Getting Started


To install Kameleon, have a look at the Installation section.

Create a new recipe from template

Kameleon can be seen as a shell sequencer which will boost your shell scripts. It is based on the execution of shell scripts but it also provides some syntax sugar that makes working with shell scripts less painful.

Kameleon is delivered without any template by default:

kameleon template list

To begin, a recipe repository has to be added:

kameleon repository add default
kameleon template list

Now, you should see the template list prefixed by the repository name, called “default”:

The following templates are available in /home/mercierm/.kameleon.d/repos:
NAME                                       | DESCRIPTION
default/from_image/archlinux               | Archlinux full system recipe
default/from_image/centos6                 | Centos 6 base system.
default/from_image/centos7                 | Centos 6 base system.
default/from_image/debian7                 | Debian 7 (Wheezy) appliance.
default/from_image/debian8                 | Debian 8 (Jessie) base system.
default/from_image/fedora20                | Fedora 20 base system.
default/from_image/fedora21                | Fedora 21 base system.
default/from_image/fedora22                | Fedora 22 base system.
default/from_image/from_tarball            | Simple recipe that only import a tarball images like provided by here...
default/from_image/kameleon_tutorial       | Debian 8 + Kameleon tools for Grid5000 tutorial.
default/from_image/ubuntu12.04             | Ubuntu 12.04 LTS base system.
default/from_image/ubuntu14.04             | Ubuntu 14.04 LTS base system.
default/from_scratch/archlinux             | Archlinux base system.
default/from_scratch/centos6               | Centos 6 base system.
default/from_scratch/centos7               | Centos 7 base system.
default/from_scratch/debian-debootstrap    | Debian generic recipe + debootstrap.
default/from_scratch/debian-sid            | Debian sid base system.
default/from_scratch/debian-testing        | Debian testing base system.
default/from_scratch/debian7               | Debian 7 (Wheezy) base system.
default/from_scratch/debian8               | Debian 8 (Jessie) base system.
default/from_scratch/debian8-arm64         | Debian 8 (Jessie) system for arm64 + qemu-user-static.
default/from_scratch/fedora20              | Fedora 20 base system.
default/from_scratch/fedora21              | Fedora 21 base system.
default/from_scratch/fedora22              | Fedora 22 base system.
default/from_scratch/fedora23              | Fedora 23 base system.
default/from_scratch/ubuntu-base-bootstrap | Ubuntu 12.04 LTS base system.
default/from_scratch/ubuntu12.04           | Ubuntu 12.04 LTS base system.
default/from_scratch/ubuntu14.04           | Ubuntu 14.04 LTS base system.

To build a Debian 8 image, it is possible to choose from several virtualization tools: chroot, qemu, virtualbox, etc.

In this tutorial, we are going to choose qemu (which is the default one). Let’s import the Debian 8 template in our workspace:

mkdir my_recipes && cd my_recipes  ## create a workspace
kameleon new my_debian8 default/from_image/debian8


If you want to use an other backend, for example virtualbox use the option --global backend:virtualbox on the previous command.

Kameleon make a direct copy of the YAML template recipe file and all other required files such as steps or aliases. You can see that in the new command output:

create  default/from_image/debian8.yaml
create  default/from_image/debian7.yaml
create  default/from_image/base.yaml
create  default/steps/backend/qemu.yaml
create  default/steps/backend/VM.yaml
create  default/steps/global/qemu_options.yaml
create  default/steps/aliases/defaults.yaml
create  default/steps/checkpoints/qemu.yaml
create  default/steps/bootstrap/create_appliance.yaml
create  default/steps/bootstrap/prepare_appliance.yaml
create  default/steps/bootstrap/start_qemu.yaml
create  default/steps/setup/debian/configure_apt.yaml
create  default/steps/setup/debian/upgrade_system.yaml
create  default/steps/setup/debian/install_software.yaml
create  default/steps/setup/debian/configure_system.yaml
create  default/steps/setup/debian/configure_keyboard.yaml
create  default/steps/setup/debian/configure_network.yaml
create  default/steps/setup/kameleon_customization.yaml
create  default/steps/setup/create_user.yaml
create  default/steps/setup/debian/clean_system.yaml
create  default/steps/disable_checkpoint.yaml
create  default/steps/export/save_appliance_VM.yaml
create  default/steps/data/helpers/
create  default/steps/data/skel/.bashrc
create  default/steps/data/skel/.vimrc
create  default/steps/data/skel/
create  default/steps/data/helpers/
create  default/steps/env/bashrc
create  default/steps/env/
create  my_debian8.yaml

To understand this hierarchy, please refer to the Recipe documentation.

We have thus the following recipes in our workspace:

kameleon list
NAME                       | DESCRIPTION
default/from_image/debian7 | Debian 7 (Wheezy) appliance.
default/from_image/debian8 | Debian 8 (Jessie) base system.
my_debian8                 | <MY RECIPE DESCRIPTION>

The new recipe my_debian8.yaml inherits the base recipe default/from_image/debian8.yaml as we can see in the my_debian8.yaml file with the keyword extend.

# vim: softtabstop=2 shiftwidth=2 expandtab fenc=utf-8 cc=81 tw=80
extend: default/from_image/debian8.yaml

  # This is the backend you have imported to switch to an other backend BCKD do:
  #   kameleon template import default/from_image/debian8.yaml --global backend:BCKB
  # and uncomment update the following variable.

  # backend: qemu %>

  # To see the variables that you can override, use the following command:
  #   kameleon info my_debian8.yaml

  - "@base"

  - "@base"

  - "@base"

This recipe inherits from the parent recipe thanks to the keyword "@base". See Inheritance for more details.

Inspect recipes

Kameleon provides some commands to inspect recipes before building them.

The first command is kameleon info, which shows a colorful output with every information about one or possibly several recipes. For instance:

kameleon info my_debian8.yaml
 -> my_debian8
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/my_debian8.yaml
[Parent recipes]
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/from_image/debian8.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/from_image/debian7.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/from_image/base.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/backend/qemu.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/backend/VM.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/global/qemu_options.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/aliases/defaults.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/checkpoints/qemu.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/bootstrap/create_appliance.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/bootstrap/prepare_appliance.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/bootstrap/start_qemu.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/setup/debian/configure_apt.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/setup/debian/upgrade_system.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/setup/debian/install_software.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/setup/debian/configure_system.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/setup/debian/configure_keyboard.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/setup/debian/configure_network.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/setup/kameleon_customization.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/setup/create_user.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/setup/debian/clean_system.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/disable_checkpoint.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/export/save_appliance_VM.yaml
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/data/helpers/
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/data/skel/.bashrc
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/data/skel/.vimrc
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/data/skel/
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/data/helpers/
[Environment scripts]
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/env/bashrc
 -> /home/mercierm/my_recipes/default/steps/env/
 -> appliance_filename: /home/mercierm/build/my_debian8/my_debian8
 -> appliance_formats: qcow2 tar.gz
 -> appliance_tar_compression_level: 9
 -> appliance_tar_excludes: ./etc/fstab ./root/.bash_history ./root/kameleon_workdir ./root/.ssh ./var/tmp/* ./tmp/* ./var/log/* ./dev/* ./proc/* ./run/* ./sys/*
 -> apt_enable_contrib: true
 -> apt_enable_nonfree: true
 -> apt_repository:
 -> arch: x86_64
 -> backend: qemu
 -> default_keyboard_layout: us,fr,de
 -> default_lang: en_US.UTF-8
 -> default_locales: POSIX C en_US fr_FR de_DE
 -> default_timezone: UTC
 -> distrib: debian
 -> filesystem_type: ext4
 -> hostname: kameleon-debian
 -> image_disk: /home/mercierm/build/my_debian8/base_my_debian8
 -> image_format: qcow2
 -> image_size: 10G
 -> in_context: {"cmd"=>"ssh -F /home/mercierm/build/my_debian8/ssh_config my_debian8 -t /bin/bash", "proxy_cache"=>"", "workdir"=>"/root/kameleon_workdir", "interactive_cmd"=>"ssh -F /home/mercierm/build/my_debian8/ssh_config my_debian8 -t /bin/bash"}
 -> include_steps: ["debian/jessie", "debian"]
 -> kameleon_cwd: /home/mercierm/build/my_debian8
 -> kameleon_recipe_dir: /home/mercierm/my_recipes
 -> kameleon_recipe_name: my_debian8
 -> kameleon_short_uuid: a0e82b372751
 -> kameleon_uuid: 84e0d71f-65d1-40a6-ab08-a0e82b372751
 -> kernel_arch: amd64
 -> kernel_args: quiet net.ifnames=0 biosdevname=0
 -> out_context: {"cmd"=>"ssh -F /home/mercierm/build/my_debian8/ssh_config my_debian8 -t /bin/bash", "proxy_cache"=>"", "workdir"=>"/root/kameleon_workdir", "interactive_cmd"=>"ssh -F /home/mercierm/build/my_debian8/ssh_config my_debian8 -t /bin/bash"}
 -> proxy_in:
 -> proxy_local:
 -> proxy_out:
 -> qemu_arch: x86_64
 -> qemu_cpu: 2
 -> qemu_enable_kvm: $(egrep '(vmx|svm)' /proc/cpuinfo > /dev/null && echo true)
 -> qemu_memory_size: 768
 -> qemu_monitor_socket: /home/mercierm/build/my_debian8/qemu_monitor.socket
 -> qemu_pidfile: /home/mercierm/build/my_debian8/
 -> release: jessie
 -> release_number: 8
 -> root_password: kameleon
 -> rootfs: /home/mercierm/build/my_debian8/rootfs
 -> rootfs_archive_download_path: /home/mercierm/build/my_debian8/rootfs.tar.xz
 -> rootfs_archive_url:
 -> setup_packages: sudo vim bash-completion curl resolvconf bzip2 bsdutils ca-certificates locales man-db less libui-dialog-perl dialog isc-dhcp-client ifupdown iptables iputils-ping iproute2 netbase net-tools psmisc openssh-server acpid acpi-support-base sysvinit systemd systemd-sysv pciutils
 -> ssh_config_file: /home/mercierm/build/my_debian8/ssh_config
 -> user_groups: sudo
 -> user_name: kameleon
 -> user_password: kameleon

You can also inspect the steps involed in your recipe using either kameleon dryrun, or kameleon dag.

kameleon dryrun run through the sections and steps that the kameleon build will actually execute.

kameleon dag draws a direct acyclic graph of a recipe inheritance and steps for one or possibly many recipes all at once. The DAG can be converted to a image or pdf file when using either the --file or --format option.

# Assuming we have recipes for many Debian version in the workspace, draw a DAG of their builds, showing inheritance and common steps...
kameleon dag --file dag.png debian-*.yaml
-> Draw DAG for debian-base.yaml
-> Draw DAG for debian-buster.yaml
-> Draw DAG for debian-jessie.yaml
-> Draw DAG for debian-stretch.yaml
-> Draw DAG for debian-testing.yaml
-> Draw DAG for debian-wheezy.yaml
Generated GraphViz png file: dag.png


Don’t hesitate to use the help option for each command to see the available options. For example: kameleon help info

Customize variables

In this example, we will customize the default settings using the Kameleon variables.

We will use the my_debian8.yaml recipe that we created in the previous section. Kameleon use variables prefixed by $$ and embrace with {} like $${my_variable}. Among other things, the info command allows you to see all the defined variables in your recipe:

kameleon info my_debian8.yaml
 -> default_keyboard_layout: us,fr,de
 -> default_lang: en_US.UTF-8
 -> default_locales: POSIX C en_US fr_FR de_DE
 -> default_timezone: UTC

These variables are used by the parent recipes to set your image default language, timezone, and keyboard. If your are french (like me ;)) you can change the those directly in your recipe by adding these variables in the global section. Edit your recipe like this:

  default_keyboard_layout: fr
  default_lang: fr_FR.UTF-8
  default_timezone: Europe/Paris

You can also override variable using the --global option:

kameleon build my_debian8.yaml --global default_timezone:UTC+2 default_lang:en_US.UTF-8
CLI Global variable override: default_timezone => UTC+2
CLI Global variable override: default_lang => en_US.UTF-8

Build my new recipe

There is no magic in Kameleon, everything is written in YAML, from your system bootstrap to its export. It empowers you to customize anything you want at anytime during the appliance build. But before changing anything, just build the template to see how it works:

kameleon build my_debian8.yaml --enable-cache


We enable caching all network data that will be used to build the appliance. Thanks to this, the recipe reconstructability is ensured (see Persistent Cache)

This build operation will:

  • download a base image
  • create an empty virtual disk and import the downloaded image on it
  • start a virtual machine (VM) on this disk
  • connect to the VM
  • execute the setup steps (more on this later)
  • finally it will shutdown the VM and export your image on any desired format

Oops! Maybe you get an error like this one:

socat is missing from local_context
Press [c] to continue with execution
Press [a] to abort execution
Press [l] to switch to local_context shell
Press [o] to switch to out_context shell
Press [i] to switch to in_context shell
answer ? [c/a/l/o/i]:

It is a powerful tool that offers the possibility to fix a problem if something goes wrong during the build process. In this example, the problem is due to the missing socat binary.

So you have to install it on your local context (to read more about context see the Context page). Just type the l key and Enter. Now you are logged in your local context. If you are on a Debian based system install the missing package:

(local_context) mercierm@localhost: ~/build/my_debian7 $ sudo apt-get install socat

Press Ctrl-d or type exit to go back to the Kameleon prompt then press c and Enter to continue the build.

When Kameleon ends, a directory called build will be generated in the current directory. You will have a debian wheezy appliance that you can try out by executing:

qemu-system-x86_64 -enable-kvm -m 1024 build/my_debian8/my_debian8.qcow2


If you do not have access to a graphical server use the -curses option

Add a new step

Let’s assume that you want to add a step to put a timestamp in your image to know when it was built. First, you have to create a step file in the steps/setup folder because you want your timestamp to be added inside the newly created appliance before exporting it.

Let’s call it add_timestamp.yaml:

# Add Timestamp
- timestamping:
  - exec_out: date +%s > timestamp
  - out2in:
    - timestamp
    - /timestamp

Then you should add this step to the recipe at the end of the setup section:

    - add_timestamp

Then build again your recipe and run it like before to see that your timestamp has been truly added. To get more information about step definition and the use of default variable and microstep selection, see Step and microstep.

Export a recipe

Assuming you have created or imported many recipes in your workspace, you can export one of the recipes with the required steps to another directory thanks to the kameleon export command.

kameleon export my_debian8.yaml /tmp/exported_recipe/

Use the --add option to export additional recipes with their steps to the same directory. But mind that if you export recipes from different workspaces, overwritten files may break previously exported recipes.

Advanced Features

Kameleon gives you a lot of extension and customization possibilities. You can define your own Aliases and even your own Checkpoint mechanism. You are invited to go through the rest of the documentation to fully understand Kameleon and its great possibilities.