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[idea] debian auto-configuration (like sysprep)

i have an idea which i would like to share with you, in the hope
that either it already exists (and someone will kindly tell me where)
or that it will be considered, implemented, or someone says "oh
that's easy, go away and add code here here and here, and send me
the patch".

the idea is based around the configuration text file which is used
by sysprep.exe.

background of sysprep.exe: it's an NT tool used by OEMs and sysadmins
to roll out [nearly identical hardware] multiple machines.

what you do is you set up a machine, you run sysprep with a config.txt
file, and then you shut down the machine.

you then make an image of the hard drive, copy it onto [one or more]
other machines - the size of the hard drive is irrelevant, it just
must be bigger - with identical hardware (hard drive being the exception
to that rule).

and on a boot of these clones, you will get a machine as if you had
just bought it and switched it on for the first time (now you know
what tool OEMS use to do that :)

now the config.txt file can contain ANY NUMBER of special configuration
options, including the License Key, the username, password, domain name,
host name, IP address, DHCP settings, etc. etc. the list goes on.

what i figured would be EXTREMELY useful in debconf (dpkg?) would be
to have a similar feature in debian.

the basic user-interface would be to have an "auto" option added
to the list of debconf "front-ends".

this "auto" option should read a file /etc/debconf.auto or something
(where that file itself should itself be a debconf controlled option).

the format of the file should be very obvious: it should contain
debconf package names, the option required, and the value it should
be set to.

now here comes the good bit.  i believe it would be EXTREMELY useful
to have an option [in dpkg-reconfigure?] which allows the "auto"
option to select _a URL_ as its "auto-configuration" file.


in other words, i may run a web site that looks after the configuration
options for my machine.

i may make a business out of helping other people to manage their
debian systems.

they can contact me for support, they can ask some questions, i can
modify or create a configuration for them and then tell them to run
the "debian autoconfig" tool [click] and their system will automatically
get reconfigured to solve their problem [hopefully].

obviously, at some point, the ability to specify debian package commands
(add, remove, update) would also be very useful, but the ability to
auto-configure installed packages is the kicker.

comments, anyone?


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