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Quick and dirty guide to diskless workstations

Diskless workstations can give a new lease of life to old machines that are

lying in your attic. Diskless nodes eliminate the cost of software upgrades,

system administration costs, hard disk, cdrom etc. A computer which has

only a network card, 8MB RAM, low-end cpu and a very simple mother-board with

no modem/cdrom/floppy is an ideal candidate for the diskless transition!

The following guide will try to help you setup a diskless node as quickly and

easily. The "server" in this article is the node which contains the files

for the diskless node. In my example the server is Cel300, 64mb RAM running

Red Hat 6.1, Kernel 2.2.12. The "diskless node" is the node which will be

able to run remote applications after booting into Linux from a bootrom. For

example, my P100, 48mb RAM will be designated as the "diskless node".

The objective is to give the "diskless node" an IP address of

once it boots up and then be able to run remote applications from the diskless

node. So, let us get started.

There are 4 important steps that have to be completed:


. TAGGED Kernel Image

. DHCP Setup

. Root FS Setup



Etherboot is a package for creating ROM images that can download code over

the network to be executed on an x86 computer. Etherboot requires the PC

architecture, it does not work for other Linux platforms such as Alphas or


Step #1:

Download the latest version of etherboot from http://etherboot.sourceforge.net.

Make sure to install the rpm or untar it into a directory where you can locate

all the files.

Inside the etherboot directory, locate the file NIC under the src directory.

This file lists all the supported network cards and the name of the ROM

that has to be built. For example to build a NE2000 PCI compatible ROM, I

would need to make nepci.rom. Other common hardwares are the NE1000/2000 ISA

ROM (ne.rom) and the Realtek 8029 (rtl8029.rom)

The ROM can be loaded either from the memory of the network card or from a

floppy. It is advisable to use a floppy to test the configuration before you

ask someone to write the ROM onto your network card's EEPROM.

Step #2:

To make a floppy ROM, insert a blank floppy into your first FDD and execute

the following inside the etherboot directory.

# make bin32/.fd0