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Installing Debian in UEFI mode with some stunts

For a recent customer setup of Debian/wheezy on a IBM x3630 M4 server we used my blog entry “State of the art Debian/wheezy deployments with GRUB and LVM/SW-RAID/Crypto” as a base. But this time we wanted to use (U)EFI instead of BIOS legacy boot.

As usual we went for installing via Grml and grml-debootstrap. We started by dd-ing the Grml ISO to a USB stick (‘dd grml64-full_2014.11.iso of=/dev/sdX bs=1M‘). The IBM server couldn’t boot from it though, as far as we could identify it seems to be related to a problem with the IBM server not being able to properly recognize USB sticks that are registering themselves as mass storage device instead of removable storage devices (you can check your device via the /sys/devices/…/removable setting). So we enabled Legacy Boot and USB Storage in the boot manager of the server to be able to boot Grml in BIOS/legacy mode from this specific USB stick.

To install the GRUB boot loader in (U)EFI mode you need to be able to execute ‘modprobe efivars’. But our system was booted via BIOS/legacy and in that mode the ‘modprobe efivars’ doesnt work. We could have used a different USB device for booting Grml in UEFI mode but because we are lazy sysadmins and wanted to save time we went for a different route instead:

First of all we write the Grml 64bit ISO (which is (U)EFI capable out-of-the-box, also when dd-ing it) to the local RAID disk (being /dev/sdb in this example):

root@grml ~ # dd if=grml64-full_2014.11.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=1M

Now we should be able to boot in (U)EFI mode from the local RAID disk. To verify this before actually physically rebooting the system (and possibly getting into trouble) we can use qemu with OVMF:

root@grml ~ # apt-get update
root@grml ~ # apt-get install ovmf
root@grml ~ # qemu-system-x86_64 -bios /usr/share/qemu/OVMF.fd -hda /dev/sdb

The Grml boot splash comes up as expected, perfect. Now we actually reboot the live system and boot the ISO from the local disks in (U)EFI mode. Then we put the running Grml live system into RAM to not use and block the local disks any longer since we want to install Debian there. This can be achieved not just by the toram boot option, but also by executing grml2ram on-demand as needed from user space:

root@grml ~ # grml2ram

Now having the local disks available we verify that we’re running in (U)EFI mode by executing:

root@grml ~ # modprobe efivars
root@grml ~ # echo $?

Great, so we can install the system in (U)EFI mode now. Starting with the according partitioning (/dev/sda being the local RAID disk here):

root@grml ~ # parted /dev/sda
GNU Parted 3.2
Using /dev/sda
Welcome to GNU Parted! Type 'help' to view a list of commands.
(parted) mklabel gpt
(parted) mkpart primary fat16 2048s 4095s
(parted) name 1 "EFI System"
(parted) mkpart primary 4096s 100%
(parted) name 2 "Linux LVM"
(parted) print
Model: IBM ServeRAID M5110 (scsi)
Disk /dev/sda: 9000GB
Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/4096B
Partition Table: gpt
Disk Flags:

  Number  Start   End     Size    File system  Name        Flags
   1      1049kB  2097kB  1049kB  fat16        EFI System
   2      2097kB  9000GB  9000GB               Linux LVM

(parted) quit
Information: You may need to update /etc/fstab.

Then setting up LVM with a logical volume for the root fs and installing Debian via grml-debootstrap on it:

root@grml ~ # pvcreate /dev/sda2
  Physical volume "/dev/sda2" successfully created
root@grml ~ # vgcreate vg0 /dev/sda2
  Volume group "vg0" successfully created
root@grml ~ # lvcreate -n rootfs -L16G vg0
  Logical volume "rootfs" created
root@grml ~ # grml-debootstrap --target /dev/mapper/vg0-rootfs --password secret --hostname foobar --release wheezy

Now finally set up the (U)EFI partition and properly install GRUB in (U)EFI mode:

root@grml ~ # mkfs.fat -F 16 /dev/sda1
mkfs.fat 3.0.26 (2014-03-07)
WARNING: Not enough clusters for a 16 bit FAT! The filesystem will be
misinterpreted as having a 12 bit FAT without mount option "fat=16".

root@grml ~ # mount /dev/mapper/vg0-rootfs /mnt
root@grml ~ # grml-chroot /mnt /bin/bash
Writing /etc/debian_chroot ...
(foobar)root@grml:/# mkdir -p /boot/efi
(foobar)root@grml:/# mount /dev/sda1 /boot/efi
(foobar)root@grml:/# apt-get install grub-efi-amd64
(foobar)root@grml:/# grub-install /dev/sda
Timeout: 10 seconds
BootOrder: 0003,0000,0001,0002,0004,0005
Boot0000* CD/DVD Rom
Boot0001* Hard Disk 0
Boot0002* PXE Network
Boot0004* USB Storage
Boot0005* Legacy Only
Boot0003* debian
Installation finished. No error reported.
(foobar)root@grml:/# ls /boot/efi/EFI/debian/
(foobar)root@grml:/# update-grub
(foobar)root@grml:/# exit
root@grml ~ # umount /mnt/boot/efi
root@grml ~ # umount /mnt/
root@grml ~ # vgchange -an
  0 logical volume(s) in volume group "vg0" now active

That’s it. Now rebooting the system should bring you to your Debian installation running in (U)EFI mode. You can verify this before actually rebooting into the system by using the qemu/OVMF trick from above once again.

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