Creating an Automated Installation with pc-sysinstall/9.2

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PC-BSD provides a set of Bourne shell scripts that allow advanced users to create automatic or customized PC-BSD installations. pc-sysinstall is the name of the master script; it reads a customizable configuration file and uses dozens of backend scripts to perform the installation. You can read more about this utility by typing man pc-sysinstall.

Here is a quick overview of the components used by pc-sysinstall:

  • /usr/share/pc-sysinstall/backend/ contains the scripts used by the PC-BSD installer. Scripts have been divided by function such as functions-bsdlabel.sh and functions-installcomponents.sh. If you have ever wondered how the PC-BSD installer works, read through these scripts. This directory also contains the parseconfig.sh and startautoinstall.sh scripts which pc-sysinstall uses to parse the configuration file and begin the installation.
  • /usr/share/pc-sysinstall/backend-partmanager/ contains the scripts which are used by the installer to create and delete partitions.
  • /usr/share/pc-sysinstall/backend-query/ contains the scripts which are used by the installer to detect (e.g. detect-nics.sh) and configure (e.g. enable-net.sh) hardware.
  • /usr/share/pc-sysinstall/components/ contains FreeBSD ports and src and the PBIs for chromium, firefox, opera, and thunderbird.
  • /usr/share/pc-sysinstall/conf/ contains the configuration file pc-sysinstall.conf. It also contains a file indicating which localizations are available (avail-langs), a list of files which are not touched during an upgrade (exclude-from-upgrade), and a license/ subdirectory containing text files of applicable licenses (e.g. bsd-en.txt and nvidia-en.txt).
  • /usr/share/pc-sysinstall/doc/ contains the help text that is seen if you run pc-sysinstall without any arguments.
  • /usr/share/examples/pc-sysinstall/ contains several example configuration files for different scenarios (e.g. upgrade, fbsd-netinstall). The README file in this directory should be considered as mandatory reading before using pc-sysinstall.
  • /usr/sbin/pc-sysinstall this is the script that is used to perform a customized installation.

To create a custom installation, perform the following steps:

1. Determine which variables you wish to customize.

2. Create a customized configuration.

3. Create a custom installation media.

These steps are discussed in more detail below.

Contents

Determine Which Variables you Wish to Customize

A list of possible variables can be found in /usr/share/examples/pc-sysinstall/README and in Table 5.4a. Note that the Table is meant as a quick reference to determine which variables are available. The README file contains more complete descriptions for each variable.

Table 5.4a: Available Variables for Customizing a PC-BSD Installation

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Create a Customized Configuration

Read through the configuration examples in /usr/share/examples/pc-sysinstall/ to find the one that most closely matches your needs. Copy that file (to any location) and customize it so that it includes the variables and values you would like to use in your installation.

If you wish to perform a fully automated installation that does not prompt for any user input, you will also need to review /usr/share/examples/pc-sysinstall/pc-autoinstall.conf and place a customized copy of that file into /boot/pc-autoinstall.conf on your installation media.

Table 5.4b summarizes the additional variables that are available for fully automatic installations. More detailed descriptions can be found in the /usr/share/examples/pc-sysinstall/pc-autoinstall.conf file. Note that the variables in this file use a different syntax than those in Table 5.4b (e.g. values follow a colon and space rather than the equals sign).

Table 5.4b.: Additional Variables for Automated Installations

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pc_config URL or /path/to/file location of customized pc-sysinstall.conf
confirm_install yes or no should be set to yes, otherwise booting the wrong disk will result in a system wipe
shutdown_cmd shutdown -p now good idea to run a shutdown, but can be any command/script you wish to execute post-install
nic_config dhcp-all or <interface name> <IP address> <subnet mask> will attempt dhcp on all found NICs until the installation file can be fetched or will setup specified interface
nic_dns IP address DNS server to use
nic_gateway IP address default gateway to use

Create a Custom Installation Media

The installation media can be a CD, DVD, USB, or a directory on an HTTP, FTP, or SSH+rsync server.

The easiest way to create a custom installation media is to modify an existing installation image. For example, if you have downloaded an ISO (CD or DVD) for the PC-BSD version that you wish to customize, the superuser can access the contents of the ISO as follows:

mdconfig -a -t vnode -f PCBSD9.0-x86-DVD.iso -u 1
mount -t cd9660 /dev/md1 /mnt

Make sure you have cd 'd into a directory where you would like to copy the contents of the ISO. In the following examples, /tmp/custominstall/ was created for this purpose:

cd /tmp/custominstall
tar -C /mnt -cf - . | tar -xvf -
umount /mnt

Alternately, if you have inserted an installation CD or DVD, you can mount the media and copy its contents to your desired directory:

mount -t cd9660 /dev/cd0 /mnt
cp -R /mnt/* /tmp/custominstall/
umount /mnt

NOTE: if you are using an HTTP, FTP, or SSH server as the installation media, untar or copy the files to a directory on the server that is accessible to users. Be sure to configure the server so that the installation files are accessible to the systems that you wish to install.

If you are creating an automated installation, copy your customized pc-autoinstall.conf to /tmp/custominstall/boot/.

Copy your customized configuration file to /tmp/custominstall/. Double-check that the installMedium= variable in your customized configuration file is set to the type of media that you will be installing from.

You may also need to add some extra files if you set the following variables in your custom configuration file:

  • installComponents= make sure that any extra components you wish to install exist in extras/PBI/ (if they end in the .pbi extension) or extras/components/ (if they end in .tbz)
  • runCommand= make sure the command exists in the specified path
  • runScript= make sure the script exists in the specified path
  • runExtCommand= make sure the command exists in the specified path

If the installation media is a CD or DVD, you will need to create a bootable media that contains the files in your directory. To create a bootable ISO:

cd /tmp/custominstall
mkisofs -V mycustominstall -J -R -b boot/cdboot -no-emul-boot -o myinstall.iso

You can then use your favourite burning utility to burn the ISO to the CD or DVD media.

To begin an installation that requires user interaction:

pc-sysinstall -c /path_to_your_config_file

To begin a fully automated installation, insert the installation media and reboot.

In a PXE boot environment, cp your pc-sysinstall.conf file to /boot/. Then, setup a call in /etc/rc.local that runs this command:

pc-sysinstall start-autoinstall /boot/pc-autoinstall.conf

That will start the installation process, fetching your main configuration file and doing the actual installation.

Additional Reading

Installing FreeBSD with pc-sysinstall: pages 26-28, txt=Missing Link[1]

References

  1. http://bsdmag.org/magazine/1741-nanobsd-and-alix/
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