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Re: Mass installation procedure for Debian?

Hello Oliver 

On 2 Feb 2002, at 12:33, Oliver Andrich wrote:

> I have to deal in the near future with a lot of Debian machines, that I will
> setup and configure for two customers. I like to develop or use some mechanism
> for mass installation of these machines, and for easily setting up a spare
> part machine if one crashes.

We use this installation procedure.  It is not really "mass" but can 
generate a debian stable machine tailored for our customer's 
requirements quite quickly.  These are not identical machines - 
each one goes to a new customer with specific requirements.  Also 
each machine can, and often does, have different hardware:

-   Boot off boot floppies 

-   Load base.tgz over the LAN from our mirror server. 

-   Follow prompts on debian setup to setup network, DNS, apt
    sources, root password, user account and password etc. 

-   Break out of the installation process when dselect is started. 

-   Download a "tar.gz" file which has various customized things in
    it.  This is unpacked into /etc, /usr/local and /var/www. 

-   Run dpkg --set-selections < /etc/deblist (deblist is one of the
    files in our tarball). 

-   Run apt-get and let it install the required packages.  Note the
    contents of our /etc/ files are typically listed as
    configuration files.  When dpkg asks if you want to overwrite
    them, we say NO. 

-   We do some global edits on /etc.  For example if our tarball has
    customerdomain.com we search and replace it with the customer's
    real domain.  We use mc for this and manually check each
    replacement  just to make sure. 

-   If there are packages required which are not on our standard
    list, they get installed last.  This often includes a customized

-   Each machine is fully tested. DNS, dhcp, samba, isp dial-out,
    ras dial-in, mail in, mail out, proxy server etc. 

-   Details of the setup are documented and the machine is ready for

The slowest part of the job is waiting for dpkg to run all of the install 
scripts.  With decent hardware it is not really too bad.  Testing 
requires some application of grey matter.  

When we are under pressure, we can get a production ready  e-
mail server or webserver out in under an hour.

I have done quite a lot of development with the contents of the 
tar.gz.   We also use a detailed check list.  I have tried setting up a 
custom "base.tgz" but that was to fiddly and to prone to bugs.  I also 
looked at customizing the install disks, but backed off from that too.  
Maybe when I get a bit more time...

We also have a script for backing up /etc and a few other key files 
and directories into a tar.gz file and rsync-ing it onto our backup 
server. We run the script whenever we work on a customers 
machine.  If the machine has a disk crash we can rebuild it from 
scratch, using the same procedure and the backup tar.gz file 
instead of the generic one. 



Ian Forbes ZSD
Office: +27 21 683-1388  Fax: +27 21 674-1106
Snail Mail: P.O. Box 46827, Glosderry, 7702, South Africa

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