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I'm using puppet to admin a cluster of debian servers. I need to change the timezone of each machine on the cluster. The proper debian way to do this is to use dpkg-reconfigure tzdata. But I can only seem to change it if I use the dialog. Is there some way to automate this from the shell so I can just write an Exec to make this easy?

If not, I think the next best way would probably be to have puppet distribute /etc/timezone and /etc/localtime with the correct data across the cluster.

Any input appreciated!

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up vote 84 down vote accepted

You need to specify the frontend as `noninteractive' and it will save your current settings.

dpkg-reconfigure will take the current system settings as gospel, so simply change your timezone the way you would normally and run it with the non-interactive flag

e.g. for me to change to "Europe/Dublin" where I am:

# echo "Europe/Dublin" > /etc/timezone    
# dpkg-reconfigure -f noninteractive tzdata

Obviously this allows you to use puppet/cfengine as you like to distribute /etc/timezone also.

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I'm getting access denied from sudo echo "XXX" > /etc/timezone. But when running with vim (sudo vim /etc/timezone) it works fine. Any ideas? – SilentSteel Jan 16 '15 at 15:12
Solved: If you get access denied, you may need to first sudo chmod 666 /etc/timezone and then sudo chmod 644 /etc/timezone after you make the change. – SilentSteel Jan 16 '15 at 15:27
as an alternative to changing permissions, you could do something like this. echo 'Europe/Dublin' | sudo tee /etc/timezone > /dev/null – gorelative Jan 19 '15 at 14:04
For completeness, another way to echo via sudo is sudo bash -c 'echo "Europe/Dublin" > /etc/timezone' – MartyMacGyver Nov 9 '15 at 22:26

You should be able to use debconf-set-selections to preset the configuration. Install debconf-utils and run debconf-get-selections | grep tzdata on a properly configured system to figure out what to set it too.

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For things that are debconf based, this should work. But tzdata prefers the config from /etc/timezone. So this does not work on an already installed (wheezy) system. – Elrond Jul 18 '14 at 15:01

You can also use the recipe from the Puppet wiki:

This simply replaces /etc/localtime with the appropriate zoneinfo file from /usr/share/zoneinfo.

I'm not sure if dpkg-reconfigure does anything extra, but I have used the above recipe and it works perfectly.

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Its very simple and only need to type a command and answer the simple questions.
then run:

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man tzselect: "Note that tzselect will not actually change the timezone for you. Use 'dpkg-reconfigure tzdata' to achieve this." – S.Pinkus Dec 21 '14 at 9:12

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