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Running debian-installer from the command line?

Hi all,

I've been scanning all available resources and not found anything, so I'm turning here for help.

I'd like to run the Debian installer from a command line.
The machine was booted from the network and is running Linux (not necessarily Debian) from a RAM disk, so there's no need for UML, chroot, or other ways of sandboxing the install. However, the only way to access the machine is through SSH. No attached console, no serial console. In other words, approaches that reboot the machine to make the installer start won't work for me. (Oh, and no bootable CD-ROM drive either. I'm expecting to download an ISO image, loopmount it into a spare partition, set up a minimal environment that the Debian installer expects, and start installation.)

I'm aware that simply running the installer under a different Linux may break things. (E.g. to install LVM, it's probably a good idea if the netboot system uses a 2.6 kernel.)
I'm willing to try out how this works out anyway.

Alternatives I've tried:
1) Start with debootstrap. The problem is that debootstrap is slightly buggy, that I have to do everything by hand (no preseeding), and that I have to think about everything. Debian installer would make that process *far* easier. 2) Install everything on a virtual machine (VmWare), locally, where I have a console and a bootable CD-ROM. Then wrap the entire stuff into a cpio archive, upload, unpack on the partition, reinstall the boot loader into the various boot sectors, and reboot. Problem: I must have overlooked something, the machine doesn't even boot far enough to mount partitions, so I don't get any news in /var/log and don't see the error messages. (No console...) I probably got a grub incantation wrong, but I have no idea which one, and I hope that Debian installer is a bit smarter about grub than me :-)

Any advice and pointers appreciated.


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