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Re: redesigning the debian installer

> Massimo Dal Zotto wrote:
> > I suggest that the installer configuration and installation are done
> > in separate and independent steps so that one can configure one or
> > more installation profiles, store them on a floppy or remote server
> > and then run automatic installations without any further prompting.
> > I would like to have an initial menu with three options:
> > 
> > 	1. configuration
> > 	2. installation
> > 	3. auto-installation	
> You're essentially suggesting that we don't use debconf.
> Ok, I'm open to that suggestion. What does this method give us that
> using a debconfish scheme does not?

No, using debconf is ok. I don't see any other way to do it.

I am only suggesting that it should be possible to do the debconf
configuration in a separate step from the installation and store the
debconf db for each machine on a floppy for later use.

I also suggest that we can merge more debconf databases during the
installation step, for example a default profile with very general
configurations, a class profile (home, workstation, server, firewall)
and a host specific profile (hostname, ipaddr, keyboard, mouse, monitor).

In a typical mass installation scenario the administrator creates all these
profiles on his previously installed workstation, copies them on a floppy
and then installs each machine loading its profile from the floppy.
Therefore the configurator should be installable and usable also on an
installed debian system.

This has the advantage that one can for example create many similar profiles
semi-automatically from a template and, more importantly, reinstall a
machine by simply recalling its original profile.

One important thing is also the possibility to store in the profile a list
of tasks and packages to install. This is essential in case we want to
install systems of different classes and with different hardware or package

> (By way of comparison, if you use debconf, you don't really have a menu
> of choices like this. Either debconf has been pre-seeded with the
> answers to questions, or it prompts you for answers. Either way, it
> remembers the answers, which can be used to pre-seed a later automated
> install.)

No, debconf is flexible enough to be forced to ask the question or
skip it completely if some boot option has been supplied instead.
It is the installer which must store the proper answer into the debconf
db if the unattended installation has been selected at the boot prompt.
Then debconf will find a user-selected autoinstall option in the db and
start the installation skipping the initial menu.

> > I would like also to have the possibility to store installation
> > profiles as debconf databases on a floppy or another locations,
> > and to be able to provide a set of configuration files created in
> > advance for each machine, for example hosts, groups, exports, etc.
> > and not to be prompted when the required information can be found
> > in those files.
> That's what debconf is all about, really.

Yes, but can we do this with the new bootfloppies? I'm not speaking about
debconf here, but about the installation system which uses debconf. Can we
save and load different pre-stored profiles?

This is more or less what I've done in my hackish slink auto-installer.
It doesn't use debconf and doesn't have a configuration interface but I
can create profiles with a text-editor and load them for the installation.
It has been used by people knowing only ms-windows to install a lot of
machines in production environments. It is not perfect but this the way
people needs it.

Massimo Dal Zotto

|  Massimo Dal Zotto               email: dz@cs.unitn.it               |
|  Via Marconi, 141                phone: ++39-0461534251              |
|  38057 Pergine Valsugana (TN)      www: http://www.cs.unitn.it/~dz/  |
|  Italy                             pgp: see my www home page         |

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