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Intel-eepro100/3com-3c90x and Etherboot/Netboot/PXE + GRUB

From: Omar Walid Llorente
Subject: Intel-eepro100/3com-3c90x and Etherboot/Netboot/PXE + GRUB
Date: Fri, 3 Nov 2000 15:14:01 +0100 (CET)

        I send this message to the forums only in the intention
of relating a success story about netbooting :-) and make more
simple the labour of constructing a centralized system of network
booting a group of computers. 

        I just have tested the new netbooting system for my
computing lab, resulting on this:

1. Introduction:

Inside the flash rom you can have:

        - Etherboot has today drivers for many of the NIC today
in the market, in example Intel EtherExpress Pro 100 and 3com
3c905B TX, which are the ones i've tested, but it has no
integrated way for selecting (with menu) the SO to boot.

        - Netboot has the possibility of use the packet driver
provided (by the manufacturer or by Crynwr) to generate the
bootrom used by the NIC to boot. Inclusive it has the possibility
of configuring and compiling a menu for selecting the SO to boot.

        - PXE is the standard used by the NIC manufacturers to
manage the remote boot feature. Today is quite frecuent that the
NIC comes with a flash rom which is preloaded with a PXE driver
used for remotely load the SO (this is the case of most of the
modern Main Board integrated NIC's).

>From the server you can get:

        - GRUB offers an open frontend for the netbooting scheme
used today. As you probably know, Grub is using the ethernet boot
drivers used in etherboot to manage the boot process through the
net. It offers the possibility of booting from net and/or from
local disks using a fully configurable menu. Grub implements the
two principal forms of netbooting today: PXE (normally
implemented by the proper manufacturer in their flash boot roms)
and the Network Boot Proposal (used by Netboot and Etherboot,
through the tool 'mknbi'). For the first, grub has the "pxegrub"
image and for the last the "nbgrub" image.

        - An etherboot/netboot image (compiled with the mknbi set 
of tools: mknbi-linux and mknbi-dos). This possibility only permit 
to load one SO.

        - A netboot menu image (compiled with the mknbi-mgl) which
enable the user for selecting which SO wants to load (local or 
remote) but only is supported by the netboot rom images.

2. Installation:

        0) You compile GRUB (untar, then configure, then make, then
make install). The configure options i used were: --enable-eepro100 
--enable-diskless --prefix=/home/grub. Note you have to enable 
the driver of your NIC. Then you shoud have the "pxegrub" and the
"nbgrub" under /home/grub/share/grub/i386-pc/.

        1) You have a NIC with PXE boot rom enabled: You have to 
configure the bootp/dhcp server to send a "pxegrub" image to the
client, and if you want so (through the 150 tag) a loading SO menu.

        2) You have a NIC without PXE boot rom capability, then you
compile Etherboot to generate an image for your bootrom. Then you 
configure the bootp/dhcp server to send a "nbgrub" image to the 
client, and if you want so (through the 150 tag) a loading SO menu.

        3) You have the packet/NDIS driver for the NIC, then 
you should compile Netboot to generate an image for your bootrom.
Then you configure the bootp/dhcp server to send a "nbgrub" image to 
the client, and if you want so (through the 150 tag) a loading SO
menu. The problem on this is that if etherboot doesn't support your 
NIC, then GRUB doesn't do too. I mention this option for showing 
how you can integrate labs based in netboot with other based in 

3. Tests:

        I tested the following configurations:

        - Intel PXE rom + "pxegrub.eepro100" + menu 

        - Intel Etherboot rom + "nbgrub.eepro100" + menu

        - 3com PXE rom + "pxegrub.3c90x" + menu (Main board
integrated 3c90x)

        - 3com Netboot rom + "nbgrub.3c90x" + menu(3c905B-TX 
with EEPROM socket)

        Note that i compiled 2 pxegrub/nbegrub selecting the 
corresponding driver.

        Note2: i compiled grub with eepro100 + 3c90x but
failed, it seemed to confuse trying to load both drivers, working
if the second was the correct.

4. Problems:

        In GRUB: See Note2 above.

5. References:

        Grub mail archive: http://www.mail-archive.com/bug-grub%40gnu.org/
        Grub page: http://www.gnu.org/software/grub/grub.en.html
        Etherboot page: http://etherboot.sourceforge.net//
        Netboot page: http://www.han.de/~gero/netboot/
        Netboot mail archive: 

6. Thanks:

        To etherboot, netboot and grub mantainers.


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