developer in January of 2002. Trying to make him move out of NYC, where he lives together with his wife, would be a futile endeavor. Jan can be reached at jschauma@netmeister.org.

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