Rolling out new desktops can be one of the most time-consuming admin tasks, partly because each of those desktops might need the same applications installed. This means you have to install the operating system, and then you have to go back and install each app required by the end user. Some of the systems and software that enable admins to complete these tasks require the remastering of a new installable Live CD for the distribution. None of these solutions are as easy as one you’ll find in the Ubuntu Software Center called Booster.

Booster is a simple graphical interface that will generate an installation script; once the operating system is installed, the script can be used to add all of those packages necessary to finalize the desktop. The steps for using this are simple:

  1. Install the operating system.
  2. Install Booster.
  3. Locate and add the apps you need installed.
  4. Generate the script.
  5. Save the script to a flash drive.
  6. Copy the script to the target machines.
  7. Run the script on the target machines.

Once complete, those machines will be ready with all of the necessary applications for production. Now that you have the gist of the process, let’s take a look at the specifics.

Installing Booster

You will find Booster in the Ubuntu Software Center. You will notice there is a Buy button (Figure A), but don’t worry, the software is free. You do, however, have to authenticate with your Ubuntu One credentials.
Figure A

After clicking the Buy button, you will be directed to enter your Ubuntu One credentials. (Click the image to enlarge.)

After you’ve authenticated, the Install button will appear. Click Install, enter your sudo password, and the application will install.

The Software Center installs Booster without picking up some necessary requirements, and although the Booster app will run, it will not work. In order to finish the installation, do the following:

  1. Open a terminal window.
  2. Issue the command sudo apt-get install -y openjdk-6-jre aptitude.
  3. Enter your sudo password and hit Enter.

During the installation, the Booster icon should appear on the launcher; if not, open the Unity Dash and type booster in the search area. This will pop up the Booster icon (Figure B), which you can click to launch the application.

Figure B

With Ubuntu 12.04, application icons are automatically placed on the Launcher upon installation. (Click the image to enlarge.)

When you first launch Booster, you must agree to the EULA. After you agree to it, the application main window will open (Figure C).
Figure C

Upon first run, the application list is empty.

You need to populate the application list. To do so, click the Get Latest From The Internet button; this will fill in the left pane with all of the applications from which you can select. Next, search through the list of applications and add the ones you want to the Chosen applications pane by following these steps:

  1. Locate the app (either by scrolling or searching) in the left pane and select the app.
  2. Click the right-pointing arrow to add the app.
  3. Continue with that process until all of the applications are added (Figure D).
  4. Click the Generate And Export Script button. You will be asked to name your script — give that script a name like booster_install and locate it in your home directory. (Booster will append the .sh extension at the end of the file name.)

Figure D

You can add as many apps as you need with Booster.

As it stands, that script will not work. Before you relocate the script to a target machine, you must give it executable permissions either from the command line or from the Nautilus file manager. To give the script executable permissions from the file manager, do the following:

  1. Open Nautilus.
  2. Navigate to where you saved the file.
  3. Right-click the file and select Properties.
  4. Click the Permissions tab.
  5. Check the box for Allow Executing File As Program.
  6. Click Close.

To give the script executable permissions from the command line, do the following:

  1. Open a terminal window.
  2. Change to the directory containing the script.
  3. Issue the command chmod u+x (SCRIPT_NAME is the name of the script).

You are ready to copy the script to the target machine that contains the freshly installed OS. Place the file in a user’s home directory and do the following:

  1. Open a terminal window.
  2. Change to the directory housing the script.
  3. Issue the command sudo sh (SCRIPT_NAME is the name of the script).
  4. Enter the user’s sudo password.
  5. Hit the Enter key and then allow the installation to run. (Depending upon how many applications you added to the script, this could take some time to complete.)

After the script has completed running, you should have a near clone of the original machine. Roll that baby out and start up another.