Network Boot and Exotic Root HOWTO

Brieuc Jeunhomme

Logilab S.A.

Revision History
Revision 0.2.12001-05-21Revised by: logilab
Fixed bibliography and artheader
Revision 0.22001-05-19Revised by: bej
Many improvements and included Ken Yap's feedback.
Revision 0.1.12001-04-09Revised by: logilab
First public draft.
Revision 0.12000-12-09Revised by: bej
Initial draft.

This document explains how to quickly setup a linux server to provide what diskless linux clients require to get up and running, using an IP network. It includes data and partly rewritten text from the Diskless-HOWTO, the Diskless-root-NFS-HOWTO, the linux kernel documentation, the etherboot project's documentation, the linux terminal server project's homepage, and the author's personal experience, acquired when working for Logilab. Eventually this document may end up deprecating the Diskless-HOWTO and Diskless-root-NFS-HOWTO. Please note that you'll also find useful information in the From-PowerUp-to-bash-prompt-HOWTO and the Thin-Client-HOWTO, and the Claus-Justus Heine's page about NFS swapping.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction
1.1. What is this all about?
1.2. Thanks
1.3. Diskless booting advocacy
1.3.1. Buying is cheaper than building
1.3.2. Advantages of diskless computers
1.4. Requirements
1.4.1. Hardware requirements
1.4.2. Software requirements
1.5. Acknowledgements and related documentation
1.6. Feedback
1.7. Copyright Information
2. Diskless booting operation overview
2.1. Obtaining IP parameters
2.2. Loading the kernel
2.3. Mounting the root filesystem
2.4. Terminating the boot process
3. Building the kernel
3.1. When the root filesystem is on a ramdisk
4. Daemons setup
4.1. NFS daemon
4.2. BOOTP daemon
4.3. TFTP
5. Clients setup, creation of the root filesystem
5.1. Creating the first files and directories
5.2. The /var and /etc directories
5.3. Last details
5.4. Trial...
5.5. And Error!
6. Several ways of obtaining the bootloader's code
6.1. BOOTP or DHCP capable NICs
6.2. Local floppy or hard drive
6.3. Creating ROMs for the clients
6.3.1. LanWorks BootWare PROMs
6.4. Local CDROM
6.4.1. Creating a test setup
6.4.2. Creating the CD Creating a boot image Creating the iso image Verifying the iso image Writing the actual CD
6.4.3. Boot the cd and test it
7. How to create diskless MS-Windows stations?
8. Troubleshooting, tips, tricks, and useful links
8.1. The netboot distribution
8.2. Reducing diskless workstations'memory usage
8.3. Swapping over NFS
8.4. Swapping over network block devices
8.5. Getting rid of error messages about /etc/mtab or unmounted directories on shutdown
8.6. Installing new packages on workstations
A. Non-Volatile Memory chips
B. Determining the size and speed of EPROMs to plug in a NIC
C. Companies selling diskless computers