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I will be buying a new computer which will be used as a CentOS server. I will put it on my home LAN, and once it is set up, will access it only through SSH.

I don't want to spend a lot of money (maybe $500), and I don't want to buy another monitor or keyboard just to through them away after the server is setup.

My question is how do I access the computer without a keyboard and monitor when I install the operating system? For media, I can use either the DVD or an ISO on the USB, so am good there. But how do I see what I am doing and enter commands without a monitor or keyboard? I have a Window 7 laptop, an XP laptop, and a CentOS laptop.

Can I use one of my laptops to act as the MMI (Man Machine Interface)? If not, what is the easiest and least expensive option?

Thank you

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If you don't want to spend a dime, then your best bet would be to customize your CentOS build to include a VNC server, and to run that server during the installation process and every time the computer is run. This wouldn't be the easiest method, but it would mean that once the installation had a network connection established, you could connect to the computer with your laptop using a VNC viewer.

If you have any friends, you can borrow a mouse and keyboard to perform the initial CentOS installation, and then use the same basic instructions I gave you a link to, to install and setup VNC, and then return the keyboard and mouse to your friend. Then, you need only connect via a VNC viewer from your laptop.

If you want to head to your nearest Salvation Army or Goodwill store, you could purchase a keyboard and a mouse for less than $10 USD, and then use them to install and set up CentOS. You can still install VNC, and put the keyboard and mouse away for future use.

Personally, I recommend getting the keyboard and mouse, and having them should anything go wrong in the future. But, if you insist on not getting them, then the first option, customizing your installation media, would have to be the way to go.

EDIT you could also just perform an Unattended Install of CentOS. You would have to find instructions that fit your tastes, and follow them. In most cases, they would involve a little tailoring, but otherwise you would create the install media, connect the install media, start the computer, and stand back. Like...

or just do a search for "unattended CentOS installation" and/or Kickstart.

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Even with keyboard and mouse, you'll still need a monitor, which it doesn't seem the OP has. And those are more expensive. I guess it would have to be modified media with VNC. – D. Strout Jun 26 '13 at 20:51
@D.Strout True, although I remember Salvation Army having $5 monitors too. – Bon Gart Jun 26 '13 at 20:53
Thanks Bon, Maybe I am missing something. Don't I need the operating system installed before installing VNC via yum or whatever desired method? Also, VNC provides for a GUI interface. All I really need is command line thus the SSH interface which I will use puTTY. Also, no friends at this time, but will plan on making some so I can borrow their monitor! – user1032531 Jun 26 '13 at 21:00
@user1032531 it is possible to edit the install ISO of CentOS where VNC would already be configured and ready to go as soon as the installation detected a network connection... IE you customize the installer, you boot to THAT new CD, and you connect to the VNC server once it is running (log into your router admin panel, watch the DHCP, get the IP for the machine). Then, you are sitting at your laptop, monitoring the installation configuration. Yes... with a GUI. Or, just edit the CentOS to perform an unattended installation I guess. – Bon Gart Jun 26 '13 at 21:48
THanks Bon! If a laptop cannot somehow be magically used to act as the monitor/keyboard, I think I will be money ahead to buy/borrow/steal a monitor and a keyboard. – user1032531 Jun 26 '13 at 22:43

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