(2/8) Install Raspbian Operating-System and prepare the system for Kubernetes

This article is part of the series Build your very own self-hosting platform with Raspberry Pi and Kubernetes

  1. Introduction
  2. Install Raspbian Operating-System and prepare the system for Kubernetes
  3. Install and configure a Kubernetes cluster with k3s to self-host applications
  4. Deploy NextCloud on Kuberbetes: The self-hosted Dropbox
  5. Self-host your Media Center On Kubernetes with Plex, Sonarr, Radarr, Transmission and Jackett
  6. Self-host Pi-Hole on Kubernetes and block ads and trackers at the network level
  7. Self-host your password manager with Bitwarden
  8. Deploy Prometheus and Grafana to monitor a Kubernetes cluster


Fist of all, we need to install and configure Raspbian Linux Operating System on each node of the future Kubernetes cluster.

Our cluster will be composed of three machines (I might use the terms device, machine, node or host, that's all the same! a Single-Board Computer used as part of our future cluster):

Hostname IP Description
kube-master A Master represents the main node of the cluster responsible of the orchestration. It can act as a worker as well and run applications
kube-worker1 A Worker is a machine dedicated to run applications only. It is remotely managed by the master node
kube-worker2 A Worker is a machine dedicated to run applications only. It is remotely managed by the master node

We are using a Portable SSD connected to the master node and exposed to the worker via NFS to store the volume data.


Flash the OS on the Micro SD card

1. Download the latest version of the Raspbian Linux OS for RaspberryPi

Go to the download page and download Raspbian Buster Lite.

2. Unzip the archive to obtain the image 2019-09-26-raspbian-buster-lite.img

3. Plug an Micro SD Card into your local machine

4. Use Etcher and flash the image on the SD card

Download Etcher to flash OS images to SD cards & USB drives, safely and easily.

Launch Etcher, select first the image extracted of Raspbian, select the Media (SD card) and click on Flash.

5. Once flashed, navigate to the folder /boot of the SD card and create an empty file ssh

Adding the file named ssh onto the boot partition enables SSH by default.

$ cd /media/<USER_ID>/boot
$ touch ssh

6. Unplug the Micro SD Card from your local machine and plug it to the Raspberry Pi

7. Plug the power to the Raspberry Pi as well as an Ethernet cable

Power up and connect via SSH

After you power up each device, we will attempt to connect from our local machine to the node via SSH. If you are under Linux or MacOS, toy only need to open a new terminal. For Microsoft Windows users, you can download and use Putty as SSH client.

1. Determine the device IP address

Your network router probably assigns an arbitrary IP address when a device tries to join the network via DHCP. To find the address attributed to the device, you can check either on your router admin panel (usually assuming your local network is 192.168.0.x) or via a tool like angryip.

E.g. Virgin Media Hub

In my case, the device named raspberrypi (hostname) is assigned to the IP address

2. Connect via SSH to the machine

From a new terminal (or Putty), execute the following command ssh pi@<IP> to connect remotely to the node. You will be asked to accept to establish the connection (answer yes) and then to enter the password. The default password after a fresh Raspbian installation is raspberry (this will be change after this step).

greg@laptop:~$ ssh [email protected]

The authenticity of host ' (' can't be established.
ECDSA key fingerprint is SHA256:lwJ1ARp4uu94nJdD08HdFj0b8np/oTnMGA3q0yApLT0.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no/[fingerprint])? yes
Warning: Permanently added '' (ECDSA) to the list of known hosts.

[email protected]'s password: raspberry
Linux raspberrypi 4.19.75-v7l+ #1270 SMP Tue Sep 24 18:51:41 BST 2019 armv7l

The programs included with the Debian GNU/Linux system are free software;
the exact distribution terms for each program are described in the
individual files in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright.

Debian GNU/Linux comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent
permitted by applicable law.

SSH is enabled and the default password for the 'pi' user has not been changed.
This is a security risk - please login as the 'pi' user and type 'passwd' to set a new password.

pi@raspberrypi:~ $

Well done, you are now connected remotely to the machine. Do the same for the other machines of the cluster.

Configure the OS

Before starting installing the Kubernetes cluster, we need to run a few common steps and security checks.

Change password

The default password configured by Raspbian is well known, so it is highly recommended to change it to something else only you know:

pi@raspberrypi:~ $ passwd

Changing password for pi.
Current password: raspberry
New password: <new_password>
Retype new password: <new_password>
passwd: password updated successfully

Change hostname

As we saw on the router, the default machine hostname is raspberrypi, keeping this could be quite confusing when we'd have two more machines with the same name. To change the hostname, two files needs to be edited:

1. Edit the file /etc/hostname and replace raspberrypi by kube-master or kube-worker-x

pi@raspberrypi:~ $ sudo vi /etc/hostname


Struggling with vi? take a look at the Vim cheat-sheet or alternatively, use nano.

2. Edit the file /etc/hosts and replace raspberrypi (line 6) by kube-master or kube-worker-x

pi@raspberrypi:~ $ sudo vi /etc/hosts       localhost
::1             localhost ip6-localhost ip6-loopback
ff02::1         ip6-allnodes
ff02::2         ip6-allrouters       kube-master

Upgrade the system

To make sure, the system is up-to-date, run the following command to download the latest update and security patches. This step might take a few minutes.

pi@raspberrypi:~ $ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade -y

Get:1 http://raspbian.raspberrypi.org/raspbian buster InRelease [15.0 kB]
Get:2 http://archive.raspberrypi.org/debian buster InRelease [25.1 kB]
Get:3 http://raspbian.raspberrypi.org/raspbian buster/main armhf Packages [13.0 MB]
Get:4 http://archive.raspberrypi.org/debian buster/main armhf Packages [261 kB]
99% [3 Packages store 0 B]
Processing triggers for dbus (1.12.16-1) ...
Processing triggers for install-info (6.5.0.dfsg.1-4+b1) ...
Processing triggers for mime-support (3.62) ...
Processing triggers for libc-bin (2.28-10+rpi1) ...

Configure a static IP

By default, the router assigns a arbitrary IP address to the device which means it is highly possible that the router will assign a new different IP address after a reboot. To avoid to recheck our router, it is possible to assign a static IP to the machine.

Edit the file /etc/dhcpcd.conf and add the four lines below:

pi@raspberrypi:~ $ sudo vi /etc/dhcpcd.conf

interface eth0
static ip_address=192.168.0.<X>/24
static routers=
static domain_name_servers=

PS: This could be also done at the network level via the router admin (DHCP).

Enable container features

We need to enable container features in the kernel in order to run containers.

Edit the file /boot/cmdline.txt:

pi@raspberrypi:~ $ sudo vi /boot/cmdline.txt

and add the following properties at the end of the line:

cgroup_enable=cpuset cgroup_memory=1 cgroup_enable=memory

Restart and connect to the static IP with the new password and check the hostname.

pi@raspberrypi:~ $ sudo reboot

Connection to closed by remote host.
Connection to closed.

Reconnect after a few seconds

greg@laptop:~$ ssh [email protected]
[email protected]'s password: <new_password>

Check if the hostname has been updated

pi@kube-master:~ $ hostname



Switch Debian firewall to legacy config:

$ sudo update-alternatives --set iptables /usr/sbin/iptables-legacy
$ sudo update-alternatives --set ip6tables /usr/sbin/ip6tables-legacy

Configure the SSD disk share

As explained during the introduction, I made the choice to connect a portable SSD to the Master node and gave access via NFS to each worker.

====== Master node only - Mount the disk and expose a NFS share ======

A. Mount the disk to the master

1. Plug the SSD to the USB3.0 (blue) port

2. Find the disk name (drive)

Run the command fdisk -l to list all the connected disks to the system (includes the RAM) and try to identify the SSD. The disk which has a size of 465.6 GiB and a model name Portable SSD T5 and located into /dev/sda is our SSD.

pi@kube-master:~ $ sudo fdisk -l

Disk /dev/ram0: 4 MiB, 4194304 bytes, 8192 sectors
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 4096 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 4096 bytes / 4096 bytes
Disk /dev/sda: 465.8 GiB, 500107862016 bytes, 976773168 sectors
Disk model: Portable SSD T5
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 33553920 bytes
Disklabel type: dos
Disk identifier: 0x41d0909f

3. Create a partition

If your disk is new and freshly out of the package, you will need to create a partition.

pi@kube-master:~ $ sudo mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda

mke2fs 1.44.5 (15-Dec-2018)
/dev/sda contains a ext4 file system
    last mounted on /mnt/ssd on Mon Sep  9 21:06:47 2019
Proceed anyway? (y,N) y
Creating filesystem with 58609664 4k blocks and 14655488 inodes
Filesystem UUID: 5c3a8481-682c-4834-9814-17dba166f591
Superblock backups stored on blocks:
    32768, 98304, 163840, 229376, 294912, 819200, 884736, 1605632, 2654208,
    4096000, 7962624, 11239424, 20480000, 23887872

Allocating group tables: done                            
Writing inode tables: done                            
Creating journal (262144 blocks):
Writing superblocks and filesystem accounting information: done     

4. Manually mount the disk

You can manually mount the disk to the directory /mnt/ssd.

pi@kube-master:~ $ sudo mkdir /mnt/ssd
pi@kube-master:~ $ sudo chown -R pi:pi /mnt/ssd/
pi@kube-master:~ $ sudo mount /dev/sda /mnt/ssd

5. Automatically mount the disk on startup

Next step consists to configure fstab to automatically mount the disk when the system starts.

You first need to find the Unique ID of the disk using the command blkid.

pi@kube-master:~ $ sudo blkid

/dev/mmcblk0p1: LABEL_FATBOOT="boot" LABEL="boot" UUID="F661-303B" TYPE="vfat" PARTUUID="a91dd8a2-01"
/dev/mmcblk0p2: LABEL="rootfs" UUID="8d008fde-f12a-47f7-8519-197ea707d3d4" TYPE="ext4" PARTUUID="a91dd8a2-02"
/dev/mmcblk0: PTUUID="a91dd8a2" PTTYPE="dos"
/dev/sda: UUID="0ac98c2c-8c32-476b-9009-ffca123a2654" TYPE="ext4"

Our SSD located in /dev/sda has a unique ID 0ac98c2c-8c32-476b-9009-ffca123a2654.

Edit the file /etc/fstab and add the following line to configure auto-mount of the disk on startup.

pi@kube-master:~ $ sudo vi /etc/fstab

Add this line at the end:

UUID=0ac98c2c-8c32-476b-9009-ffca123a2654 /mnt/ssd ext4 defaults 0 0

Reboot the system

pi@kube-master:~ $ sudo reboot

You can verify the disk is correctly mounted on startup with the following command:

pi@kube-master:~ $ df -ha /dev/sda

Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda        458G   73M  435G   1% /mnt/ssd

B. Share via NFS Server

We now gonna make the directory /mnt/ssd of master accessible to other machines via NFS

1. Install the required dependencies

pi@kube-master:~ $ sudo apt-get install nfs-kernel-server -y

2. Configure the NFS server

Edit the file /etc/exports and add the following line

pi@kube-master:~ $ sudo vi /etc/exports

/mnt/ssd *(rw,no_root_squash,insecure,async,no_subtree_check,anonuid=1000,anongid=1000)

3. Start the NFS Server

pi@kube-master:~ $ sudo exportfs -ra

====== Worker nodes only - Mount the NFS share ======

1. Install the necessary dependencies

pi@kube-worker1:~ $ sudo apt-get install nfs-common -y

2. Create the directory to mounty the NFS Share

Create the directory /mnt/ssd and set the ownership to pi

pi@kube-worker1:~ $ sudo mkdir /mnt/ssd
pi@kube-worker1:~ $ sudo chown -R pi:pi /mnt/ssd/

3. Configure auto-mount of the NFS Share

In this step, we will edit /etc/fstab to tell the OS to automatically mount the NFS share into the directory /mnt/ssd when the machine starts.

pi@kube-worker1:~ $ sudo vi /etc/fstab

Add the following line where is the IP of kube-master and the NFS share path.   /mnt/ssd   nfs    rw  0  0

4. Reboot the system

pi@kube-worker1:~ $ sudo reboot


To conclude, we now have three secured, up-to-date and operational machines to build a Kubernetes cluster and easily self-host and maintain applications at home!

In the next chapter, we will see how to install Kubernetes with Rancher k3s on those three machines and deploy the necessary tools such as Package Manager (helm), Proxy and Load Balancer, Certificate Manager, etc. to safely and efficiently deploy our applications.