IIAB Installation

A Holt edited this page Sep 22, 2018 · 222 revisions

Installing Internet-in-a-Box (IIAB)

Quick Links


To build an Internet-in-a-Box (IIAB) server, you need 3 steps:

  1. Install the Software
  2. Configure the Server - Set Parameters and Enable Services
  3. Add Content

Building your own DIY Library of Alexandria is very much worth it in the end — we strongly encourage you to get in touch with our global volunteer community network (http://OFF.NETWORK) such that the very best learning content is increasingly available to deserving minds of all ages, in aLL countries.

Thank you for taking Digital Libraries seriously for one & all!

Expert Mode

This is for people who already know how to do everything in these instructions and enjoy doing them multiple times by missing the nuances that make this install different from things they have done before. If you are an expert, at least read about PARTITIONING as so many miss this part. Reading about networking will probably come in handy as well.

Install the Software

There are basically three ways to install IIAB software:

  1. Strongly Recommended in 2018: use our new 1-line installer script which does essentially everything!
  2. Do everything from scratch, manually, following the instructions below.
  3. Take a short cut if you have access to an "image" files from someone else who did everything from scratch, or at least some of the steps. Here are some older suggestions on how to create short cut image files, towards helping others.

The advantage of doing everything from scratch is that you will get exactly what you want, and learn about the inner workings of Internet-in-a-Box. (The disadvantage is that it's more work!)

Do Everything from Scratch

Here is the complete list of the steps required. Some may already be done.

  1. Assemble your hardware with your chosen amount of RAM, storage, and network devices. See IIAB Platforms for the partitioning scheme and IIAB Networking overview.

    Traditionally we use Standard partitioning, but increasingly since 2017 LVM partitioning is possible as well. In any case, the above "IIAB Platforms" document is the place to start for all partitioning tips.

  2. Install your OS (e.g. Ubuntu 18.04 LTS or Debian 9 "Stretch") using a minimal install (do install ssh, but avoid installing Apache or most anything else!) If using a Raspberry Pi 3 (or 3 B+), install the latest Raspbian OS ("With Desktop" graphical version or "Lite" headless version, but DO NOT USE NOOBS) onto a microSD. If installing onto XO laptops, use OLPC's latest OS (based on Fedora 18). See more at IIAB Platforms and read "What OS should I use? " at FAQ.IIAB.IO. WARNING: OTHER LINUX DISTRIBUTIONS MAY NOT/YET WORK!

  3. While installing over Wi-Fi is possible, an Ethernet (live Internet) cable is strongly recommended during installation!

    If you have no choice but to install over Wi-Fi, on Raspbian please use "sudo raspi-config" -> Network Options -> Wi-Fi to set the SSID and passphrase that will get you on the Internet (this happens in /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf). Then do "sudo reboot" and verify your Internet connection. REMEMBER: after you are completely done installing Internet-in-a-Box over Wi-Fi, you'll later need to run "sudo iiab-hotspot-on" to convert your Raspberry Pi's internal Wi-Fi to AP mode (i.e. Access Point, so it acts as a knowledge hotspot). Of course if you do this prematurely, you'll need to run "iiab-hotspot-off" to recover your Wi-Fi connection to the Internet.

    No matter what your OS, log into your machine with an attached monitor/keyboard or via ssh. Before proceeding, verify your Internet connection by typing:

   ping mit.edu
  1. Verify you don't have an old/troublesome version of Ansible installed!

    Read "What is Ansible and what version should I use?" within FAQ.IIAB.IO (or suffer the consequences :-)

  2. Escalate to root using "sudo su -" or similar. If you prefer to use "sudo" for each of the commands below, that is OK too.

  3. On Raspbian, Ubuntu or Debian, doing everything from scratch involves a few simple steps:

   apt update
   apt -y dist-upgrade
   apt -y clean


   apt -y install git

   mkdir -p /opt/iiab
   cd /opt/iiab/
   git clone https://github.com/iiab/iiab --depth 1
   git clone https://github.com/iiab/iiab-admin-console --depth 1
   git clone https://github.com/iiab/iiab-menu --depth 1
   git clone https://github.com/iiab/iiab-factory --depth 1

   mkdir -p /etc/iiab/
   cd /opt/iiab/iiab/vars/
   # cp local_vars_min.yml /etc/iiab/local_vars.yml
   cp local_vars_medium.yml /etc/iiab/local_vars.yml
   # cp local_vars_big.yml /etc/iiab/local_vars.yml


   # NOTE: you can change many/most settings after install too, using the
   # Admin Console (http://box/admin) as documented at: http://FAQ.IIAB.IO

   cd /opt/iiab/iiab/scripts/
   # Installs latest Ansible from PPA

   cd /opt/iiab/iiab/
   # TRY TO RERUN THE ABOVE LINE IF IT FAILS (if networking glitches etc?)

   cd /opt/iiab/iiab-admin-console/
   # Installs Admin Console; runs iiab-get-kiwix-cat to d/l Kiwix catalog

   cd /opt/iiab/iiab-menu/
   # Installs Dynamic Menuing for /library/www/html/home/index.html

STRONGLY RECOMMENDED: The above happens automatically if you run our 1-line installer, which allows you to choose a preset number of server apps: (~6 server apps, ~12 server apps, or ~20 server apps)

   curl download.iiab.io/6.7/install.txt | sudo bash

This 1-line installer requires the latest Raspbian OS (on Raspberry Pi 3 or 3 B+), Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (on x86_64 PC's) or Debian 9.x (on x86_64 PC's). Note the above can take a couple hours on a Raspberry Pi — even with a fast Internet connection — so if you want to get moving faster, stick with a MIN-sized or MEDIUM-sized install. Conversely a much larger but slower installation is possible ("BIG-sized") if you want to experiment with the more full suite of ~20 server apps.

Finally, please browse http://download.iiab.io/6.7/install.txt to inspect and learn from the automated steps of the bash-driven installation process, and please write to bugs @ iiab.io if you find issues, Thank You !

In general, beware ./iiab-install (formerly "./runansible") runs slowly (1) the 1st time you run it (2) if you permit your Raspberry Pi 3 CPU to rise above 80C on a hot day without active ventilation (3) if you're using a slower/older SD card and/or (4) if you have a slow Internet connection.

Whereas subsequent runs (e.g. via Admin Console -> Configure -> Install Configured Options) can take as little as 15-to-25 minutes on Raspberry Pi 3 and 3 B+.

Similarly, if you want to help test CentOS, please do help us improve on these 2 much older recipes from earlier in 2017:


As explained in the above "curl" script, a reboot is generally necessary before IIAB becomes fully functional, e.g. to put Hostname change into effect, etc.

Please note that if you need to upgrade from a recent version, and it has been some time since you cloned IIAB, you may want to consider the following instead of a fresh install: (upgrades are at your own risk)

   cd /opt/iiab/iiab/
   git pull
   ./iiab-install --reinstall

Also At Your Own Risk: On Raspbian, Ubuntu or Debian, download and install the latest security/package revisions by running apt update followed by apt dist-upgrade (might upgrade your kernel) and then rebooting — per the recommendations at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/IIAB/Security (on CentOS, run yum update and on more recent versions of Fedora run dnf upgrade).

Please note that if SELinux was enabled it will be disabled and the server will reboot at the end of the install. In that case the server may get a new IP address, usually one higher than the previous one. The server may also disconnect during the install in which case you will need to reconnect in order to continue.

You can see the log of the last install by typing:

   more /opt/iiab/iiab/iiab-install.log

Proceed to: Configure the Server

Take a Short Cut

This step applies if you've been given a pre-built disk image (ISO file or similar) for a particular configuration and even content i.e. if everything from the steps listed above has already been completed for you.

In general the process of using one of these files is to download it to a separate computer and then write it to storage media for the target machine. What happens next depends on the specific file downloaded.

You will need tools to unpack or decompress these files and then burn/flash them to portable media. On Windows you can download the graphical tools listed below. On MacOS and Linux you also have the option to use powerful command-line tools (like dd) that come with the OS.


  • Windows

    • Etcher or Win32 Disk Imager - friendly ways to burn/flash an image onto a microSD card
    • 7-Zip - unpacks compressed files of almost any kind
    • FileZilla or WinSCP - if {SCP, FTP, FTPS, SFTP} are needed to download/upload
  • MacOS and Linux

    • Etcher - friendly way to burn/flash an image onto a microSD card
    • dd - command-line "data duplicator"
    • tar, unzip, gunzip, bzip2, xz - unpack compressed files & archives

Naturally, while the "Do Everything from Scratch" steps (above) are generic and apply to any platform, short cuts apply only to specific platforms (below, when pre-built images exist).

Raspberry Pi 3 (or 3 B+)

Raspberry Pi 2 might also work, but is slower, and lacks the all-important internal Wi-Fi!

The most recent IIAB for Raspian Lite (or for the full Raspbian with Desktop, including desktop apps) can be installed from http://download.iiab.io

There is also a README with instructions.

You can also have a look at:


Please ignore everything down to WRITING AN IMAGE TO THE SD CARD (we support Raspbian but not NOOBS!)

Mini PC's like Intel NUC and Gigabyte BRIX

Note that most Intel NUCs (Next Unit of Computing) shipping since 2015, including the 5th and 6th generation Intel NUC's, have a soldered-in Wi-Fi chip limited to 12 clients maximum. Its competitor the Gigabyte BRIX suffers from the same limitation out of the box (factory units arrive with an Intel Wi-Fi module) but thankfully this Wi-Fi module is removable! Specifically, the Gigabyte BRIX's Wi-Fi socket has been tested to accept less-constrained Wi-Fi cards, such as Atheros modules available for less than $10.

If you are given a pre-built x86 image, it should generally install via Clonezilla when booted on the target machine.

The image (ending in .img) should be written to a USB stick using the same software as for Raspberry Pi and OLPC XO laptops.

Note that these images will write two partitions to a USB stick (thumb drive). The first partition contains the Clonezilla tool, which uses the data from the second partition to initialize your hard disk.

Finally, while these images have been developed on the Intel NUC, they may well work on other Intel machines too (do let us know!)

Installation on OLPC XO laptops is not fully supported with release-6.2+, due to lack of time to test the following general strategy:

  • Install OLPC OS 13.2.9 or similar onto the XO laptop

  • In My Settings -> Power turn off Automatic Power Management

  • Connect all the network interfaces and reboot

  • Install git and Ansible: (for dependencies)

       su -
       git clone https://github.com/ansible/ansible --branch stable-2.2 --recursive
       cd ansible
       python setup.py install

    Context: early in 2017 Ansible 2.2.0 had been required, avoiding 2.2.1 which had issues.

    As of late September 2018, Ansible 2.6.4+ was recommended — please verify Ansible's version number by running:

       ansible --version
  • Clone the IIAB git repo, and cd into it:

       mkdir -p /opt/iiab
       cd /opt/iiab/
       git clone --branch release-6.2 --depth 1 https://github.com/iiab/iiab
       cd /opt/iiab/iiab/
  • Verify all the network interfaces are visible and have the correct interface label:

       ip addr            (similar to legacy command "ifconfig")
  • Optionally, verify that all network interfaces are properly autodetected:

       bash roles/common/library/iiab_facts
  • From the iiab directory, run initial setup. The XO will automatically reboot early in the install and must be restarted with "./iiab-install (formerly "./runansible") to complete the install process: (increases size of /tmp so installs will complete successfully)

      ./iiab-install        (formerly "./runansible", try to rerun this if it fails!)

Configure the Server

At this point you should be able to connect to http://box from a browser. In certain cases http://box.lan, http://schoolserver.lan, http://localhost or may instead be necessary.

To begin configuring the server, connect to its Admin Console at http://box.lan/admin (username: iiab-admin password: g0adm1n -- note the numbers 0, 1). In general, all default/initial passwords are documented at "What are the default passwords?" within: http://FAQ.IIAB.IO

This permits selection of options, services, languages, etc to permit additional services, and educational resources to be enabled and selected for download.

Please click on the Help link to get detailed information on configuration options.

If you're new to the Admin Console, please read "What are the default passwords?" in http://FAQ.IIAB.IO

Server Security

The first time you sign into the Admin Console would be the best time to change the password. Select the Utilities menu option and the first item, change password. Fill in the form and click Change Password.

Please also read about and take seriously Internet-in-a-Box security practices.

Configure Menu

Once the password has been set you should start with the Configure menu item. The overall process is:

  1. Select each sub-menu item and enter any desired parameters. Help is available for each screen and parameter.
  2. Click Save Configuration
  3. Click Install Configured Options
  4. Monitor the progress of the Configuration job in Utilities -> Display Job Status.
  5. Note that after Display Job Status shows "Success", it may be necessary to reboot, to enable all the selected changes.

This job can take a substantial amount of time depending on the capacity of the platform involved and how much of the software was included in the initial image.

Proceed to: Add Content

Supported Network Modes

Operator can select one of three modes of operation:

  • Appliance - No firewall, no dhpcd, no DNS, just a contributor to an already existing network.
  • Gateway - Does dhcpd (IP addresses), name lookup (DNS), firewall, local web page cache for faster retrieval the second time, content filtering to reduce porn (DansGuardian), and site "whitelists" if wanted.
  • LAN Controller (Local Area Network) - In this mode, the server configures clients with IP addresses (dhcpd - dynamic host configuration protocol), name resolution (defines "box" and "schoolserver" for all clients, etc).

Based upon selection of the above mode in the Admin Console, the IIAB software will attempt to set up network connections. If "Appliance" mode is wanted, the network adapter will be set up. If "Gateway" is selected, and one of the adapters discovers that it is connected to a source of IP addresses, that adapter will be the internet, and the other the Wi-Fi connector. If "LAN Controller" is selected, any adapter found will be act as server to any clients that might ask to connect.

The IIAB installation attempts to determine the network topology based on the number and types of connections it discovers. In general, it looks to see if there is a connection to a gateway and whether other wireless or wired connections are present.

Enable Services

Different services (a.k.a. server apps) can be enabled on your IIAB server by checking boxes in Admin Console (http://box.lan/admin) -> Configure menu -> Enable Services.

Remember to then click Save Configuration -> Install Configured Options.

Finally, confirm that it has completed in the coming minutes, within Utilities menu -> Display Job Status -> Refresh Status.

If you're new to the Admin Console, please read "What are the default passwords?" in http://FAQ.IIAB.IO

Add Content

Since IIAB/XSCE 6.0, many kinds of content (but not all) can be downloaded and installed through your Internet-in-a-Box server's Admin Console (http://box.lan/admin).

WARNING: some of these Content Packs are quite large and you should pay attention to the space available and space required displayed on each screen. Note that space calculations may not reflect multiple types of downloads happening simultaneously.

Add with Admin Console

To begin, log in to the Admin Console (http://box.lan/admin), take the Install Content menu item, and view relevant Help.

ZIM Files

ZIM files (ZIMs) are compressed and indexed (rapidly searchable) Content Packs, generally prepared by http://kiwix.org. They include Wikipedia, Wiktionary, TED Talks, and many other educational/reference materials in multiple languages. Download and install these as follows:

  1. Within Admin Console -> Install Content, hit button Refresh Kiwix Catalog to update your list of available ZIMs with the very latest from Kiwix.org.

  2. Within Install Content, take menu option Get ZIM Files from Kiwix. Before making your selection of ZIM Content Packs, use buttons Select Languages -> More Languages to be sure you're viewing all relevant choices, in many more languages than just {English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Arabic and Hindi}.

  3. Carefully finalize your selection of ZIM Content Packs, among the many choices. Avoid downloading/installing more than 10 at once!

  4. Hit button Install Selected ZIMs to begin downloading and installing them onto your server. This can take a very long time, during which time your server may appear unresponsive (within the first hour especially) while it's working!

  5. Monitor progress within Admin Console -> Utilities -> Display Job Status. Each ZIM spawns 3 jobs which (1) download, (2) unzip, then (3) move the pieces into position within /library/zims/content and /library/zims/index. In the past, after installing ZIMs, you also needed to run "iiab-make-kiwix-lib; systemctl restart kiwix-serve" — but this is no longer necessary since IIAB/XSCE 6.2.

WARNING: there are certain situations (particularly if you've removed a ZIM from /library/zims, e.g. to clean house or when a malformed ZIM failed to install its index) where you need to run Admin Console -> Install Content -> Restart Kiwix Server. This will fix the listing within the above "Get ZIM Files from Kiwix" downloader, so it correctly shows which ZIMs you truly have installed (and which others are truly downloadable!)

Reminder: you can always click Help near the top-right on any page within IIAB's Admin Console, then click on help section Install Content.


RACHEL maintains a large number of Content Packs at http://oer2go.org. They include HTML, PDF, and other web materials in multiple languages. Download and install these as follows:

  1. Within Admin Console -> Install Content, hit button Refresh OER2GO Catalog to update your list of available modules.

  2. Within Install Content, take menu option Get OER2GO(RACHEL) Modules. Before making your selection of modules, use buttons Select Languages -> More Languages to be sure you're viewing all relevant choices, in many more languages than just {English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Arabic and Hindi}.

  3. Carefully finalize your selection of OER2GO modules, among the many choices. Avoid downloading/installing more than 10 at once!

  4. Hit button Install Selected Modules to begin downloading and installing them onto your server. This can take a very long time, during which time your server may appear unresponsive (within the first hour especially) while it's working!

  5. Monitor progress within Admin Console -> Utilities -> Display Job Status. Each module spawns 2 jobs which (1) download, then (2) move the pieces into position within /library/www/html/modules.

Reminder: you can always click Help near the top-right on any page within IIAB's Admin Console, then click on help section Install Content.

KA Lite (for Khan Academy)

KA Lite is the most popular platform to experience Khan Academy videos, and a huge collection of associated exercises. Accounts may be created for students and teachers if you choose to use KA Lite's LMS functionality as well, to track your own progress (or others').

To download the Khan Academy videos of your choosing, in various languages, use KA Lite's downloader available in these places:

Username/password is Admin/changeme upon installation.

KA Lite's English exercises and subtitles (about 1 GB) MUST be downloaded and installed, even if you are not using English videos, starting with KA Lite 0.17.0 early in 2017. Thankfully our IIAB install/load scripts on Raspberry Pi install this essential piece for you.

See also "KA Lite Administration: What tips & tricks exist?" within FAQ.IIAB.IO.

Add Content Manually


Download OER2GO (RACHEL) modules manually using rsync, to /library/www/html/modules

After a module has been downloaded successfully (rerun rsync if there are connectivity issues) local/offline users can access it with URL:


Copy KA Lite Videos

If KA Lite videos have been obtained from another install or on some storage medium they can be copied directly to KA Lite without going through the admin interface.

  1. Copy to /library/ka-lite/content/
  2. Issue the command systemctl restart kalite-serve to restart the server


OpenStreetMap.org (OSM) is much like Google Maps, but more democratic and without advertising — anybody can change it, much like Wikipedia only for maps.

Internet-in-a-Box enables OSM to be viewable, zoomable and searchable while offline.

16 levels of zoom are possible, from level 0 to 15. This is about 110GB total, so you may need to mail order a physical drive from the volunteers at unleashkids.org if the levels posted to download.iiab.io/content are insufficient.

Either way, the following directories and their contents are needed:

  • /library/knowledge/modules/geonames_index
  • /library/knowledge/modules/openstreetmap

Implementers can reduce OSM's storage needs by eliminating high-zoom levels within directory openstreetmap, where each zoom level is contained within its own subdirectory.

Example 1: newer install images typically include layers 0 to 8 (140MB) fully working out-of-the-box, even prior to your customizing your own Internet-in-a-Box server.

Example 2: osm12.tar.gz from download.iiab.io/content includes layers 0 to 12 (8.2GB) showing many towns/rivers/parks worldwide, not just cities/countries/seas.

As you can see, each increasing zoom level generally requires exponentially ever larger amounts of storage!

ASIDE: there is a very dedicated group of people coming together to improve the quality, compactness, vividness, searchability (and UX) of OpenStreetMap for the entire developing world in 2017. Please do make contact with holt @ laptop.org if you too can help here.

Local Content

Schools/Clinics often have custom learning materials they want "permanently" shared with everyone on site. Such PDF's, DOC files, videos, images, audio recordings and HTML (etc!) can be copied to /library/www/html/local_content so that users can browse it, with a URL like http://box/usb or http://box.lan/usb

External USB/Drive Content

For spontaneous (ad hoc) access to materials and teacher content (handouts, lessons, etc) these can be placed on a USB stick or drive, within a folder named:

  • usb

...which will appear under URL http://box/usb when teachers' sticks/drives are plugged into the server's USB ports. Warning: some older phones/devices may require you to type in http://box.lan/usb or

For legacy support of the LibraryBox and PirateBox communities, teachers may also place shareable content in folder names {share, Share, Pirateshare/Share} on their USB sticks/drives.

Bonus: after the lesson, teachers should feel free to remove their USB sticks/drives without warning, as the IIAB server should unmount USB sticks/drives automagically.

See "Can teachers display their own content?" within our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ.IIAB.IO) and "usb-lib README" for more info.

Remove Content

IIAB 6.5 introduced this curatorial productivity tool, to free up space on your Internet-in-a-Box, allowing you to select and remove stale content. This can be an absolute lifesaver prior to updating to new content.

After you log into IIAB's Admin Console (http://box/admin) click Install Content, then Remove Content. A list will appear showing content packs / modules installed on your IIAB.

Use the checkboxes to select those older-or-unneeded ZIM files and OER2GO (RACHEL) modules that you want to remove.

Then click Delete Checked Files at the top of the page!

Reminder: you can always click Help near the top-right on any page within IIAB's Admin Console, then click on help section Install Content.

You can’t perform that action at this time.
You signed in with another tab or window. Reload to refresh your session. You signed out in another tab or window. Reload to refresh your session.
Press h to open a hovercard with more details.