I have known, even during my many years as a classroom teacher, that a vital component of a successful school technology program is creating and using well planned device images. Yet, even with that awareness, I have been gaining reams of insights daily as I have been creating the new images for the various computers at my school. I certainly got a small glimpse of this madness at my previous school when I started using Casper Suite and re-imaged the 30 iMacs in the computer lab and the cart of 20 MacBook Airs. But, those efforts pale in comparison to what I have been doing over the past 2 weeks. At my new school, I need to create separate images for our faculty MacBook Pros, our faculty MacBook Airs, our student MacBooks, our 17″ iMacs, and our 21.5″ iMacs. I am grateful that I only have to worry about 2 different Mac OS X versions — Mavericks (OS X 10.9) and Lion (OS X 10.7) — and that I know that each different Mac needs its own image.
One of the hardest elements of each image is making sure that I have added and incorporated all of the software that we will definitely need for the school year without adding tons of unnecessary extras. Complicating matters this summer is the fact that I have only experienced one fourth of the year at the school. I am hoping that having a clear structure to the network will allow me to push out (or remove) an application when the need arises. Fortunately, I am already assuming that I will not get any of these images completely “correct,” forcing me to recognize that tweaks will be inevitable. An additional complication is figuring out which preferences I should be setting through each image and which should be controlled through the network and Workgroup Manager. Again, I am starting with the assumption that I will be forced to adjust those things throughout the first half of the school year.
My favorite discover so far is that Deploy Studio is an excellent option for utilizing the elements of our ethernet network. Using Deploy Studio and OS X Server, I am easily able to create and store master images, and I am able to deploy those master images as NetBoot options. Of course, such an approach necessitates being able to connect a computer to the ethernet cable — something no longer possible with MacBook Airs. We do have a few Thunderbolt to ethernet adapters for our new MacBook Airs, but those do not work on the small handful of older MacBook Airs. I am hoping that I will be able to use a USB to ethernet adapter for those machines. If that will not work, I will use a bootable external drive, but that would mean setting up yet another system. Fortunately, I do have a few weeks before I need all of my computers to be ready. I am also wise enough to know that those days will fly by in no time.