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[vox-tech] rsync as an installation / update tool
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[vox-tech] rsync as an installation / update tool

First, let me rave about rsync. It is easy to use, very fast, and can be used directly with ssh, another favorite tool of mine. I first started to use it to back up my laptop's home directory onto a desktop, like this:

$rsync -vax -e ssh --exclude=mnt/ --exclude=some_file --delete-excluded /home username@desktop:/path_to_backup_folder

I put this one line in a script for ease of use. If many exclusions are desired, a list can be put in a text file to be read by rsync.

This week I got a wild idea to use rsync as a means of "installing" and "updating" gentoo linux on computers with similar (but not identical) hardware. I have 4 Pentium3 boxes that I use for engineering simulations. I had installed gentoo linux on one computer a couple months ago, but the others had RedHat 9. I love gentoo, but I didn't want to spend hours converting them all if I could avoid it. So my idea was to wipe redhat, re-partition the drive (if necessary), install the _basic_ stage3 gentoo install using the "livecd", and rsync over everything else from the computer with gentoo already installed. Here is the rsync command I used:

#rsync -va -e ssh --exclude-from=exclude_file --delete-after root@gentoo_computer:/ /


Since I have different video cards and different partition schemes, I have to configure XF86Config, fstab, and grub.conf manually. But almost everything else copies over and works automatically, such as firewall, ntp, and logrotate settings. Now I just need to download and compile updates for one computer, and then use the same rsync command to update the other 3.

So far, I have been successful with one computer and am waiting to see if any bugs appear before doing the other 2. Any comments? Are there any potential pitfalls to maintaining computers this way?

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