[Beowulf] Diskless booting - NIC BIOS

Ellis Wilson xclski at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 18 17:26:43 PDT 2007

Thanks Brian, Matt, and rgb,
 The floppy idea is great (I think I remember now reading about it in rgb's book, but had forgotten), and I certainly will look into that.  The motherboards are in some cases years and years old; one computer I'm deciding whether I'll use or not does have a 400mhz processor in it, so their age is sufficient to make me worry.
 In response to how I'm handling "DHCP/TFTP management", I am ridiculously interested in knowing how everything works, so I install each computer using a method that follows the guidelines similar to Linux From Scratch.  I'll likely be using dhcpcd for DHCP and I'm currently looking into TFTP options.  If there is a suggested program of choice among you all, please feel free to let me know.  I opt for the Linux from Scratch route, one, because I hate going to class and thereby have plenty of time on my hands (hah), and two because the majority of computers I deal with are old and need all the free resources they can get.
 Again, much thanks to those who helped.

Brian Dobbins <brian.dobbins at yale.edu> wrote: 
Hi Ellis,

  I wasn't sure from your post whether you meant the nodes had /no/ 
network whatsoever, or simply no capabilities for network booting from 
the NICs in the system.  If it's the latter, and assuming these systems 
have a floppy drive, I'd suggest looking into using the Etherboot 
software to handle network booting.  No need to spend extra money.  :)

  The webpages will explain more, but essentially (from memory - it's 
been a while!), if you set up a DHCP / TFTP server for the images 
somewhere on the network, just create a boot floppy with the correct 
network drivers for the node, stick it in, power on, and provided the 
DHCP/TFTP servers are correctly configured, the node should boot up, 
initialize the network, send out a request to the DHCP server, and then 
(from the information handed back), request a boot image from the TFTP 
server.  To create this boot floppy, you can probably just visit the 
Rom-O-Matic page ( http://rom-o-matic.net/ ) and select the type of card 
you have, but definitely read over the Etherboot documentation, too ( 
http://www.etherboot.org/ ).  If you're not certain what type of card is 
in the nodes, I'd suggest putting a Knoppix CD in, booting up, starting 
the network,  and then listing the modules that are loaded - the network 
drivers should be in that list.

  If you get stuck, drop me a note and I'll be glad to try to walk you 
through it - I'm a pack rat, and probably still have all the old 
configuration files from when I last did this, too.  Finally, in terms 
of the DHCP/TFTP management, are you handling that by yourself, or using 
some already-written package?  The initial cluster that I used Etherboot 
on used the Warewulf package - I'd recommend you take a look at it, 
too.  The webpage is ( http://www.warewulf-cluster.org/ ).  The guy 
developing it, Greg Kurtzer, is really helpful, too, so if you get stuck 
in that stage of things, you won't pull out all your hair in frustration.

  Good luck!
  - Brian

(Naturally, RGB also helped me out in the past -- anyone know if there 
is some analogue in the Beowulf realm to the Erdos number for RGB?  I 
can't imagine there's anyone he /hasn't/ helped!)

Brian Dobbins
Yale Engineering HPC

Fussy? Opinionated? Impossible to please? Perfect.  Join Yahoo!'s user panel and lay it on us.
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