Installing Linux

Robert G. Brown rgb at
Mon Feb 17 11:52:03 PST 2003

On Mon, 17 Feb 2003, Roberto F. Brandão wrote:

> What's the best way to install Linux RedHat in a 40-node
> Beowulf whose nodes don't have neither floppy nor
> CD drive ? I've only one non-hotSwap CD/floppy unit 
> and I wouldn't like to put the CD/floppy 
> unit and wait for the installation's end on each node.

What kind of NIC do you have?  If it supports PXE and you are moderately
lucky in the default setup of the NIC/node BIOS (so you don't have to
flash anything or run any sort of control program to enable PXE) you
should be able to boot and install anything you like, including RH, via

Basically, PXE permits you to boot a kernel/image.  If the kernel you
boot is a RH network install image, and you have DHCP and kickstart and
a server appropriately configured, you can install from a boot without
any sort of external boot medium.

If you already have a bootable version of linux installed on the hard
drive, there are ways of booting it into a reinstallation mode as well
via grub.

I believe that there are howto's for PXE, DHCP, and so forth.  There is
also documentation for a lot of what you need to do in the RH
documentation images.

You may encounter problems going this route, however, especially if you
didn't deliberately design the cluster and have it preconfigured by your
vendor so that this would work.  Some NICs, for example, support PXE but
have to be configured via a program that is booted from a floppy before
this support is enabled.  You may also have to enter your motherboard's
BIOS and put network boot in an appropriate place in the boot device
list.  With floppy drives so cheap ($8-15) and human time so expensive,
encountering a single obstacle (especially one that requires you to move
the floppy from system to system forty times to get things going) is
likely to make you wish you'd just invested in the darn floppy drives,
even if you DO decide that PXE installs are by far the way to go in the


> Thanks
> Roberto
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Robert G. Brown	             
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at

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