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Re: dzinstall 1.0.40

On Sat, 11 Sep 1999, Massimo Dal Zotto wrote:

> Good. I have no way to test it on other architectures. You can try to
> download my floppies and build a powerpc version containing the same
> programs. Unfortunately it is not a debian package.

The powerpc boot floppies don't build nicely, and it's pretty fruitless
trying to boot some PowerMacs off floppies anyway, due to hardware bugs
and limitations. I think I'll stick to i386 and sparc.  Almost by
definition, you ought to be able to do a completely automated install on a
sparc box, just by typing boot net at the firmware prompt. On PCs, you
have a lot more trouble "detecting" hardware.

I don't think it would be very hard at all to patch the installer such
that it read its configuration from some file on the network or the floppy
and bypasses any configuration questions answered in the file (hostname,
IP address, root password hash, network interface, router). System
identification is trivial compared with what comes next. You'll want a
network readable file with a bunch of key value pairs in it, giving you a
fallthrough list:

ip  route2		postinst.route2
hostname 	arthur1		atk_box		atk_script
arch		ppc		mac_conf
arch		sparc		sun_conf
*		*		default.conf

You go down the list until you match one of the lines, and use the file or
files mentioned in the third and fourth fields as your configuration file
and postinstallation script.

All these files are in the same directory and presumably readable by HTTP
or NFS or something, and detail which packages to install, and how to
repartition the hard drives.  You'll need to write a smart program to call
fdisk automaticly (and repartition the drive based on instructions in the
profile files above). With Debian we're lucky that the "where are my
packages located on the network and how do I get them onto the disk"
question is blown away completely by apt. The bad news is that configuring
said packages automatically is not something for which the tools are
finished yet, so autoinstall sanity is not with us yet (I managed a few
Solaris reinstalls over the network - no physical access required - one
day, Debian installs will be this effortless)

It seems (from my week-long attempt to get them to compile) that the
boot-floppies are rather trashed ATM, and that adding this netautoinstall
functionality is going to be counterproductive. Still, when I get the time
to work on this and the boot-floppies are in a state to be developed on
(rather than fixed, which is what we have to do now) then the things I'd
be working on are: getting the installer to interact with the user only as
a last resort (i.e., check the network for config info first), a parser
for the fallthrough "which config file do I use" file, a parser for said
config files, and a wrapper for fdisk which knows which disks to touch,
and how to lay them out.


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