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I'm rolling out a laptop cart with a bunch of Dell 5490 laptops running Ubuntu Desktop 18.04. My institution has its own asset management system with a unique asset number assigned to each device (with an unremovable sticker). It would be nice to record each laptop's asset tag number somewhere in the system info where it can be retrieved by command. Is there a best/standard way to do this or should I just stick it in a text file in some directory on the hard drive?

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I do not believe there is an agreed method to this. /etc/machine-id (/var/lib/dbus/machine-id on systems that do not use systemd) is used to create a unique ID per installation. But I do not think you can use that to create your own unique ID. If you do not want to mess with the system you could use that id instead of your institutions asset number.

or should I just stick it in a text file in some directory on the hard drive?

This is probably the easiest method. For something like this I would suggest a file owned by root with immutable bit set (chattr +i) and name it something like /etc/machine-id-{institution-name} with the asset number in it.

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