Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Installation of Debian on a Dell Poweredge 715n

As promised here is a detailed installation guide for debian on a PE715n NAS, in my case I am using it as a high capacity mirrored offsite backup (one onsite, matching one in a different office)

I'm still working on ironing out some of the bugs in my atrocious grammar so don't expect this to be the final version.

Installing Debian on a Dell Poweredge 715n NAS

This device is a 1u headless (no keyboard, mouse or monitor) computer, PIII 1ghz w/ 256MB RAM and 4 IDE HDDs accessible through the front bezel. It is designed to be installed using the Dell OpenManage and Kickstart software to install windows, this isn’t the easiest solution in the world, I wasn’t able to get access to the machine to configure it using this method after 4-5hrs work but was able to install debian within an hour of setting to the task (I Was much quicker the second time round)

This document is intended to explain the process for anyone that is interested or has one of these boxes to install and want a free O/S on it.

This install was performed via PXE,

The PXE (Preboot eXecution Environment) as described in the [ftp://download.intel.com/labs/manage/wfm/download/pxespec.pdf specification (v2.1)] published by Intel and Systemsoft is an environment to bootstrap computers using a network interface card independently of available data storage devices (like hard disks) or installed operating systems (like GNU/Linux). ...

This method requires an additional PC with a network port and a serial port. I used two separate machines (desktop w/ serial connection and network connection) and a laptop with a network connection for logging in to the server via SSH post-installation and getting more information off the internet!

The hardware setup is as follows.


Crossover RJ45 network cable

Null-Modem serial cable

Active network connection (DHCP server preferred but not essential)

PC w/serial port and network connection

Step 1: configure Host PC for PXE environment

  1. get tftpd32 from http://tftpd32.jounin.net
  2. unzip this to any folder
  3. get the Debian net install from http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/dists/unstable/main/installer-i386/current/images/netboot/
    download the netboot.tar.gz file and the pxelinux.0 file
  4. extract the netboot.tar.gz file to a folder called tftpboot and copy the pxelinux.0 file to this directory as well
  5. run tftpd32 and go to the settings button (centre at bottom of window)
  6. make sure the following boxes are ticked
    TFTP server, Syslog Server, DHCP Server, Save syslog message, PXE Compatibility, Show Progress bar. Set TFTP Security to none and set the base directory to where you extracted the netboot.tar.gz file, click on ok to return to the main menu
  7. on the DHCP server tab enter the following
    IP pool starting address:
    Size of pool: 10
    Bootfile: pxelinux.0
    WINS/DNS Server:
    Default Router:
    Domain name:
    Additional Option: 0
  8. click on save (vertical box to right of options)
  9. Set the “Current Directory” to the directory where you extracted netboot.tar.gz
  10. Exit tftpd32 and start it again
  11. Connect the network port on the PXE host pc to the 1st net interface on the powervault using the crossover cable and connect the serial cable as well
  12. in the tftpboot/debian-installer/i386/ directory there is a folder called pxelinux.cfg.serial-9600 copy the “default” file contained within to the tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg directory and open this file in your preferred text-editor (I used notepad as it was the only one installed on this PC)
  13. do a search and replace for 9600 and replace it with 115200
  14. Start hyperterminal or your preferred terminal emulator with the following parameters
    Bits per second: 115200
    Data bits: 8
    Parity: None
    Stop bits: 1
    Flow control: Xon/Xoff

Step 2: Setup the Powervault

  1. Power on the server and on the host computer hyperterminal window you will see the serial output of the boot process, there will be a prompt “Press F2 for Setup function” when you see this immediately press F2 (also try ESC+2), the boot will appear to continue but it will bring up a blue menu. Select option 3 “Reinstallation”, the server will bring up the message “This option will be carried out when the server reboots”, press Y to confirm this
  2. the server will reboot and after about 2-3 min will bring up a prompt(it may be a bit hard to read depending on your terminal emulator) press enter here and the debian installation process will begin.

Step 3: The debian installation pt.1 (Basics)

  1. Plug in the other network connection to the second Ethernet port on the server
  2. Select the default language (English)
  3. The next window will be the network setup, select eth1 as the primary (eth0 is the port connected to the crossover cable) if you have a DHCP server it should pick it up automatically, otherwise you will have to setup up your connection manually

Step 4: The debian installation pt. 2 (partitioning and LVM)

  1. At the partitioning options screen, select the manual method.
  2. On the next screen remove any existing partitions from all the drives
  3. create a new 100MB partition on the first drive, formatted as EXT3 and with a mount point of /boot
  4. create a new partition on the same drive for the remaining space, use these drives as “physical volume for LVM”
  5. create new partitions on the rest of the drives of %100 and used as “physical volume for LVM”
  6. on the main partitioning screen select the Configure LVM and select yes at the prompt (write partition changes to disk)
  7. select Modify Volume Groups
  8. add all the partitions available
  9. give it a meaningful name (PV715 in my case)
  10. select Modify Logical Volumes > Create Logical Volume
  11. give it the name “swap” press enter and select the Volume group it should belong to, in this case there is only one
  12. make it 1GB in size and use the “leave” option to return to the main menu
  13. repeat steps 10 – 12 for the following details
    a name of system and a capacity of 9GB
    a name of backups and 100% of the remaining capacity
  14. return to the partitioning menu and edit the LVM partitions at the bottom of the list, format them all as EXT3 except for the Logical Volume named swap, format it as swap. Mount the “system” Logical Volume as / and the backups Logical Volume as /backups
  15. select “write partition changes to disk” and let the installer format the drives.

Step 5: The debian installation pt. 3 (Finishing touches)

  1. When it prompts for what kind of system to install remove all options using the spacebar, the only one selected initially is standard setup, this includes an X-server amongst other things and is not necessary for a poweredge installation.
  2. let the installation complete and give it the required information, Root password, and the initial user account.
  3. When the installation completes altogether you will be presented with a login prompt on Hyperterminal on the host computer.
  4. Login using the standard user account and su to root, apt-get install the following options to make management easier: sudo vim nano jed ssh
  5. edit the /etc/network/interfaces file and give the server a static IP address on eth0 (initially)
  6. edit the /etc/sudoers file and add in any users that are to have SU privileges.
  7. do /etc/init.d/networking restart and the installation is complete!

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