Booting Linux from W2k without LILO or GRUB
Posted on 2003-10-22
In the good old days, loadlin used to be a solution on W9x, but W2k does not support neither real-mode apps, nor VCPI, so the I found out loadlin is of no use.
My (extended) problem:
I have several W2k workstations, networked. Ideally, I'd like to start Linux using the ramdisk scheme then mount the needed filesystem pieces via NFS from a server machine. This way I get to run Linux when required without the need to maintain two OS'es on those workstations (the W2k management is in place and works good enough - I do not need another hassle).
If loadlin would have worked, then my plan would have been to start a kernel using loadlin and a ramdisk image for the root FS, then bring up the network and mount the bulk of the FS via NFS. Even swap is not required, since the memory is relatively high and the usage pattern slim (no X, just command line, yes I'm setting up an academic CS lab :) ). In this utopia I would have gotten away with a couple of files deployed to the W2k system (loadlin, kernel, initrd).
Further restrictions, generated by the usage pattern of the machines:
I do not want to use the floppy (actually it's physically disabled). CR-ROM's are out of the question for the same reason.
I would rather not go all the way and install LILO or GRUB (with a full-blown partition resetup), since this would mean I'd have to do it manually on all those workstations. I know that's a working solution but that's exactly what I want to avoid.
I hope something along the following lines is possible:
1. Start the kernel-loading process in a loadlin way, but directly from ntloader, as a new line in boot.ini.
2. Convince W2k to start loadlin such that loadlin is happy (unlikely)
3. Boot some "stub DOS" from boot.ini and use it to immediately run loadlin
Do you have any idea?