RedHat / Centos Kickstart tweaks

Kickstart is a great method of hands-free installation of RHEL/Centos (and other derived systems). Its power is in its easy interface and rather powerful %post scripting directives. Its weakness is in its lack of flexibility where it comes to package selection and various custom actions.

On some cases, companies use web interface (usually home-made) which builds kickstart config files on-demand. On some cases, the administrator is required to build several kickstart config files for pre-anticipated setups.

I was looking for something which will give me the power to maintain a fixed configuration on one hand, and will allow me some tweaks and variants, when I want them. I could have used the %post scripting sections, but this gets quite complicated, especially when you want to add only one package (but with its dependencies), or you want to force full update of the system before it goes online, or even select its hostname, assuming it is not yet defined in the DNS.

I base my system on a simple DHCP/BootP + tftp server which answers to all bootp requests and offers a simple menu (just type a number and press on Enter). The original schema was quite simple: type 4 for Centos4.3, and then add -min if you wanted it to use a kickstart file with a minimum configuration. Then I wanted to add the option to update the system in an early stage, so I have added -update, which would have looked in the menu like “4-min-update” option. Quite readable, however, it generated lots of work when maintaining the pxelinux.cfg/default file and the ks themselves. Too many variations tend to require lots of care.

Adding parameters to the boot menu is possible, and would result in them existing in /proc/cmdline for later parsing.

I have decided to parse a set of predefined parameters supplied during boot time, and to change the kickstart config file according to them. It actually works quite well. This is a less-sophisticated and more of a stand-alone system compared to this system. Also, it doesn’t require me to alter the system’s boot process.

This is my ks.cfg file, which includes the flexibility additions:

# Kickstart file generated by Ez-Aton

install
nfs –server=install-server –dir=/mnt/samba/Centos
lang en_US.UTF-8
langsupport –default=en_US.UTF-8 en_US.UTF-8
keyboard us
skipx
network –device eth0 –bootproto dhcp
rootpw –iscrypted RpUKzjDc9k2gU
firewall –disabled
selinux –disabled
authconfig –enableshadow –enablemd5
timezone Asia/Jerusalem
bootloader –location=mbr

%packages
e2fsprogs
grub
lvm2
kernel
net-snmp
net-snmp-utils
kernel-devel
kernel-smp-devel
gcc

%pre
# By Ez-Aton http://www.tournament.org.il/run
for i in `cat /proc/cmdline`; do
echo $i >> /tmp/vars.tmp
done
grep “=” /tmp/vars.tmp > /tmp/vars
KS=/tmp/ks.cfg
update=””
name=””
pkg=””
. /tmp/vars
if [ ! -z “$update” ]; then
echo “yum update -y” >> $KS
fi
if [ ! -z “$name” ]; then
value=”dhcp –hostname $name”
cat $KS | sed s/dhcp/”$value”/ > $KS.tmp
cat $KS.tmp > $KS
fi
if [ ! -z “$pkg” ]; then
pkg_line=`grep -n ^%packages $KS | cut -f 1 -d :`
max_line=`wc -l $KS | awk ‘{print $1}’`
head -n $pkg_line $KS > $KS.tmp
for i in `echo $pkg | sed s/,/ /g`; do
echo $i >> $KS.tmp
done
let tail_line=$max_line-$pkg_line
tail -n $tail_line $KS >> $KS.tmp
cat $KS.tmp > $KS
fi

%post

So, as you can see, I take the following parameters:

update=yes (it can be update=anything)

name=hostname (in case it cannot be retrieved from the DHCP server)

pkg=pkg1,pkg2,{pkg3,…} (To add specific packages to the installation)

It was tested to work on Centos4.3 system, and will probably work on RHEL and Centos versions 4.x all along. I didn’t test it on RHEL5/Centos5 yet.

If you use the script, please leave my name and blog URL in it. Also, if you modify it for your needs, I would be glad to get back the modifications you have made, to include them.

Enjoy.

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One Response to “RedHat / Centos Kickstart tweaks”

  1. Running Systems Says:

    For the latest (and currently whole) ks.cfg I use, check this link. I have extended the logic there, and got the following out of it. Showing only the %pre section:%pre# By Ez-Aton http://www.tournament.org.il/runfor i in `cat /proc/cmdline`; do echo

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