The goal was to be able to turn on a box from the factory, plugged into the LAN, and have it automatically install a pre-set, Linux configuration onto itself. The stuff needed to do this is wired into the BIOS of modern computers: just like the ability to boot off of a CDROM or, when I'm lucky, a USB key.
The steps, approximately are this:
- adjust the bios setting to permit a pxeboot, plug it into the network and turn it on.
- as the box comes up, it asks an appropriately-configured dhcp server for the location of a bootable image.
- the dhcp server points the box at a tftp server that has all the necessary stuff.
- the box pulls a kernel from the tftp server, and then boots, with the specified boot parameters. Linux is now running in memory.
- the boot parameters tell the now-running box where to find a kickstart file with instructions for a full installation.
- the kickstart file tells the box where the kernel and all the RPMs are for packages, what packages to install, what users to add, and so on.
- after all these steps are executed, the box is running, its hard disk is populated, and it's ready for a reboot.
Unbox the machine, set the bios, plug in the ethernet cable, cycle the power, and come back in ten minutes or so.
Ethan McCallum's O'Reilly "book," Managing RPM-Based Systems with Kickstart and Yum, saved me a lot of time, even though the details have changed since it was written. It comes as a 47-page pdf (only!) and costs $10: plenty of book, and not much money.
Pretty nifty: push-button Linux installation from a network server.
Once this was up and limping, I gave blood at Belle Bonfils, went to my caucus, threw a Mardi Gras party, ate too much king cake, drank too much champagne, and stayed up late. Now I'm bloated, hung over, and haven't had any sleep.
If I were Catholic, it'd motivate me to give up stuff for Lent. I know: I won't go to any more political caucusses until Easter.
Except I think my precinct made me some kind of delegate to something. Oooh, my head.