FOG stands for Free Open-Source Ghost. I used to use Ghost, purchased before I came to NTLS, but I refused to spend the amount required for the new version. I have used FOG for some time, and frankly is was very useful. We use version 0.32 to clone drives in our tech room. We utilize old Gateway laptops with external USB drive docks to easily drop drives in, image, and replace back in machines. We had tried the new version of FOG but went back to 0.32 when the new version was incompatible with external USB drive connections (tried several.) We were content with our usage.
Last week, I attended the OETC Conference and found out how underutilized our implementation truly was. We went to a FOG session hosted by Casey Ailiff from Kent City School District and Chris Carman of Roosevelt High School. I humbly give credit for the changes we made and everything that follows, to them.
FOG 1.20 can be hosted from a centralized location virtual server, easily setup and deployed on a Ubuntu 12.04 (my favorite currently) VM in about an hour. The installation is easy and fairly detailed on their webpage. The problem is that in the past I had simply installed FOG and used it right out of the box with no additional configurations.
The first thing I found I needed was to connect FOG to my active directory. FOG will automatically rename and join newly imaged system IF this step is taken. This is actually pretty simple. The first step is to make a new account on the AD that you will set and forget. This user has to have permissions to join systems to the AD. The password should be complex. You will put the password into the FOG Crypt program that is found by clicking the FOG Client/FOG Prep link which is at the bottom of every FOG page. This link takes you to the page that you can download Fog Crypt. This program you put the AD password into and it converts it into the string you then put into the AD configuration page in FOG. This is one of the most important parts of maximizing FOG. Don’t skip it!
The next step is to prepare your image. Use the smallest drive in your inventory and make sure you format the drive with a single partition before you install Windows 7. Windows 7 by default makes a 100Mb partition that ruins one of the benefits of FOG. By using a single partition image and your smallest drive (ours is a 60Gb SSD) then the image will fit on any other drive and FOG will automatically expand it to the full size of the drive when it installs. We install Windows, do all the updates, install all our core software, and install the FOG Client Service. We actually put everything on this image that any teacher or HS/MS student would need. It uses 28Gb on the drive. It is now our core image. We then sysprep our image by copying the unattend.xml file and prepit.bat into the windows\system32\sysprep directory. Then click on prepit.bat and it will sysprep and shut down. We used the file that we got at the OETC class and referenced it to make our Windows 7 Enterprise version. Yes there is a product key there, but it is the KMS one.
So now we can FOG to any Intel based PC in our district. We made another version with all the elementary school software and sysprepped that for the elementary school. Two images….pretty cool. We will probably end up with a few more, but not as many as the 20+ we used to have. But we aren’t finished yet.
The next step is to setup your machines to PXE Boot first and register them with the FOG server. This entails hitting the down key three times when it boots, selecting Perform Full Host Registration, and letting the system boot into the FOG system. The first thing it will ask is the system name. You simply need to enter the name and hit enter about 8 times to get in on the system. You can take the extra time to select an associated image, but it is easier to associate that on the FOG Webpage. My students accomplish this task around the district after watching this flipped video.
After that you can do the rest from the FOG Webpage. The first time we cast an image we had the system all configured and the new lab up in about an hour. Those new systems now all have the FOG Service which allows you to do alot, including sending a new image without ever going down to the room. If you enable the renaming service, and have the Active Directory Join after Image Task checked, it will rename and join on its own.
About this point I was really geeking out. In two days I had every lab in the district redone, and the hard part was making the images and remembering everything. I used to Image systems every year, and recently I was stretched to every two or three. Now every time I want to do a major upgrade, or just clean off all the student user accounts, I can re-image them in a flash. There are alot of extra things you can accomplish with the FOG services, and I am just touching on a few of them. I encourage any IT department to install FOG, play with all the options it provides, and appreciate how much this open-source program improves your school or business.
Thanks Casey and Chris!
Resources from my Apr 2015 Ohio Technology Summit Presentation can be found here.
FOG version 1.4.4 Changes
The one change that affected us with the upgrade was the fact that the new FOG service breaks a sysprepped image. The workaround is fairly simple.
- Disable the FOGService in the PC services.
- Drop a file in C:\Windows\Setup\scripts\SetupComplete.cmd
- The text inside this file is as follows. It will reactivate FOGService when the sysprep is complete.
sc config FOGService start= auto shutdown -t 0 -r