How do I automate network installation of many Ubuntu 18.04 systems with EFI and PXE?

In the past I’ve managed the installation of dozens of Ubuntu 18.04 servers with PXE boot and pxelinux. This worked well, as each system had its own file named after the mac address of the interface that would talk DHCP/PXE. These files would then point to their respective preseed URLs to get the installation going.

Our newer machines only do EFI booting. There is a http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/dists/bionic-updates/main/uefi/grub2-amd64/current/grubnetx64.efi that can perform the same role, except it doesn’t look up the individual machine’s files anymore; it just calls for a common grub.cfg.

I’ve looked at the CentOS7 grub-x86_64.efi which does follow the old method of MAC address based lookups, but unfortunately this version is unable to boot Ubuntu install kernels (basically it hangs after loading the kernel and initrd).

How do I set it up so I can install all my machines automatically?

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Author: Dennis van Dok

Ubuntu 20.04 Does Not Boot

ANSWER

Looks like this one just needs to have their GRUB re-written to MBR again. It’s not so hard. But given that I did something like this 8 years ago… The concept should still be the same. Steps of what I did to fix it here.

I originally had Ubuntu 18.04 installed on my dell xps 13 (2017). A couple days ago, I replaced it with Ubuntu 20.04 due to constant error messages. Until today, I was able to use it without any trouble.
However, I had to use Windows earlier today, and now when I was trying to boot Ubuntu back, I am unable to do so.

First error message

Unexpected return from initial read: Volume Corrupt buffersize 1000 Failed to load image EFIubuntugrubefi: Volume Corrupt start_image() returned Volume Corrupt

and then windows booted automatically.

In trying to resolve the issue,

  1. Tried reinstalling Ubuntu 20.04 using LiveUSB, but got the error saying the system doesn’t have EFI System Partition
  2. Consulted the forum https://ubuntu.forumming.com/question/5394/unexpected-return-from-initial-read-volume-corrupt.
    In running Boot Repair, I received an error message, sayin EFI System Partition is needed.
  3. Used GPart to try to tweak disk settings (changing the disk partition that holds Ubuntu File System from ext4 to fat32… I didn’t document this process very well)
  4. Followed a tutorial that used Windows command prompt and diskpart, creating an ESP.
  5. Reran Boot Repair (successfully this time)

However, now I encountered a GRUB error

“Minimal BASH like line editing is supported. For the first word, TAB lists possible command completions. anywhere else TAB lists possible device or file completions.”

I’ve been looking up different solutions, but I am having trouble understanding them, and afraid I am messing my disk more and more.

Thank you in advance.

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Author: Amanda Jeong