CSAIL Ubuntu

CSAIL Ubuntu is TIG’s supported GNU/Linux spin, which comes pre-configured for CSAIL Kerberos for authentication, AFS/NFS filesystems, and our CUPS printing infrastructure. This allows easy, transparent access to all the standard network resources without you needing to know the details of how everything works. As a derivative of Ubuntu GNU/Linux, CSAIL Ubuntu provides the benefits of a vast collection of up-to-date software packages, and a maintainable long-term release cycle. The default installation features the XFCE display environment, and is configured via Puppet.

A word on Ubuntu versions

Ubuntu releases are of two types. Long-term-support releases, or LTS releases are supported by the upstream Ubuntu project for three years on desktops and five years on servers, and have LTS after their release number. Non-LTS releases are generally supported on desktops and servers alike for about 18 months.

“Support” in this context means that important fixes such as security upgrades are available from the Ubuntu repositories. (The distinction between support on the server and support on the desktop in the LTS releases is essentially a distinction in what packages continue to be maintained; a package like apache2 or mysql-server in an LTS release would receive security updates for five years, as would core components of the OS like the kernel and the shell.)

So, if you choose an LTS release, you can go longer between release upgrades. (It’s fairly easy to upgrade across Ubuntu versions these days, though, especially from one LTS release to the next.)

Ubuntu version numbers are named after the last two digits of the year and the two-digit month number of the release, so the most recent version of Ubuntu, 18.04 LTS, was released in April 2018. (And the LTS suffix tells you it will be supported until early 2021 on desktops and laptops.) They also have an internal codename consisting of an adjective and an animal; the codename for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS is Bionic Beaver. That’s often shortened, so if you see somebody refer to an Ubuntu version as “Bionic”, they mean Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. Wikipedia has a list of Ubuntu releases.

TIG will offer a CSAIL spin of the current Ubuntu LTS release, as well as a spin of the latest Non-LTS Ubuntu release. The LTS release will always be fully supported, and we will make an effort to make sure that everything works. The latest Non-LTS Ubuntu release is available for convenience. We’ll support what we can, and make sure not to break things on our part, but due to the fast release cycle of non-LTS Ubuntu versions, we can’t promise that everything will be bug-free. We can only support LTS versions within Ubuntu support (starting with 12.04 not retroactively) and the current non-LTS release, support outside these releases may take the form of “here’s how you upgrade or reinstall” depending on how far out of support the release is.

Public information about our configuration-management

We like to share our system administration experience with other people, both at MIT and the public at large. Here is some information about what we are currently doing with configuration-management.