Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Live" distribution PXE install server idea

I've had netbooks on the brain for the past few days now. I'm thinking about buying one for couch/living room use for the wife and I, since we use my failing Compaq laptop for web access and email. Late last night, it had me thinking about OS re-installs without physical media; considering netbooks seem to only support SD cards for removable media.

I'm not sure how practical this is, but I had an idea for reinstalling netbooks if you have another PC on your home network. I don't want to dedicate a host on my network to be a server for PXE installs (ex. Jumpstart or Kickstart), but what about a Live CD (or DVD) that has these services configured? If I needed to re-install my netbook, I'd just boot my desktop PC off the Live disk and then run the PXE install on my remote host. Does anyone know if I'm re-inventing the wheel, or if this idea is practical? I did a cursory search on Google, and didn't see any projects or distributions related to this.

On the netbook front, I'm torn if I should purchase one or not. I do own an iPhone, but that doesn't help my wife with Internet access around the house. She already has a recent iPod nano, so purchasing her a Touch would be a waste of money. I'm also seeing notebook prices dropping, and wonder if I'd just be better off buying one of those instead for a couple hundred dollars more. A co-worker of mine did mention that if I wasn't happy with a netbook, there would be plenty of interest in buying one used, and that the resale value on Craigslist or eBay would probably be about a $100 loss on my part. I'm looking at the Asus Eee and Acer Aspire One models, and I'm leaning towards this one. I would normally be interested in one using Linux since they seem to have SSD, but with the wife also being a user, I don't want to have to play sysadmin/helpdesk at home.


Matt said...

I don't see why you couldn't just have it run as a service on an existing machine, unless you're worrying about it competing with your existing DHCP server. You could just fire up a VM whenever you wanted to do PXE, too. That way you wouldn't lose functionality on your desktop.

Reamer77 said...


Yeah, I *could* load VMware Server on my desktop and fire it up whenever I wanted the services up. I'm not sure if I want to do something like that. Good point about DHCP though, since in my case it's managed by my modem/router.

I wanted something with little overhead, and I'm not concerned about my desktop's availability. My other thought was a lab type environment where you didn't have any servers and you could just come in with a DVD and kick off some hosts. I'm guessing in most cases, that would not be a scenario though.

Eh, it was just a random thought.

Ben Sherman said...

What you want to do is available with a VMWare appliance, which you can use the free vmware player to play - http://www.vmware.com/appliances/directory/232

And the DHCP services are a problem though - you'd have to shut them down on your router if you can't fully configure them to ignore your netbook host.