PXE Server – This is why Part 2

So having hit a dead end with the UDA ( see previous post), I decided to go back to Windows, installed Windows XP SP2 and went to work. The main link I followed was http://diddy.boot-land.net/pxe/index.htm, with some added guidance (and direct links to the downloads) here http://aflando.blogspot.com/2011/03/how-to-setup-pxe-boot-server-on-windows.html )

What can I say, the instructions are very clear, with direct links to the downloads on the second blog post, and the download even provides automated scripts to avoid you having the follow the instructions!

Soafter a couple of hours, I have now a TFTP server for network booting with options to boot up hard drive, install Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Ubuntu (https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/WindowsServerNetboot, the instructions for Debian are identical) and Debian, or start liveOSes Clonezilla (http://clonezilla.org/livepxe.php), XPud and Slitaz!

Couple of notes:

– The Windows installs are based on ISO images and license keys I had besides.

– If your BIOS doesn’t support Booting from Network, you can burn gPXE (http://etherboot.org/wiki/start)  to a CD and start from the CD, which will in turn boot you straight to the network.

– Great example of chain-booting gPxe at http://pxe.kerys.co.uk/pxe-chainboot.htm

PXE Server – Why oh why (Part 1)

Short introduction – what is a PXE server? In a nutshell, it is what receives the call when you press F12 at boot-up on your computer (or whichever key launches the Boot From Network option).

Short disclaimer – Why am I looking into it?  No reason really, mostly  because I can and I didn’t know anything about it. And because I find the idea of it very cool.

How does it work? Well, you need a machine, either physical or virtual to run a TFTP server. I had a look at Linux first (always the first point of call) and tried the UDA (Ultimate Deployment Appliance, based on CentOS, http://www.ultimatedeployment.org). It is a virtual machine set up and ready to go. It comes with a nice web interface for the server, which besides the usual functions (view logs, stop and start) allows you to map shared drives (also Windows ones through samba), add OSes and create templates. In a nutshell, you need to add the OS to create the template , which all lead to you having the option on the menu that comes up upon network boot.  I was able following the instructions and digging through the forums to get very quickly up and running with:

a) a Ubuntu install so press F12, choose Ubuntu and kick off your install straight from the network. You have to dig through the forums to find out that in order to do that, you need to download the alternate version, which is PXE-enabled, unlike the default one.

b) Couple of liveOSes (so loading the OS completely to RAM from the network and running  from there, leaving the hard drive untouched) – XPud and Slitaz

But no luck whatsoever with any of the Windows installs… Kept crashing either adding the OS or creating the template…

For references, here are some of the URLs I looked at:

–  http://www.jume.nl/articles/vmware/125-following-the-uda-20-beta-found-workarounds

http://www.robertverdam.nl/2007/09/ultimate-deployment-appliance-quick-guide/

http://installsteps.blogspot.com/2010/10/ultimate-deployment-appliance-20.html

And some printscreens of the UDA web interface