Automating FreeBSD Installation(s)...

Matthew Seaman m.seaman at
Sun Sep 19 04:15:28 PDT 2004

On Sat, Sep 18, 2004 at 04:11:06PM -0400, Forrest Aldrich wrote:
> I've read several articles out there that address different means to 
> automate (or standardize, for internal purposes) FreeBSD 
> installations.   One article (which was older) spoke of scripting 
> sysinstall via an install.cfg with some custom pkg modules to do 
> edits.   The other, exploiting the PXE capability of the newer (Intel) NICs.

Actually these two aren't necessarily exclusive.  PXE allows you to
build a mechanism like Solaris Jumpstart -- where systems will
automatically install and configure themselves from a network server.
One of the ways to work PXE is to combine it with the scripted install
capabilities of sysinstall(8).
> I'm interested in what people are doing now - what has had the better 
> success rate, etc.    I realize this is all dependent upon one's 
> environment - mine will be more ISP-related, but will require some 
> flexibility for different servers.

PXE is pretty good, but it depends on having appropriate support
supplied via your hardware.  Another good system is to build your own
customised install CDs (maybe even going to the lengths of building a
separate install CD for each server) -- you can include various extra
packages as part of your standard install, and you can create a
package of your own to install config files in /etc and similar
places[1].  Get it right, and installing a system can be automated
right down to slapping a CD Rom in the drive and telling the system to
boot from it.

> I've also heard of people utilizing GNU CFEngine for this type of 
> procedure, which I find interesting - it's a complex package, but seems 
> to be very functional if you have time/patience to apply it.

CFEngine is more to do with port-install configuration: managing a
whole machine room full of servers from a centralised configuration



[1] You can even use a FreeSBIE disk -- your OS lives on the
(unwritable) CD Rom, and the disk newfs'es and mounts and populates
the filesystems using the systems' hard drive as necessary.  Very easy
to recover from system compromise in that case: just reboot.

Dr Matthew J Seaman MA, D.Phil.                       26 The Paddocks
                                                      Savill Way
PGP:         Marlow
Tel: +44 1628 476614                                  Bucks., SL7 1TH UK
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