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README.md

raspbian-ua-netinst

Intro

The minimal Raspbian unattended netinstaller for Raspberry Pi Model 1B to 3B+.

This project provides Raspbian power users the possibility to install a minimal base system unattended using latest Raspbian packages regardless when the installer was built.

The installer with default settings configures eth0 with DHCP to get Internet connectivity and completely wipes the SD card from any previous installation.

There are different kinds of "presets" that define the default packages that are going to be installed. Currently, the default one is called server which installs only the essential base system packages including NTP and OpenSSH to provide a sane minimal base system that you can immediately after install ssh in and continue installing your software.

Other presets include minimal which has even less packages (no logging, no text editor, no cron) and base which doesn't even have networking. You can customize the installed packages by adding a small configuration file to your SD card before booting up.

Features

  • completely unattended, you only need working Internet connection through the Ethernet port
  • DHCP and static ip configuration (DHCP is the default)
  • always installs the latest version of Raspbian
  • configurable default settings
  • extra configuration over HTTP(S) possible - gives unlimited flexibility
  • installation takes about 15 minutes with fast internet/SDcard/USB device from power on to sshd running
  • can fit on 512MB SD card, but 1GB is more reasonable
  • default install includes fake-hwclock to save the current date and time on shutdown
  • default install includes NTP to keep the time up-to-date if a network connection is available.
  • /tmp is mounted as tmpfs to improve speed
  • no clutter included, you only get the bare essential packages
  • option to install root to USB drive

Requirements

  • a Raspberry Pi Model 1B to 3B+
  • SD card of at least 640MB or at least 128MB for USB root install (without customization)
  • working Ethernet with Internet connectivity

Writing the installer to the SD card

Obtaining installer files on Windows and Mac

Installer archive contains all firmware files and the installer.

Go to our latest release page and download the .zip file.

Format your SD card as FAT32 (MS-DOS on Mac OS X) and extract the installer files in.
Note: If you get an error saying it can't mount /dev/mmcblk0p1 on /boot then the most likely cause is that you're using exFAT instead of FAT32. Try formatting the SD card with this tool: https://www.sdcard.org/downloads/formatter_4/

Alternative method for Mac, writing image to SD card

Prebuilt image is 64MB uncompressed. It contains the same files as the .zip but is more convenient for Mac users.

Go to our latest release page and download the .img.bz2 file.

Extract the .img file from the archive with bunzip2 raspbian-ua-netinst-<latest-version-number>.img.bz2.
Find the /dev/diskX device you want to write to using diskutil list. It will probably be 1 or 2.

To flash your SD card on Mac:

diskutil unmountDisk /dev/diskX
sudo dd bs=1m if=/path/to/raspbian-ua-netinst-<latest-version-number>.img of=/dev/rdiskX
diskutil eject /dev/diskX

Note the r in the of=/dev/rdiskX part on the dd line which should speed up writing the image considerably.

SD card image for Linux

Prebuilt image is 64MB uncompressed. It contains the same files as the .zip but is more convenient for Linux users.

Go to our latest release page and download the .img.xz file.

To flash your SD card on Linux:

xzcat /path/to/raspbian-ua-netinst-<latest-version-number>.img.xz > /dev/sdX

Replace /dev/sdX with the real path to your SD card.

Installing

In normal circumstances, you can just power on your Pi and cross your fingers.

If you don't have a display attached you can monitor the Ethernet card leds to guess activity. When it finally reboots after installing everything you will see them going out and on a few times when Raspbian configures it on boot.

If you do have a display, you can follow the progress and catch any possible errors in the default configuration or your own modifications.
If you have a serial cable, then remove 'console=tty1' at then end of the cmdline.txt file.

Note: During the installation you'll see various warning messages, like "Warning: cannot read table of mounted file systems" and "dpkg: warning: ignoring pre-dependency problem!". Those are expected and harmless.

Installer customization

You can use the installer as is and get a minimal system installed which you can then use and customize to your needs.
But you can also customize the installation process and the primary way to do that is through a file named installer-config.txt. When you've written the installer to a SD card, you'll see a file named cmdline.txt and you create the installer-config.txt file alongside that file. The defaults for installer-config.txt are displayed below. If you want one of those settings changed for your installation, you should only place that changed setting in the installer-config.txt file. So if you want to have vim and aptitude installed by default, create a installer-config.txt file with the following contents:

packages=vim,aptitude

and that's it! While most settings stand on their own, some settings influence each other. For example rootfstype is tightly linked to the other settings that start with rootfs_.
So don't copy and paste the defaults from below!

The installer-config.txt is read in at the beginning of the installation process, shortly followed by the file pointed to with online_config, if specified. There is also another configuration file you can provide, post-install.txt, and you place that in the same directory as installer-config.txt. The post-install.txt is executed at the very end of the installation process and you can use it to tweak and finalize your automatic installation.
The configuration files are read in as shell scripts, so you can abuse that fact if you so want to.

The format of the installer-config.txt file and the current defaults:

preset=server             # possible values are 'base', 'minimal' and 'server'
packages=                 # comma separated list of extra packages
mirror=http://mirrordirector.raspbian.org/raspbian/
release=buster
init_system=systemd       # possible values are 'systemd', 'sysvinit' and 'runit'
hostname=pi
boot_volume_label=        # Sets the volume name of the boot partition. The volume name can be up to 11 characters
                          # long. The label is used by most OSes (Windows, Mac OSX and Linux) to identify the
                          # SD-card on the desktop and can be useful when using multiple SD-cards.
domainname=
rootpw=raspbian
root_ssh_pubkey=          # public SSH key for root; on Debian "jessie" and later the SSH password login will be disabled 
                          # for root if set; the public SSH key must be on a single line, enclosed in quotes
disable_root=             # set to 1 to disable root login (and password) altogether
username=                 # username of the user to create
userpw=                   # password to use for created user
user_ssh_pubkey=          # public SSH key for created user; the public SSH key must be on a single line, enclosed
                          # in quotes
user_is_admin=            # set to 1 to install sudo and make the user a sudo user
cdebootstrap_cmdline=     # normally this line will be generated based on the (other) options you've set, but you can
                          # specify your own. If it breaks, you get to keep all pieces.
bootsize=+128M            # /boot partition size in megabytes, provide it in the form '+<number>M' (without quotes)
bootoffset=8192           # position in sectors where the boot partition should start. Valid values are > 2048.
                          # a bootoffset of 8192 is equal to 4MB and that should make for proper alignment
rootsize=                 # / partition size in megabytes, provide it in the form '+<number>M' (without quotes),
                          # leave empty to use all free space
timeserver=time.nist.gov
timezone=Etc/UTC          # set to desired timezone (e.g. Europe/Ljubljana)
locales=                  # a space delimited list of locales that will be generated during install
                          # (e.g. "en_US.UTF-8 nl_NL sl_SI.UTF-8")
system_default_locale=    # the default system locale to set (using the LANG environment variable)
disable_predictable_nin=1 # Disable Predictable Network Interface Names. Set to 0 if you want to use predictable
                          # network interface names, which means if you use the same SD card on a different
                          # RPi board, your network device might be named differently. This will result in the
                          # board having no network connectivity.
ifname=eth0
ip4_addr=dhcp             # options are 'disable', 'dhcp', or an IPv4 address
ip4_prefixlength=0
ip4_gateway=0.0.0.0
ip4_nameservers=
ip6_addr=disable          # options are 'disable', 'auto', or an IPv6 address
ip6_prefixlength=0
ip6_gateway=auto          # options are 'auto', or an IPv6 address (which will only be applied if ip6_addr is a static address)
ip6_nameservers=auto      # options are 'auto', 'disable', or an IPv6 address
drivers_to_load=
online_config=            # URL to extra config that will be executed after installer-config.txt
usbroot=                  # set to 1 to install to first USB disk
cmdline="dwc_otg.lpm_enable=0 console=ttyAMA0,115200 kgdboc=ttyAMA0,115200 console=tty1 elevator=deadline"
rootfstype=ext4
rootfs_mkfs_options=
rootfs_install_mount_options='noatime,data=writeback,nobarrier,noinit_itable'
rootfs_mount_options='errors=remount-ro,noatime'
final_action=reboot       # what to do at the end of install, one of poweroff / halt / reboot
hardware_versions=detect  # "detect" supports the install hardware only, set to "1 2" to produce an install that
                          # supports both Pi1 and Pi2
hwrng_support=1           # install support for the ARM hardware random number generator. The default is
                          # enabled (1) on all presets. Users requiring a `base` install are advised that
                          # `hwrng_support=0` must be added in `installer-config.txt` if HWRNG support is
                          # undesirable.
enable_watchdog=0         # loads up the hardware watchdog module and configures systemd to use it. Set to
                          # "1" to enable this functionality.
enable_uart=0             # Set to "1" to enable the UART. Disabled by default.
gpu_mem=                  # specify the amount of RAM in MB that should be reserved for the GPU
try_again=0               # Specify action on failure. 0 (default) powers off. To reboot and try again,
                          # set to 1. When set to 1, there is no limit to the number of retries.

The timeserver parameter is only used during installation for rdate which is used as fallback when setting the time with ntpdate fails.

Available presets: server, minimal and base. Presets set the cdebootstrap_cmdline variable.
Here's how those presets generally work (<XXX>='virtual package',[XXX]=optional):

base_packages="cpufrequtils,kmod,<kernel-package>,<init-system>,[rng-tools,]dosfstools,<root-fs-packages>"

minimal_packages="fake-hwclock,ifupdown,net-tools,ntp,openssh-server,resolvconf[,rdnssd]"

server_packages="vim-tiny,iputils-ping,wget,ca-certificates,rsyslog,cron,dialog,locales,less,man-db"

server/default preset = "--flavour=minimal --include=${base_packages},${minimal_packages},${server_packages}"

(If you build your own installer, which most won't need to, and the configuration files exist in the same directory as this README.md, it will be include in the installer image automatically.)

Bring your own files

You can have the installer place your custom configuration files (or any other file you wish to add) on the installed system during the installation. For this, you need to provide the necessary files in the /config/files/ directory of your SD card (you may need to create this directory if it doesn't exist). The /config/files/ directory is the root-point. It must have the same structure as inside the installed system. So, a file that you place on the SD card in /config/files/etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf will end up on the installed system as /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf. Each file or directory that you wish to place on the target system must also be listed in a configuration file in the directory /config on your SD card. This allows you to specify the owner (and group) and the permissions of the file. An example file is provided with the installer (see /config/my-files.list for more information). ONLY files listed there are copied over to the installed system. To have the installer actually copy the files to the target system, add the following command at an appropriate point in your post-install.txt file:

install_files my-files.list

where my-files.list is the name of the file containing the list of files. If needed, you can call install_files multiple times with different list files.
Please be aware that some restrictions may apply to the sum of the file sizes. If you wish to supply large files in this manner you may need to adjust the value of the bootsize parameter.

Custom installer script

It is possible to replace the installer script completely, without rebuilding the installer image. To do this, place a custom rcS file in the config directory of your SD card. The installer script will check this location and run this script instead of itself. Take great care when doing this, as it is intended to be used for development purposes.

Should you still choose to go this route, please use the original rcs file as a starting point.

IP Networking

The installer supports both IPv4 and IPv6 networking, although the default configuration is to use only IPv4. Networking can be configured using the 'ip4' and 'ip6' options in the installer-config.txt file (details below), and the configuration will be replicated into the installed system.

If the installer cannot configure at least one IP address (either IPv4 or IPv6) it will abort, as networking is required to perform the installation.

IPv4

The default for IPv4 is to use DHCP to obtain an address/prefix, default gateway, and DNS resolver(s). The installer can be configured in three IPv4 modes:

  • DHCP

    Set 'ip4_addr' to 'dhcp'. The remaining 'ip4' configuration options will be ignored if set.

  • Static

    Set 'ip4_addr' to an IPv4 address, and 'ip4_prefixlength' to the appropriate value for your network (the most common prefix length is 24, which corresponds to a netmask of 255.255.255.0). Set 'ip4_gateway' to the address of the default gateway, and 'ip4_nameservers' to the address of the DNS resolver which should be used (if there are multiple DNS resolvers, their addresses can be included in this option, separated by spaces).

  • Disabled

    Set 'ip4_addr' to 'disable'. The remaining 'ip4' configuration options will be ignored if set.

IPv6

The default for IPv6 is to disable its use; even if the network advertises IPv6 information, it will not be used. Note that DHCPv6 is not supported, as there is no suitable DHCPv6 client available for use in the installer environment. If the network indicates that DHCPv6 is required for addressing or any other network information, the installer will not use IPv6. The installed system can use DHCPv6, but the installer is unable to configure it in that mode.

For those unfamiliar with IPv6 networking, there are some significant differences from IPv4, in addition to the size of addresses. Most importantly, IPv6 networks can provide automatic addressing, automatic gateway discovery, and automatic DNS resolver discovery, but these can be provided independently. As a result, configuration of the installer for IPv6 is done in three parts.

The simplest configuration is when the network supports SLAAC and RDNSS; this is roughly equivalent to IPv4 DHCP, and the installer will be able to automatically assign an address, gateway, and get DNS resolver address(es).

Addressing

The installer can be configured in three modes:

  • Automatic

    Set 'ip6_addr' to 'auto'. 'ip6_prefixlength' will be ignored if set. In this mode, the kernel will use incoming Router Advertisements to determine network prefix information, and will use SLAAC (RFC 4862 - IPv6 Stateless Address Autoconfiguration) to generate an address. If no RAs are received, or they do not contain on-link prefixes, the kernel will be unable to generate an address, and IPv6 support will be disabled.

  • Static

    Set 'ip6_addr' to an IPv6 address, and 'ip6_prefixlength' to the appropriate value for your network (the most common prefix length is 64). In this mode any network prefixes received in RAs will be ignored.

  • Disabled

    Set 'ip6_addr' to 'disable'. The remaining 'ip6' configuration options will be ignored if set.

Gateways

IPv6 networks nearly always distribute gateway (router) addresses via Router Advertisements, as IPv6 routers typically use link-local addresses which can be dynamically changed. However, the installer does support static configuration. There are two configuration modes:

  • Automatic

    Set 'ip6_gateway' to 'auto'. In this mode the kernel will determine gateway(s) to use based on Router Advertisements it receives.

  • Static

    Set 'ip6_gateway' to an IPv6 address. In this mode any gateway addresses received in RAs will be ignored.

DNS Resolvers

Some IPv6 networks distribute DNS resolver information in Router Advertisements, using RDNSS (RFC 6106 - IPv6 Router Advertisment Options for DNS Configuration); others require static configuration, or do not provide DNS resolution via IPv6. The installer can be configured in three modes:

  • Automatic

    Set 'ip6_nameservers' to 'auto'. In this mode the system will determine DNS resolver(s) to use based on Router Advertisements it receives. Note that this mode requires the 'rdnssd' package, which provides a daemon to process the RDNSS options in the RAs, so this package will be added to the installed system.

  • Static

    Set 'ip6_nameservers' to the address of the DNS resolver which should be used (if there are multiple DNS resolvers, their addresses can be included in this option, separated by spaces).

  • Disabled

    Set 'ip6_nameservers' to 'disable'. This is only necessary to stop the installer from installing the 'rdnssd' package on networks which do not provide DNS resolution over IPv6.

Logging

The output of the installation process is now also logged to file.
When the installation completes successfully, the logfile is moved to /var/log/raspbian-ua-netinst.log on the installed system.
When an error occurs during install, the logfile is moved to the sd card, which gets normally mounted on /boot/ and will be named raspbian-ua-netinst-<datetimestamp>.log

First boot

The system is almost completely unconfigured on first boot. Here are some tasks you most definitely want to do on first boot.

The default root password is raspbian.

Set new root password: passwd (can also be set during installation using rootpw in installer-config.txt)

The latest kernel and firmware packages are now automatically installed during the unattended installation process. When you need a kernel module that isn't loaded by default, you will still have to configure that manually.

Optional: apt-get install raspi-copies-and-fills for improved memory management performance.
Optional: Create a swap file with dd if=/dev/zero of=/swap bs=1M count=512 && mkswap /swap && chmod 600 /swap (example is 512MB) and enable it on boot by appending /swap none swap sw 0 0 to /etc/fstab.

Reinstalling or replacing an existing system

If you want to reinstall with the same settings you did your first install you can just move the original config.txt back and reboot. Depending on the hardware you want to reinstall on (Raspberry Pi 1 or 2/3), make sure you still have kernel-rpi1_install.img / kernel-rpi2_install.img and installer-rpi.cpio.gz in your /boot partition. If you are replacing your existing system which was not installed using this method, make sure you copy those files in and the installer config.txt from the original image.

mv /boot/config-reinstall.txt /boot/config.txt
reboot

Remember to backup all your data and original config.txt before doing this!

Reporting bugs and improving the installer

When you encounter issues, have wishes or have code or documentation improvements, we'd like to hear from you! We've actually written a document on how to best do this and you can find it here.

Donate

If you want to show your appreciation, you can send bitcoin to the following address/invoice:

bc1qx77n32n4e8ceham9q4sma7j62jxe8vryn2eqqs    (@diederikdehaas (Diederik de Haas))

Feel free to ask for a custom address/invoice (f.e. for privacy reasons). Thanks!

Disclaimer

We take no responsibility for ANY data loss. You will be flashing your SD card so it should be very clear to you what you are doing and will lose all your data on the card. Same goes for reinstallation.

See LICENSE for license information.

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