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Using VNC-based Installation in Anaconda

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Anaconda is an  install program used by the Fedora. RHEL, Oracle Linux and several other distributions. It is primarily written in Python, with some modules written in C.

In addition to supporting installation from local media (like a hard drive, CD/DVD, or USB key), Anaconda can also install from network sources like FTP, HTTP, or NFS. It also features an automated mechanism, called kickstart, which lets users perform scripted hands-off installations. With support for VNC server, an administrator has a powerful utility for remote server installation.  This is especially important because unreliability of HP ILO 3 and Dell Drac 7.

This article will explore a couple methods that use the Anaconda installer remotely, monitoring the install progress in real time.

 It has two stages. The first stage loads all the kernel modules so that the second stage can be mounted with access to the installation source. In the second stage, the python installer executes and the X Window install screens become visible (if it is a graphical install).

If this was a local installation, the user would start answering questions about the install source, timezone, keyboard, and more. For remote installs this information is provided before the second stage using Anaconda command line options.

These options can be specified using the GRUB boot loader and will depend on the network configuration and remote install type (interactive or kickstart).

Setting Network Parameters via GRUB

GRUB is a powerful bootloader that can be used to boot Linux and other operating systems. You can pass options to anaconda via Grub. That permits you to configure networking and use VNC for installation among other things.

Initial network setup is handled by dracut. For detailed information consult the "Network" section of dracut.kernel(7). The most common dracut network options are covered below, along with some installer-specific options.

Parameter ip allows to configure one (or more) network interfaces. You can use multiple ip arguments to configure multiple interfaces, but if you do you must specify an interface for every ip= argument, and you must specify which interface is the primary boot interface with bootdev.

Accepts a few different forms; the most common are:

Try to bring up every interface using the given autoconf method. Defaults to ip=dhcp if network is required by inst.repo, inst.ks, inst.updates, etc.
Bring up only one interface using the given autoconf method, e.g. ip=eth0:dhcp.
Bring up the given interface with a static network config, where:
The client IP address. IPv6 addresses may be specified by putting them in square brackets, like so: [2001:DB8::1].
The default gateway. IPv6 addresses are accepted here too.
The netmask (e.g. or prefix (e.g. 64).
Hostname for the client machine. Optional.
Bring up the given interface with the given autoconf method, but override the automatically obtained IP/gateway/etc. with the provided values.

Technically all of the items are optional, so if you want to use dhcp but also set a hostname you can do ip=::::<hostname>::dhcp.

nameserver Specify the address of a nameserver to use. May be used multiple times to specify sewveral DNS server but for instllation this is not needed. One is enough ;-)

ifname ifname=<interface>:<MAC> Assign the given interface name to the network device with the given MAC. May be used multiple times.

inst.text -- Force the installer to use a very limited text-based UI. Unless you’re using a kickstart this probably isn’t a good idea; you should use VNC instead.

inst.vnc -- Run the installer GUI in a VNC session. In other words enable VNC-based installation. You will need to connect to the machine using a VNC client application. You will need a VNC client application to interact with the installer. VNC sharing is enabled, so multiple clients may connect. A system installed with VNC will start in text mode (runlevel 3).

inst.vncpassword -- Set a password on the VNC server used by the installer.This will prevent someone from inadvertantly connecting to the VNC-based installation. Requires 'vnc' option to be specified as well.

Once the install starts, connect to a listening VNC client at the given host IP(you can also use DNS name of the client if you are DHCP segment). Default port is 5900. Requires 'vnc' option to be specified as well.

Use with vncviewer -listen.

inst.headless -- Specify that the machine being installed onto doesn’t have any display hardware, and that anaconda shouldn’t bother looking for it.

Deprecated Options

These options should still be accepted by the installer, but they’re deprecated and may be removed soon.

VNC installation method

Anaconda has build in the VNC installation method. When you use a RHEL 6 DVD to boot the system up, on the “boot:” prompt. Then you need to specify parameters for your VNC session. Two modes are possible:

Fire up vncviewer on your observing system using commend line  and not the port on which it is listening

vncviewer --listen

After that start installation from DVD

Boot the system being installed and wait for the boot menu to appear. In the menu; press the Tab key to edit boot options. Append the following options to the command line:
linux vncconnect=HOST:PORT
Replace HOST with the IP address of the system running the listening VNC viewer, and PORT
with the port number that the VNC viewer is listening on. Press Enter to start the installation. The system initializes the installation program and startsthe necessary services. Once the initialization is finished. Anaconda attempts to connect to the IP address and port you provided in the previous step.

When the VNC connection is made, a VNC window will open on the observing system. Now you can interact with the remote install or, in the case of a remote kickstart, monitor the install progress.

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QATestcase Anaconda User Interface VNC Vncconnect - FedoraProject

This test verifies the vnc option vncconnect work as expected. See Anaconda_Boot_Options for more information.

Setup How to test
  1. Boot the installer with the command-line option to connect the client named <host>, and optionally use port <port> (added as a kernel option in boot selection screen):
    vnc vncconnect=<host>[:<port>] 
  2. On another system that is accessible over the network, start a VNC client with reverse connections enabled. If using vncviewer (provided by tigervnc), use the following example. The command vinagre may also be used.
    vncviewer -listen [port]
  3. Using the VNC client session, complete the installation as desired
Expected Results
  1. Anaconda starts and attempts to initiate a VNC connection on the specified host and port
    Running anaconda 15.31, the Fedora system installer - please wait.              
    09:16:44 Starting VNC...                                                        
    09:16:45 The VNC server is now running.                                         
    You chose to connect to a listening vncviewer.                                  
    This does not require a password to be set.  If you                             
    set a password, it will be used in case the connection                          
    to the vncviewer is unsuccessful                                                
    09:16:45 Attempting to connect to vnc client on host            
    09:16:45 Will try to connect again in 15 seconds...                             
    09:17:00 Will try to connect again in 15 seconds...                             
  2. After starting the VNC client with reverse connections enabled, a successful VNC connection is established between the installing system, and your VNC client. Output similar to the following will be visible on the installing systems console.
    09:17:15 Connected!                                                             
    Press <enter> for a shell                                                       
    09:17:15 Starting graphical installation.   
  3. VNC works normally during installation (mouse, keyboard)
  4. Anaconda completes successfully
  5. The installed system boots into runlevel 3 (no graphical session)

Installation Using VNC

Now that you have installed a VNC viewer application and selected a VNC mode for use in anaconda, you are ready to begin the installation.

31.3.1. Installation Example

The easiest way to perform an installation using VNC is to connect another computer directly to the network port on the target system. The laptop on a datacenter crash cart usually fills this role. If you are performing your installation this way, make sure you follow these steps:

1. Connect the laptop or other workstation to the target system using a crossover cable. If you are using regular patch cables, make sure you connect the two systems using a small hub or switch. Most recent Ethernet interfaces will automatically detect if they need to be crossover or not, so it may be possible to connect the two systems directly using a regular patch cable.

2. Configure the VNC viewer system to use a RFC 1918 address with no gateway. This private network connection will only be used for the purpose of installation. Configure the VNC viewer system to be If that address is in use, just pick something else in the RFC 1918 address space that is available to you.

3. Start the installation on the target system.

1. Booting the installation DVD.

If booting the installation DVD, make sure vnc is passed as a boot parameter. To add the vnc parameter, you will need a console attached to the target system that allows you to interact with the boot process. Enter the following at the prompt:

boot: linux vnc
2. Boot over the network.

If the target system is configured with a static IP address, add the vnc command to the kickstart file. If the target system is using DHCP, add vncconnect=HOSTIP to the boot arguments for the target system. HOSTIP is the IP address or DNS host name of the VNC viewer system. Enter the following at the prompt:

boot: linux vncconnect=HOSTIP
4. When prompted for the network configuration on the target system, assign it an available RFC 1918 address in the same network you used for the VNC viewer system. For example,


This IP address is only used during installation. You will have an opportunity to configure the final network settings, if any, later in the installer.

5. Once the installer indicates it is starting anaconda, you will be instructed to connect to the system using the VNC viewer. Connect to the viewer and follow the graphical installation mode instructions found in the product documentation.

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