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debian pxe dhcp netinstall (debconf enterprise fai etc.)


Last week i started implementing an netinstall-script for debian
machines. I am no debian developer, but using debian for quite a
while. However i didn't like the state of our linux machines, we where
working on, some are in a really poor condition, software wise. So having 
some nice new machines at hand which support pxe boot over ethernet 
by an bios boot option, it was quite naturally to start with this small 

First i tried "fai", but while i liked the concept of
classes it was to much of a hassle and the number of scripts and
dependencies was to much to understand in 4 hours (after which i gave up). 
There was also an other project which had an equal goal, but i forgot the 
name. It seemed to me that its development had cheased. But the death knell 
to fai was that it is currently not supporting "debconf". With the fallback or override
database debconf was the tool i was looking for. Even if there could be room
for a little improvement, it is quite possible to install a debian
system fully automatic without pressing any key (ok at least one, to
agree, to have a new parititon table written :)

Ok a short overview over the two stage process:

first stage
1. the machine has to boot over network via pxe/dhcp.
2. there will be a new partition written to the disk and
   a basic debian system will be debootstraped to the disk.
3. a kernel is installed
4. grub gets installed
5. the second stage skript gets installed
6. a debconf database is copyied to the system

second stage
1. the machine boots the new installed system
2. apt-get update
3. apt-get install debconf (which is a special crafted version without
   the dialog)
4. a special crafted package is installed with dependencies on all
   required packages

The whole process is "nearly working". Some things are missing such as
that nis does not add +::: to the corresponding files and such packages
like gpm or debconf asking for manual input. Especially debconf with its
initial dialog when first installed was annoying (although it is the tool
which made this whole thing possible ironically ;)

Nearly every package i installed used debconf or wasn't posting any
silly questions. gpm was the only package which wasn't easy to install 
(even with debwrap), since it's running in cycles through the

I would like to have some feedback, especially on the topic of
doing automatic updates with an cron job. I would also like to hear of
some hints if there is an other tool which does the job (debix,
skolelinux,...: haven't looked at them. The websites of the subprojects seem
still to be hit by the security incedent :( ) better than these puny
script files. I think the whole automatic management thing (which is
also the reason behind the whole "enterprise" discussion) has a lot of
potential. Having the ability to reconfigure large clusters or
workstation installations is *really* helpful. 


PS: The order of the instructions in the second stage is not quite correct, but it is just
for the idea how the whole stuff works out.

Attachment: netinst.sh
Description: Bourne shell script

Attachment: unconfigured.sh
Description: Bourne shell script

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