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Diskless Linux workstation

Posted on 1998-01-19
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Last Modified: 2010-03-18
I need to boot a 386 into Linux using only a floppy.  I have a Linux server running Slackware and kernel 2.0.33.  I have support for RARP compiled into the server's kernel.  Does someone out there have a step by step guide to doing this?  I need details b/c I have never worked a lot with the kernel and booting, I have normally just used lilo.
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Question by:Hosehead
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XMS earned 780 total points
ID: 1587406
1) If you want to use your 386 as a complete Linux machine, you need to set up a root filesystem for it on the server, which will be accessed by NFS. See /usr/src/linux/Documentation/nfsroot.txt for a step-by-step explanation how to do it.

2) If you want to use the 386 as a telnet client and connect to the server on a shell account, you can stuff everything you need on a 1.44 meg floppy.
You can do this easily by using an old RedHat 4.2 bootdisk. It has a DOS FAT filesystem which contains the LDLINUX.SYS loader, a kernel (VMLINUZ) and a compressed (gzip) 2-meg ext2 filesystem (INITRD.IMG) that gets loaded into a ramdisk at boot time.
Just copy (mcopy) IMITRD.IMG to a directory on your hard disk, gunzip it, mount it as a loopback device, remove all unnecessary files, install a statically linked version of telnet, edit the startup scripts to automatically launch a telnet session to the server at startup, then umount it, gzip it at maximum compression level (gzip -9) and mcopy it back to the disk.
I used this dirty hack at a site to make network-bootable images and it worked great.

Good luck.

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Expert Comment

by:spjuver
ID: 1587407
For me it was not enough with the /usr/src/linux/Documentation/nfsroot.txt file.

The whole situation is described better in the packages:
netboot-nfs.tar.gz
etherboot-3.1.tar.gz

There it is also described how you can boot a diskless dos-bucket.
I tried it on my old 286.
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