Linux Installation

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Serial console

If the machine is only providing serial output during bootup, then it may not have been configured for serial logins. Check that the /etc/inittab file contains a line like

T0:23:respawn:/sbin/getty -L ttyS0 9600 vt100

which tells init to start the program to provide login prompts.

The original kernel shipped with Debian sarge has a broken serial driver for Ultra 5s. The version in the security updates should work.

Getting user information from LDAP

The libnss-ldap package handles fetching account information from LDAP. Also make sure that nscd is installed, otherwise bad things may happen.

To tell libnss-ldap where to look, you need to edit the /etc/libnss-ldap.conf. At the very least, you'll need to give the host and base (dc=tardis,dc=ed,dc=ac,dc=uk).

To tell libc to use libnss-ldap, you need to amend the appropriate lines in /etc/nsswitch.conf:

passwd:         files ldap 
group:          files ldap
shadow:         files ldap

The other databases are best left alone; we don't bother putting host information or such like in LDAP because we don't see much benefit.

The getent program is useful for testing.

Authenticating with LDAP

The libpam-ldap package is used for authentication against LDAP. You need to configure /etc/pam_ldap.conf along the same lines as /etc/libnss_ldap.conf. A typical example is:

host piper
base dc=tardis,dc=ed,dc=ac,dc=uk
rootbinddn cn=admin,dc=tardis,dc=ed,dc=ac,dc=uk
ldap_version 3

# NSS lookups need to be restricted to the appropriate parts of the tree.
# If other lookups are added to /etc/nsswitch.conf, they need to be put
# here too.
nss_base_passwd ou=People,dc=tardis,dc=ed,dc=ac,dc=uk
nss_base_group   ou=Group,dc=tardis,dc=ed,dc=ac,dc=uk
nss_base_shadow ou=People,dc=tardis,dc=ed,dc=ac,dc=uk

# Use funky generic LDAP password changing.
pam_password exop

PAM needs to be told to use libpam-ldap, as well as the normal authentication for root. Canonical /etc/pam.d/common-auth:

# ** Use trick from /usr/share/doc/libpam-ldap/README.Debian
auth    [success=1 default=ignore] nullok_secure
auth    required               use_first_pass
auth    required              

Note the use_first_pass option. Without it logins will ask for a password for pam_unix, then one for pam_ldap, and so on, causing every other attempt to enter your password to fail even when you get it right. You need to set up /etc/pam.d/common-account in the same way.

Restricting access to admins

In /etc/security/access.conf add

-:ALL EXCEPT root admin:ALL

[Hmmm... maybe that should be LOCAL instead of cron.]

Ensure that /etc/pam.d/common-account ensure that the pam_access module is used to restrict access. For example,

account [success=1 default=ignore] debug
account required               debug
account required              

Multiple VLANs

Some systems need to appear on several VLANs, most notably the router. First, add


to the end of /etc/modules so that the kernel knows how to deal with the VLAN tagged packets. (Use modprobe 8021q to load it immediately if you don't want to reboot.) Then install the vlan Debian package, and add extra stanzas to /etc/network/interfaces for the new VLANs. For example,

# Admin VLAN
auto eth0.1
iface eth0.1 inet static

where eth0.1 means VLAN number 1 on interface eth0. Finally, configure the switch so that the port is on the extra VLANs.

Logging to the Log host

To make syslog send logs to the log host, put

*.*     @loghost

into /etc/syslog.conf. It is a good idea to keep the local logging too, in case of network problems.

Server addresses

This page is out of date and needs rewriting.
The content is likely to be incomplete or incorrect.

This provides the addresses of various servers which a Tardis machine might need to use.


We have an internal caching nameserver, currently leela, However, other machines should be able to cope if it's down for maintenence, so we also use one of the university's servers. (Currently, but we should check if that's what we're supposed to use.)

Thus most machines have a /etc/resolv.conf along the lines of:



See also

Other stuff that should be documented here, but isn't

  • Configuring machines to pass mail on to the mail hub
  • Configuring ntp
  • Booting our suns from the LAN
  • Installing munin