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I have been sitting on these notes for... umm... (checks the timestamp) 10 months now. So I'll toss them in here and figure out later whether any of them are useful to be merged in. -- ArielGlenn 18:58, 21 October 2011 (UTC)


If it's a reinstall you probably don't need to change your partition layout. You should format the partitions though. Most hosts don't have LVM, only the boxes with arrays. In the directory /srv/autoinstall on brewster there should already be a file that handles the partition layout for your host(s), and it should already be included in netboot.cfg. If not and you are automating this for the first time, create a config file with a name descriptive of the host(s). For example, we have apache.cfg, db.cfg. You can steal from one of the existing files as a base.

Here's a sample config file:

# Application server specific configuration

# Implementation specific hack:
d-i	partman-auto/init_automatically_partition	select	20some_device__________/var/lib/partman/devices/=dev=sda
d-i     partman-auto/method     string  regular
d-i	partman-auto/disk	string	/dev/sda

d-i	partman/choose_partition	select Finish partitioning and write changes to disk
d-i	partman/confirm			boolean	      true

# Note, expert_recipe wants to fill up the entire disk
# See
d-i   partman-auto/expert_recipe	string	apache : 3000 5000 8000 ext3 $primary{ } $bootable{ } method{ format } format{ } use_filesystem{ }
 filesystem{ ext3 } mountpoint{ / } . 1000 1000 1000 linux-swap method{ swap } format{ } . 64 1000 10000000 jfs method{ format } format{ } use_fil
esystem{ } filesystem{ jfs } mountpoint{ /a } .
d-i		   partman-auto/choose_recipe	   apache

# Preseeding of other packages
fontconfig   fontconfig/enable_bitmaps	boolean	true

These are preseed file entries that get fed to prompts issued by the installer. Syntax:

<owner> <question name> <question type> <value>

<owner>: "d-i" which stands for Debian Installer.

<question name>: partman-auto, partman-auto-raid and partman-auto-lvm are the packages that handle automatic partitioning of various types, and some of the questions (prompts) issued by them are described here: [1]

<question type> says what sort of value to expect (eg string, boolean, select (for a menu)...)

<question value> this is where you put the answer that you would otherwise be entering interactively

NOTE that after the question type you can put only one space or tab; any other whitespace will get stuffed in at the front of the value, which you probably don't want.

The first few lines of the sample config file should be obvious: select the device, choose the partition method and confirm. After that an "expert recipe" for partioning is defined, and given the name "apache". This allows it to be chosen later from the list of recipes.

Let's look at the particular recipe: it says

  • 3000 5000 8000 ext3 $primary{ } $bootable{ } method{ format } format{ } use_filesystem{ } filesystem{ ext3 } mountpoint{ / }
    3000: minumum size of partition in mb
    5000: priority if it and other listed partitions are vying for space on the disk (this is compared with the priorities of the other partitions)
    8000: maximum size of partition in mb (80GB; this is for 80GB disks, which the apaches all have.)
    ext3: filesystem type
    $primary{ }: this is a primary, not logical partition
    $bootable{ }: this is a bootable partition
    method{ format }: set to format to format the partition, to "keep" to not format, and to "swap" for swap partitions
    format{ }: also needed so the partition will be formatted
    use_filesystem{ }: this partition will have a filesystem on it (it won't be swap, lvm, etc)
    filesystem{ ext3 }: what filesystem it gets
    mountpoint{ / }: where it's mounted

The other two lines in the recipe should now be obvious.

  • 1000 1000 1000 linux-swap method{ swap } format{ }
  • 64 1000 10000000 jfs method{ format } format{ } use_filesystem{ } filesystem{ jfs } mountpoint{ /a }

Full documentation on preseed files here: [2]

Full documentation on partman-auto preseeding for recipe creation here: [3]