Automate Linux Installations with Debian Pre-Seeding
Red Hat and its many clones and offspring, like Fedora, CentOS, White Box Linux, and so forth have long had a simple built-in mechanism for cloning installations on diverse hardware: Kickstart. With Kickstart you can easily create a customized configuration, set up an installation server, plug a new PC into the network, and perform an unattended network installation. SUSE has AutoYaST. Debian users have not been so fortunate. FAI, the Fully-Automated Installer, works beautifully when it's set up correctly. But learning to use FAI is not so easy.
Of course the Linux world does not stand still. The shiny new Debian Sarge installer introduced a new feature called pre-seeding. Pre-seeding means creating an answer file that answers all questions asked by the installer. Pre-seeding supports both local installations from bootable media, and network installations.
There are a number of different ways to do this:
Local installation with the standard installation CD/DVDs, plus the preseed file on removable media.
Local installation with the standard installation CD/DVDs, plus the preseed file fetched from a network drive.
Network installation from either a Debian mirror or a local mirror.
Using a remastered CD or DVD containing the preseed file.
This two-part series covers network installation of Etch, the Testing release of Debian. (There are a lot of changes from Sarge, the Stable Debian release. Each one has its own excellent official Debian installation manual, so make sure you have the right one.) Part 1 shows you a couple of simple ways to generate and use a preseed configuration file. Part 2 will cover in detail configuring your preseed configuration file, and setting up a local mirror for fast automatic installations.
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