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I was wondering what would be the best way to take a copy of Debian 5 or possibly 6 and strip it down absolutely nothing just to support a copy of VMware player.

The only things I would want would be a GNOME session that does not require a login, some type of network manager (probably the one that is for GNOME) and maybe a package manager like Synaptic. Other than I would run everything out of terminal.

How would I do this?

Also I would want to make this into a Clonezilla image or something so I could distribute it around my office.

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How about going the other route and installing VMWare's ESXi?

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That's what I would have suggested. VMware ESXi is actually made from a very cut down version of Red Hat Linux. Check out the HCL if building your own machines, but there are often problems with onboard SATA controllers and networking. It's easier to get something like a cheap HP ProLiant ML115 G5 or HP ProLiant Microserver, which work perfectly with ESXi, running from a USB flash drive on the USB ports on the motherboards. ESXi is free. – paradroid Feb 12 '11 at 4:41
This is not for servers, this is for a isolated workstation that our employees will use – ianc1215 Feb 12 '11 at 20:16

start with a debian minimal installer - do a CLI only install and go from there. For a TRUELY minimal install, forget gnome - go for openbox or another similar window manager (or even plain old X with no WM). Use slim for a login manager (which incidentally supports autologon assuming you go for a WM). Use apt for package management. Install Vmware player and you're good.

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are there any tutorials you would recommend on how to properly install gnome or x? – ianc1215 Feb 12 '11 at 20:17
this is pretty close to what you seem to be asking for - other than the automatic login. – Journeyman Geek Feb 13 '11 at 10:57

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