Free Stuff and Kickstart Hell

Recently, my employer had a free hardware giveaway that allowed employees to pick through pallets upon pallets of retired server hardware and claim things as their own. Some of it was known to be dead, but the state of most of it was unknown, so it was kind of a crap shoot. I grabbed myself a few (okay, thirteen) machines in the hopes that I’d pick up a few decent pieces of machinery. As luck would have it, ten out of the thirteen boxes were in working order. Five of them were dual-dual core machines, and the other five were dual-quad-core machines, all server grade. After picking up some RAM, I have a pile of working machines just waiting for something to do. Time for a new lab setup at home!

The first thing I’m working on is a kickstart setup to automate system installs of various types. I’ve got a few basic CentOS server setups configured already, and I’ve been working on some Fedora-based stuff as well. Fedora is much more bleeding-edge, so there’s a lot of change from what I’m used to with the “OMG SO OLD” CentOS.

One of those differences cropped up while I was trying to write up a kickstart script for a Fedora 16-based desktop with an encrypted storage setup on a software RAID1. Prior to Fedora 16, one could easily set up a kickstart that would partition a disk with “growable” RAID partitions of non-fixed size – a partition on the disk that would grow to fill the available space on the disk. Fedora 16 forces you to create a RAID partition of fixed size, without the ability to fill up the available space. This makes the kickstart script non-flexible, since you have hard-coded size values for each partition. This is not at all desirable in the setup I was going for, except for the /boot partition.

With a bit of elbow grease and a non-trivial amount of time spent waiting for test runs to complete, I was able to craft a work-around. I’ve documented it here.

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