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Re: installing debian 10 without a cd and without usb but could use ethernet

On Wed 20 Jan 2021 at 20:31:53 (-0800), Dan Hitt wrote:
> I have a machine that currently has linux mint 16.04 on it.
> I would like to install debian 10 on it, but the installer really wants
> access to a cd drive, and one just isn't available.
> However, the linux mint 16.04 system does have grub2 on it.
> So it is possible for me to boot from an iso image stored in the filesystem
> just like a regular file.  It's just a matter of writing a menu entry in
> /etc/grub/40_custom.
> I know this works because i've booted into a live cd image of linux mint
> 20.1 (using the filesystem, not a cdrom), and started an installation
> process.  I backed out of it, because i would like to install debian 10,
> not just a later version of mint.
> When i do the same thing with debian, it starts off ok, doing some simple
> things like setting the language and the keyboard layout, but then it
> complains that it cannot find a cd rom.  This is true with both the netinst
> image, as well as with a jigdo xfce image which i think should have
> everything necessary and not need a cd rom.  For reference, my debian menu
> entry is
>     menuentry "debian-10-iso" {
>         set isofile="/USER/iso/debian-10.7.0-amd64-xfce-CD-1.iso"
>         loopback loop (hd0,gptNN)$isofile
>         linux (loop)/install.amd/vmlinuz boot=install.amd
> iso-scan/filename=$isofile noprompt noeject
>         initrd (loop)/install.amd/initrd.gz
>     }
> Here, USER is the user name in whose account the iso image is, and gptNN
> stands for the particular partition where home is mounted for the user USER.
> So my first question is whether there's a better iso image i can use, or if
> i can fix this up by giving more arguments to the linux invocation line or
> something else in the menu entry.

I think what you're trying to do is §5.1.5 from
using the hd-media. IIRC when I did this I used just
initrd.gz and vmlinuz, which gives you effectively a net install
(so you need connectivity).

My grub entry was (I use LABELs on my partitions):

menuentry "Install Debian via HTTP" {
        search --no-floppy --label --set=root noah02
        linux   /boot/linux priority=low
        initrd  /boot/initrd.gz

as I downloaded the files into /boot (where everything else is versioned).
Low is like expert install, IIRC, asking all the questions.

I guess amd64 is the same, but only one i386 of mine can't boot from a stick.

> The second question is whether there's a way, from grub (grub2, actually),
> of dropping down to the bios.  I imagine this is quite impossible, but if
> i'm wrong, please let me know.  The reason i would like to do this is that
> it is very hard for me to interrupt the boot process fast enough to get to
> the bios, and i've only managed to do it once or twice after many tries.
> If i were in the bios, i might be able to figure out if it could boot from
> usb, and i could set the boot order to do this, and make a bootable usb
> version of netinst (perhaps).
> Or perhaps there's some other way to approach the problem?  For example,
> i've already created a partition to hold the debian system i want to put on
> the machine.  Is there some way of hand-populating it?  I do have a running
> debian 10 system on another machine, and i suppose i could tar it up and
> unpack it into the new partition on the mint machine.  But i'm not sure if
> there's something outside the filesystem but inside the partition which is
> necessary for it to be bootable.

I've certainly cloned systems in the past, using cpio as it happens.
But it was a long time ago, when eg /dev was a real directory with
real device files. I've even found the notes I used, but bear in mind
these were probably written in about 1998, and look rather quaint now,
so follow their intent rather than their method.

  Copying (cloning) a partition or tree of files to another device:
  (including when it's the live sysytem)
     mount /dev/new-device-partition /mnt
     cd old-directory-root
     ls -lR > somewhere-on-a-stick (certainly not on /)
  if we're in /, this listing needs pruning later as it will contain files on
  other filesystems than -xdev is going to exclude. Note that switches
  -ABQ might also be useful.

     find -xdev -path './lost+found' -prune -o -print \
       | cpio -vdamp /mnt
               ^ v is not essential

  If this is on a different machine:

     find -xdev -path './lost+found' -prune -o -print0 \
       | cpio -ova0 | ssh user@host /mnt/placer.sh

  where placer.sh contains:
     cd $(dirname $0) ; cpio -dim --no-absolute-filenames
  BUT BEWARE of changes in ownership.

     cd /mnt/old-directory-root-name
     ls -lR > somewhere-again (again, +- -ABQ switches)

  then edit /etc/fstab and /mnt/etc/fstab
  and /boot/grub/grub.cfg and /mnt/boot/grub/grub.cfg

  ls-l-dedate the ls-lR files and diff the original and copy.

As you can see, back then I didn't know to use find with -printf,
rather than ls, so I had a python program to zap the directory
dates, and perhaps their sizes too.


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