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How to install Ubuntu using serial console

This instruction show you how to install Ubuntu with serial console without VGA. We have tested the following instructions under UEFI boot and legacy boot mode.

USB boot-disk setup

  1. Download an ubuntu server amd64 iso file

  2. Create a USB boot disk using unetbootin

  3. Modify the following files. If you still use legacy bios boot mode, modify isolinux/isolinux.cfg, isolinux/txt.cfg, syslinux.cfg. If you use UEFI boot mode, modify boot/grub/grub.cfg only.

    • isolinux/isolinux.cfg
    # D-I config version 2.0
    include menu.cfg
    default menu.c32
    prompt 0
    timeout 0
    
    • isolinux/txt.cfg
    default install
    label install
      menu label ^Install Ubuntu Server
      kernel /install/vmlinuz
      append vga=normal initrd=/install/initrd.gz -- console=tty0 console=ttyS0,115200n8 nosplash debug -
    
    • syslinux.cfg
    CONSOLE 0
    SERIAL 0 115200 0
    
    default menu.c32
    prompt 0
    menu title UNetbootin
    timeout 100
    
    label unetbootindefault
    kernel /ubnkern
    append vga=normal initrd=/ubninit nomodeset askmethod console=tty0 console=ttyS0,115200n8
    
    • boot/grub/grub.cfg

    Add serial console options and remove quiet option in the menuentry of "Insatall Ubuntu Server"

    menuentry "Install Ubuntu Server" {
        set gfxpayload=keep
        linux   /install/vmlinuz  file=/cdrom/preseed/ubuntu-server.seed vga=normal console=tty0 console=ttyS0,115200n8 ---
        initrd  /install/initrd.gz
        }
    

Hardware configuration

  1. Enter BIOS.

  2. Setup serial port setting to allow console redirection.

    • Enter "Advanced Setup Configurations" Tab

      • Enter "Super IO Configuration" option

         Serial Port 0 Configuration /Serial Port 1 Configuration
         Serial Port: Enabled
        
      • Enter "Serial Port Console Redirection" option

         Terminal Type: VT100+
         Bits Per second: 115200
         Data Bits: 8 Bits
         Parity: None
         Stop Bits: 1
         Flow Control: None
         VT-UTF8 Combo Key Support: Enabled
         Recorder Mode: Disabled
         Resolution 100x31: Enabled
         Legacy OS Redirection Resolution: 80x25
         Putty KeyPad: VT100
         Redirection After BIOS Post: Always Enable
        
  3. Select boot partition

    • Enter "Boot" Tab

    Set UEFI USB disk boot or USB disk as first boot priority at Boot Option

  4. Save current BIOS configuration and reboot

Client setup

  1. Attach serial console from client
% screen /dev/ttyS0 115200

Ubuntu Installation

  1. Proceed normal Ubuntu installation.

  2. At the phase of GRUB installation, select your correct boot disk for boot loader. An Ubuntu 14.04 installation boot disk may be "/dev/sda" in case that you use USB boot.

    /dev/sdb
    
  3. Install SSH daemon and avahi-daemon to configure the system after this installation.

  4. (Optional) When you see the dialog at "Finish the installation", check "" and select "start shell" to check host IP address in a DHCP environment with the following command.

    $ ip addr show
    

First boot after the installation

  1. Enter editing mode of grub boot option with key e, when you see grub boot menu on serial console.

  2. Add console options after ro in linux boot options

    linux ..... ro console=tty0 console=ttyS0,115200n8
    
  3. Boot linux with current grub configuration by Ctrl-x

Post setup

  1. Grub configuration

    • Edit /etc/default/grub as follows:
    GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=""
    GRUB_TERMINAL='serial console'
    GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="console=tty0 console=ttyS0,115200n8"
    GRUB_SERIAL_COMMAND="serial --speed=115200 --unit=0 --word=8 --parity=no --stop=1"
    
    • Update grub configuration
    # update-grub
    

Tested Ubuntu and Hardware

Ubuntu version

  • Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
  • Ubuntu 15.10
  • Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
  • Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS

Tested hardware

  • Lanner FW-7551
  • Lanner FW-8896
  • Lanner NCA-4010
  • Riava Rangeley server

Reference

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Ubuntu installation for servers without video card

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