(C) Copyright Gero Kuhlmann 1996-2005

0 - Copyright Notice, Acknowledgements

You are allowed to modify and redistribute this code under the terms of the GNU General Public License. By making use of this software in any way you are automatically agreeing to these terms.
My special thanks go to Jamie Honan for defining the initial bootrom specifications, to Markus Gutschke for enhancing mknbi-linux, and to Jens-Uwe Mager for explaining to me the basics of the NFS networking system and sometimes helping me out with his wealth of knowledge and experience.

1 - Overview

Booting a computer without a hard disk usually requires a floppy disk drive or a network connection in order to get the operating system into the RAM and up running. This package allows a diskless PC to boot an operating system using an IP based ethernet network. This is done in the following steps:
  1. First the operating system has to be loaded into system memory. This can be done using a bootrom, which loads the operating system image over the network. The bootrom code found in this package can be burned into a real EPROM or into a flash-ROM on the network card, or just copied onto a floppy and then started from it upon bootup. Please note that the term bootrom in all documentation texts in this package refers to the real EPROM version as well as the version copied onto and started from a floppy disk.
    For the bootrom to find the kernel image it uses the BOOTP or DHCP protocol as defined in RFC 951, RFC 1533, RFC 2131 and RFC 2132 to get the necessary boot information, and then loads the actual image using the TFTP protocol as defined in RFC 1350.
  2. When the operating system starts running, it has to setup it's memory layout using a special boot loader, which is included into the boot image. Then it has to mount it's root filesystem. This can either be done using NFS over the network, or using a ramdisk.
The exact specifications for this netboot process can be found here.

2 - Features

3 - Installation

See the file INSTALL for installation instructions. If you have any problems installing or running the programs see the file PROBLEMS.

4 - Mailing list

There exists a mailing list devoted to network booting. To subscribe simply send a mail with the line

subscribe netboot

in it's body to

The subject in the mail header doesn't matter. This mailing list is intended to be a general discussion forum about any aspect of network booting. Any new versions of the Netboot package will also get announced on that mailing list. After subscribing to it, you can send messages into the list by writing a mail to

5 - Disclaimer

The software in this package heavily interacts with hardware and software not only on the local system, but also on the boot server. Use it at your own risk. I cannot be held responsible for any damage done by this software.

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Created by, last modified 20.04.05