Preseeding Trisquel Virtual Machines Using “netinst” Images

I’m migrating some self-hosted virtual machines to Trisquel, and noticed that Trisquel does not offer cloud-images similar to the Debian Cloud and Ubuntu Cloud images. Thus my earlier approach based on virt-install --cloud-init and cloud-localds does not work with Trisquel. While I hope that Trisquel will eventually publish cloud-compatible images, I wanted to document an alternative approach for Trisquel based on preseeding. This is how I used to install Debian and Ubuntu in the old days, and the automated preseed method is best documented in the Debian installation manual. I was hoping to forget about the preseed format, but maybe it will become one of those legacy technologies that never really disappears? Like FAT16 and 8-bit microcontrollers.

Below I assume you have a virtual machine host server up that runs libvirt and has virt-install and similar tools; install them with the following command. I run Trisquel 11 aramo on my VM-host, but I believe any recent dpkg-based distribution like Trisquel 9/10, PureOS 10, Debian 11 or Ubuntu 20.04/22.04 would work with minor adjustments.

apt-get install libvirt-daemon-system virtinst genisoimage cloud-image-utils osinfo-db-tools

The approach can install Trisquel 9 (etiona), Trisquel 10 (nabia) and Trisquel 11 (aramo). First download and verify the integrity of the netinst images that we will need.

mkdir -p /root/iso
cd /root/iso
wget -q
wget -q
wget -q
wget -q
wget -q
wget -q
wget -q
wget -q
wget -q
wget -q -O- | gpg --import
sha256sum -c trisquel-netinst_9.0.2_amd64.iso.sha256
gpg --verify trisquel-netinst_9.0.2_amd64.iso.asc
sha256sum -c trisquel-netinst_10.0.1_amd64.iso.sha256
gpg --verify trisquel-netinst_10.0.1_amd64.iso.asc
sha256sum -c trisquel-netinst_11.0_amd64.iso.sha256
gpg --verify trisquel-netinst_11.0_amd64.iso.asc

I have developed the following fairly minimal preseed file that works with all three Trisquel releases. Compare it against the official Trisquel 11 preseed skeleton and the Debian 11 example preseed file. You should modify obvious things like SSH key, host/IP settings, partition layout and decide for yourself how to deal with passwords. While Ubuntu/Trisquel usually wants to setup a user account, I prefer to login as root hence setting ‘passwd/root-login‘ to true and ‘passwd/make-user‘ to false.

root@trana:~# cat>trisquel.preseed 
d-i debian-installer/locale select en_US
d-i keyboard-configuration/xkb-keymap select us

d-i netcfg/choose_interface select auto
d-i netcfg/disable_autoconfig boolean true

d-i netcfg/get_ipaddress string
d-i netcfg/get_netmask string
d-i netcfg/get_gateway string
d-i netcfg/get_nameservers string

d-i netcfg/get_hostname string trisquel
d-i netcfg/get_domain string

d-i clock-setup/utc boolean true
d-i time/zone string UTC

d-i mirror/country string manual
d-i mirror/http/hostname string
d-i mirror/http/directory string /mirror/trisquel/packages
d-i mirror/http/proxy string

d-i partman-auto/method string regular
d-i partman-partitioning/confirm_write_new_label boolean true
d-i partman/choose_partition select finish
d-i partman/confirm boolean true
d-i partman/confirm_nooverwrite boolean true
d-i partman-basicfilesystems/no_swap boolean false
d-i partman-auto/expert_recipe string myroot :: 1000 50 -1 ext4 \
     $primary{ } $bootable{ } method{ format } \
     format{ } use_filesystem{ } filesystem{ ext4 } \
     mountpoint{ / } \
d-i partman-auto/choose_recipe select myroot

d-i passwd/root-login boolean true
d-i user-setup/allow-password-weak boolean true
d-i passwd/root-password password r00tme
d-i passwd/root-password-again password r00tme
d-i passwd/make-user boolean false

tasksel tasksel/first multiselect
d-i pkgsel/include string openssh-server

popularity-contest popularity-contest/participate boolean false

d-i grub-installer/only_debian boolean true
d-i grub-installer/with_other_os boolean true
d-i grub-installer/bootdev string default

d-i finish-install/reboot_in_progress note

d-i preseed/late_command string mkdir /target/root/.ssh ; echo ssh-ed25519 AAAAC3NzaC1lZDI1NTE5AAAAILzCFcHHrKzVSPDDarZPYqn89H5TPaxwcORgRg+4DagE cardno:FFFE67252015 > /target/root/.ssh/authorized_keys

Use the file above as a skeleton for preparing a VM-specific preseed file as follows. The environment variables HOST and IPS will be used later on too.

root@trana:~# HOST=foo
root@trana:~# IP=
root@trana:~# sed -e "s,get_ipaddress string.*,get_ipaddress string $IP," -e "s,get_hostname string.*,get_hostname string $HOST," < trisquel.preseed > vm-$HOST.preseed

The following script is used to prepare the ISO images with the preseed file that we will need. This script is inspired by the Debian Wiki Preseed EditIso page and the Trisquel ISO customization wiki page. There are a couple of variations based on earlier works. Paths are updated to match the Trisquel netinst ISO layout, which differ slightly from Debian. We modify isolinux.cfg to boot the auto label without a timeout. On Trisquel 11 the auto boot label exists, but on Trisquel 9 and Trisquel 10 it does not exist so we add it in order to be able to start the automated preseed installation.

root@trana:~# cat gen-preseed-iso 

# Copyright (C) 2018-2022 Simon Josefsson -- GPLv3+

set -e
set -x


test -f "$ISO"
test -f "$PRESEED"
test ! -f "$OUTISO"

TMPDIR=$(mktemp -d)
mkdir "$TMPDIR/mnt"
mkdir "$TMPDIR/tmp"

cp "$PRESEED" "$TMPDIR"/preseed.cfg
cd "$TMPDIR"

mount "$ISO" mnt/
cp -rT mnt/ tmp/
umount mnt/

chmod +w -R tmp/
gunzip tmp/initrd.gz
echo preseed.cfg | cpio -H newc -o -A -F tmp/initrd
gzip tmp/initrd
chmod -w -R tmp/

sed -i "s/timeout 0/timeout 1/" tmp/isolinux.cfg
sed -i "s/default vesamenu.c32/default auto/" tmp/isolinux.cfg

if ! grep -q auto tmp/adtxt.cfg; then
    cat<<EOF >> tmp/adtxt.cfg
label auto
	menu label ^Automated install
	kernel linux
	append auto=true priority=critical vga=788 initrd=initrd.gz --- quiet

cd tmp/
find -follow -type f | xargs md5sum  > md5sum.txt
cd ..


genisoimage -r -J -b isolinux.bin -c \
            -no-emul-boot -boot-load-size 4 -boot-info-table \
            -o "$OUTISO" "$TMPDIR/tmp/"

rm -rf "$TMPDIR"

exit 0
root@trana:~# chmod +x gen-preseed-iso 

Next run the command on one of the downloaded ISO image and the generated preseed file.

root@trana:~# ./gen-preseed-iso /root/iso/trisquel-netinst_10.0.1_amd64.iso vm-$HOST.preseed vm-$HOST.iso
+ ISO=/root/iso/trisquel-netinst_10.0.1_amd64.iso
+ PRESEED=vm-foo.preseed
+ OUTISO=vm-foo.iso
+ LASTPWD=/root
+ test -f /root/iso/trisquel-netinst_10.0.1_amd64.iso
+ test -f vm-foo.preseed
+ test ! -f vm-foo.iso
+ mktemp -d
+ TMPDIR=/tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9
+ mkdir /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/mnt
+ mkdir /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/tmp
+ cp vm-foo.preseed /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/preseed.cfg
+ cd /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9
+ mount /root/iso/trisquel-netinst_10.0.1_amd64.iso mnt/
mount: /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/mnt: WARNING: source write-protected, mounted read-only.
+ cp -rT mnt/ tmp/
+ umount mnt/
+ chmod +w -R tmp/
+ gunzip tmp/initrd.gz
+ echo preseed.cfg
+ cpio -H newc -o -A -F tmp/initrd
5 blocks
+ gzip tmp/initrd
+ chmod -w -R tmp/
+ sed -i s/timeout 0/timeout 1/ tmp/isolinux.cfg
+ sed -i s/default vesamenu.c32/default auto/ tmp/isolinux.cfg
+ grep -q auto tmp/adtxt.cfg
+ cat
+ cd tmp/
+ find -follow -type f
+ xargs md5sum
+ cd ..
+ cd /root
+ genisoimage -r -J -b isolinux.bin -c -no-emul-boot -boot-load-size 4 -boot-info-table -o vm-foo.iso /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/tmp/
I: -input-charset not specified, using utf-8 (detected in locale settings)
Using GCRY_000.MOD;1 for  /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/tmp/boot/grub/x86_64-efi/gcry_sha512.mod (gcry_sha256.mod)
Using XNU_U000.MOD;1 for  /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/tmp/boot/grub/x86_64-efi/xnu_uuid.mod (xnu_uuid_test.mod)
Using PASSW000.MOD;1 for  /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/tmp/boot/grub/x86_64-efi/password_pbkdf2.mod (password.mod)
Using PART_000.MOD;1 for  /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/tmp/boot/grub/x86_64-efi/part_sunpc.mod (part_sun.mod)
Using USBSE000.MOD;1 for  /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/tmp/boot/grub/x86_64-efi/usbserial_pl2303.mod (usbserial_ftdi.mod)
Using USBSE001.MOD;1 for  /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/tmp/boot/grub/x86_64-efi/usbserial_ftdi.mod (usbserial_usbdebug.mod)
Using VIDEO000.MOD;1 for  /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/tmp/boot/grub/x86_64-efi/videotest.mod (videotest_checksum.mod)
Using GFXTE000.MOD;1 for  /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/tmp/boot/grub/x86_64-efi/gfxterm_background.mod (gfxterm_menu.mod)
Using GCRY_001.MOD;1 for  /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/tmp/boot/grub/x86_64-efi/gcry_sha256.mod (gcry_sha1.mod)
Using MULTI000.MOD;1 for  /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/tmp/boot/grub/x86_64-efi/multiboot2.mod (multiboot.mod)
Using USBSE002.MOD;1 for  /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/tmp/boot/grub/x86_64-efi/usbserial_usbdebug.mod (usbserial_common.mod)
Using MDRAI000.MOD;1 for  /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9/tmp/boot/grub/x86_64-efi/mdraid09.mod (mdraid09_be.mod)
Size of boot image is 4 sectors -> No emulation
 22.89% done, estimate finish Thu Dec 29 23:36:18 2022
 45.70% done, estimate finish Thu Dec 29 23:36:18 2022
 68.56% done, estimate finish Thu Dec 29 23:36:18 2022
 91.45% done, estimate finish Thu Dec 29 23:36:18 2022
Total translation table size: 2048
Total rockridge attributes bytes: 24816
Total directory bytes: 40960
Path table size(bytes): 64
Max brk space used 46000
21885 extents written (42 MB)
+ rm -rf /tmp/tmp.mNEprT4Tx9
+ exit 0

Now the image is ready for installation, so invoke virt-install as follows. For older virt-install (for example on Trisquel 10 nabia), replace --osinfo linux2020 with --os-variant linux2020.The machine will start directly, launching the preseed automatic installation. At this point, I usually click on the virtual machine in virt-manager to follow screen output until the installation has finished. If everything works OK the machines comes up and I can ssh into it.

root@trana:~# virt-install --name $HOST --disk vm-$HOST.img,size=5 --cdrom vm-$HOST.iso --osinfo linux2020 --autostart --noautoconsole --wait
Using linux2020 default --memory 4096

Starting install...
Allocating 'vm-foo.img'                                                                                                                                |    0 B  00:00:00 ... 
Creating domain...                                                                                                                                     |    0 B  00:00:00     

Domain is still running. Installation may be in progress.
Waiting for the installation to complete.
Domain has shutdown. Continuing.
Domain creation completed.
Restarting guest.

There are some problems that I have noticed that would be nice to fix, but are easy to work around. The first is that at the end of the installation of Trisquel 9 and Trisquel 10, the VM hangs after displaying Sent SIGKILL to all processes followed by Requesting system reboot. I kill the VM manually using virsh destroy foo and start it up again using virsh start foo. For production use I expect to be running Trisquel 11, where the problem doesn’t happen, so this does not bother me enough to debug further.

Update 2023-03-21: The following issue was fixed between the final release of aramo and the pre-release of aramo that this blog post was originally written for, so the following no longer applies: The remaining issue that once booted, a Trisquel 11 VM has lost its DNS nameserver configuration, presumably due to poor integration with systemd-resolved. Both Trisquel 9 and Trisquel 10 uses systemd-resolved where DNS works after first boot, so this appears to be a Trisquel 11 bug. You can work around it with rm -f /etc/resolv.conf && echo 'nameserver A.B.C.D' > /etc/resolv.conf or drink the systemd Kool-Aid.

If you want to clean up and re-start the process, here is how you wipe out what you did. After this, you may run the sed, ./gen-preseed-iso and virt-install commands again. Remember, use virsh shutdown foo to gracefully shutdown a VM.

root@trana:~# virsh destroy foo
Domain 'foo' destroyed

root@trana:~# virsh undefine foo --remove-all-storage
Domain 'foo' has been undefined
Volume 'vda'(/root/vm-foo.img) removed.

root@trana:~# rm vm-foo.*

Happy hacking on your virtal machines!

Static network config with Debian Cloud images

I self-host some services on virtual machines (VMs), and I’m currently using Debian 11.x as the host machine relying on the libvirt infrastructure to manage QEMU/KVM machines. While everything has worked fine for years (including on Debian 10.x), there has always been one issue causing a one-minute delay every time I install a new VM: the default images run a DHCP client that never succeeds in my environment. I never found out a way to disable DHCP in the image, and none of the documented ways through cloud-init that I have tried worked. A couple of days ago, after reading the AlmaLinux wiki I found a solution that works with Debian.

The following commands creates a Debian VM with static network configuration without the annoying one-minute DHCP delay. The three essential cloud-init keywords are the NoCloud meta-data parameters dsmode:local, static network-interfaces setting combined with the user-data bootcmd keyword. I’m using a Raptor CS Talos II ppc64el machine, so replace the image link with a genericcloud amd64 image if you are using x86.

cp debian-11-generic-ppc64el.qcow2 foo.qcow2

dsmode: local
network-interfaces: |
 iface enp0s1 inet static

fqdn: foo.mydomain
manage_etc_hosts: true
disable_root: false
ssh_pwauth: false
- ssh-ed25519 AAAA...
timezone: Europe/Stockholm
- rm -f /run/network/interfaces.d/enp0s1
- ifup enp0s1

virt-install --name foo --import --os-variant debian10 --disk foo.qcow2 --cloud-init meta-data=meta-data,user-data=user-data

Unfortunately virt-install from Debian 11 does not support the –cloud-init network-config parameter, so if you want to use a version 2 network configuration with cloud-init (to specify IPv6 addresses, for example) you need to replace the final virt-install command with the following.

version: 2
   dhcp4: false
   addresses: [, fc00::14/7 ]
   gateway6: fc00::12
    addresses: [, fc00::12 ]

cloud-localds -v -m local --network-config=network_config_static.cfg seed.iso user-data

virt-install --name foo --import --os-variant debian10 --disk foo.qcow2 --disk seed.iso,readonly=on --noreboot

virsh start foo
virsh detach-disk foo vdb --config
virsh console foo

There are still some warnings like the following, but it does not seem to cause any problem:

[FAILED] Failed to start Initial cloud-init job (pre-networking).

Finally, if you do not want the cloud-init tools installed in your VMs, I found the following set of additional user-data commands helpful. Cloud-init will not be enabled on first boot and a cron job will be added that purges some unwanted packages.

- touch /etc/cloud/cloud-init.disabled
- apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade -uy && apt-get autoremove --yes --purge && printf '#!/bin/sh\n{ rm /etc/cloud/cloud-init.disabled /etc/cloud/cloud.cfg.d/01_debian_cloud.cfg && apt-get purge --yes cloud-init cloud-guest-utils cloud-initramfs-growroot genisoimage isc-dhcp-client && apt-get autoremove --yes --purge && rm -f /etc/cron.hourly/cloud-cleanup && shutdown --reboot +1; } 2>&1 | logger -t cloud-cleanup\n' > /etc/cron.hourly/cloud-cleanup && chmod +x /etc/cron.hourly/cloud-cleanup && reboot &

The production script I’m using is a bit more complicated, but can be downloaded as vello-vm. Happy hacking!