So in my new life as a tech administrator, I've gotten to play with OS X server and client machines. It turns out that OSX includes more or less the equivalent of Norton Ghost for free — that's a good thing. Our school hadn't configured or used this functionality in the past — that's a bad thing. Enter me to save the day!
Anyway, long story short, our previous tech guy had upgraded our server to 10.5 in order to fix some now-forgotten-about bug (grrr #1: paying to get upgrades that are really bugfixes). So, long story short, after a long time today setting up an image and setting up the server to use it, I had a problem: for some reason Mac's System Image program wasn't seeing my source disk as a valid image. I couldn't figure out what was going on for the longest time, until finally on Mac's website I discovered it: with the 10.5 version of the System Image program, you can only create images of System 10.5 and later. Our client machines all have 10.4.x on them.
It's funny what you end up taking for granted in the open source world I'd been living in. Here are the things that would normally be unimaginable:
#1. That I can't update without making a big expenditure (and in this case, it would not just be one new client license but many)
#2. That I can't downgrade if an updated piece of software isn't any good (i.e. I can't get or run the 10.4 System Image program on my 10.5 server).
To solve this, I'll have to downgrade everything to the 10.4 server and hope that whatever bug bugged our last tech guy won't affect our new environment.
It's also quite puzzling to me that the System Image software cares about what kind of volume it's installing. I'd think with the base infrastructure in place, you'd be able to distribute images of any kind -- Window, Linux, Mac, what have you. I can understand that their might be some value-added stuff the System Image software can do that's specific to the OS, but it seems strange that they couldn't support at least a base functionality for any old system disk.