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debirf - build an initrd to boot a full Debian system entirely from RAM


debirf <subcommand> [options] [args]


debirf (DEBian on Initial Ram Filesystem) is a set of tools designed to create and prepare
a kernel and initial ram filesystem that can run a full-blown Debian environment entirely
from RAM.

debirf has various subcommands (see SUBCOMMANDS) which act on a specified debirf profile

The debirf system is outlined at:



Make a stock debirf rescue image using the default settings:
$ tar xzf /usr/share/doc/debirf/example-profiles/rescue.tgz
$ debirf make rescue

Make a debirf rescue image, specifying the mirror and a local HTTP proxy:
$ tar xzf /usr/share/doc/debirf/example-profiles/rescue.tgz
$ DEBIRF_MIRROR=http://ftp.debian.org/debian http_proxy= debirf make rescue


debirf takes various subcommands:

make [options] PROFILE
Create a debirf system based on profile PROFILE. This will create the root for the
profile, run all modules on the root, and then generate the kernel image (see
KERNEL) and debirf initramfs. This subcommand takes various options (see OPTIONS).

Chroot into root of profile PROFILE, with full profile environment.

makeiso PROFILE
Create a bootable CD-ROM image from the kernel and initramfs in PROFILE. This
requires a bootloader to be available. If grub-mkrescue (in the grub-common
package on debian) is available, it will be used. Otherwise, isolinux (from the
syslinux-common package) is used if it is available. You may use the
DEBIRF_ISO_BOOTLOADER environment variable to specify a preference manually (see

help Output a brief usage summary.

OPTIONS (for make subcommand only)

-c, --check-vars
check variables before make

-n, --new
create new root, even if old one exists

-o, --overwrite
debootstrap on top of old root if it exists

-s, --skip
skip debootstrap step altogether if old root exists

-r, --root-build
use real chroot to build instead of fakechroot (requires superuser privileges or

-w, --no-warning
skip superuser warning

-i, --initrd-only
remake initramfs from existing root (skip debootstrap and module stages)

-k, --kernel-deb=KERNEL
install KERNEL .deb, instead of default kernel


A debirf profile is a directory containing a debirf.conf config file and a modules sub-
directory (see MODULES).


Modules are used to configure the debirf system, and can be used to extend the
capabilities of debirf. Modules are bash shell scripts that are executed in alpha-numeric
order by run-parts in a chroot in the debirf root during the module stage of the debirf
build. The module stage is right after the debirf debootstrap stage, and right before the
initramfs archive is created. All shell variables beginning with "DEBIRF_", including
those defined in the debirf.conf file, are available to the modules.

NOTE: Some modules are more important to the proper functioning of debirf than others, and
the ordering of modules is important. Some modules may depend on certain other modules
having already been, or not yet been, run. For instance, the module that cleans the
debirf apt cache ("z1_clean_root") should be the last module run at the end of the module


The debirf "install-kernel" module will try to pick the most up-to-date kernel for the
suite you are installing (versions 2.6 only), with the arch determined by the kernel
running on the host build system.


A set of pre-defined bash shell functions are available to the modules to fasciliate
configuring the debirf system:

debirf_exec <command>
Execute <command> within debirf root (DEBIRF_ROOT) with chroot.

msg <message>
Output a message to standard out during the build process.

failure <message> <exit-code>
Cause debirf script to fail with <exit-code>, and <message> to stderr.

debirf_info_sh <message>
Write one line of sh code to the debirf.info file on the debirf root.

debirf_info_comment <message>
Write one line of comment to the debirf.info file on the debirf root.


The following environment variables are used by debirf:

debirf label (default: debirf)

where to build the debirf (default: ./)

architecture to build (default is the architecture of the build machine)

suite to build from (default determined from lsb_release, otherwise "sid")

distro for suite (default determined from lsb_release, otherwise "debian")

mirror to pull suite (default determined by DEBIRF_DISTRO)

keyring to verify debootstrap (default determined by DEBIRF_DISTRO)

the flavor of kernel debirf should install. Supply everything from a typical
debian package name after the version number. e.g. 486, vserver-686-bigmem,
openvz-amd64. (default chosen based on currently-running kernel)

whether to use "grub" or "isolinux" as the El Torito bootloader for debirf makeiso.
if not specified, "grub" is the default.

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