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Is there a way to discover if an installed OS is workstation or server? Is it just a matter of the packages that are installed or is there some difference that can be detected?

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Just the set of packages installed. You can start off with an Ubuntu Server installation and install ubuntu-desktop package to get the desktop OS. There is no guarantee that the absence of a *-desktop package implies a server OS, or that the presence of X11 implies a desktop OS.

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I did find some interesting files in /var/log/installer:

media-info says "Ubuntu-Server" for the server and just "Ubuntu" for desktop. syslog shows the same information for the "cdrom"

or from the terminal run:

cat /var/log/installer/media-info

or, if the file doesn't exist, try:

cat /var/log/installer/lsb-release

Both of these are helpful and I can use them in conjunction with hardware information.

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