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DHCP, BOOTP and linux

Hi there,

I'd been wrestling with an i386 box trying to boot it from the network
and I wanted to share some of my experience and certain things that puzzled

Now it seems that BOOTP is kind of obsolete and DHCP is bound to replace
it sooner or later.

In linux-2.2.18 I have been perfectly unable to use kernel level network
autoconf with DHCP because it simply wouldn't work with my 3c905/c.
The BOOTP didn't work either. I then realized that it was broken for
my card at least and switched to 2.4.1 for my net box. The 2.4.1 did
have BOOTP but it didn't seem to have DHCP. Anybody knows why?

Second, you know debian has a copy of this wonder dhcp server released
by ISC. Anyway, I configured it and managed to run it for the first time.
It did allocate some IP from the range I config'd. The problem is that
my MBA (managed boot agent) on eth0 just didn't know how well that server
was written. Yes, it did work when I said DHCP, but it wouldn't work
as a BOOTP client. I'd specified the host explicitly (as a BOOTP client)
in the DHCP conf. Like this:
host stardust {
  hardware ethernet 0:1:2:e0:62:55;
  filename "/boot/bootimage.stardust";
That was supposed to work for BOOTP clients, too. (is it?) Anyway, it didn't.
And I'm not sure whether dhcp really obsoletes bootp anymore.
In fact, a lot of things are easier to set up with bootp and then you
can expect more stability. For instance you can set up a root-path for
your clients (NFS root) and then they will use that path. With DHCP,
it seems a HOWTO author hadn't managed it (option root-path I guess).
I don't know if it works because I can't try it for the reasons I've told,
has anybody managed to use DHCP for a clean nfs root setup?

Third, there is the boot rom / netboot disk issue. There's netboot in debian
but etherboot is lacking. I'll go ahead and package it if nobody has a plan
to do it. There is also this non-free imggen utility which makes it possible
to use some of the boot roms. (what was it called lanworks or what?)
Anyway, that one should be packaged (if it can be distributed), too.

Of course, all of these are important for the new installer because at
some point we will have to devise an "installation server" for non-interactive
installation over the network. netboot is an important part of that process.
We'll have to support both net-boot methods and a "magic floppy" approach.
Well, we already have some sort of a magic floppy ;) But it looks like
we'll need to spend some thought on the interaction between the server
and the client (that is the machine to install). 


Eray (exa) Ozkural
Comp. Sci. Dept., Bilkent University, Ankara
e-mail: erayo@cs.bilkent.edu.tr
www: http://www.cs.bilkent.edu.tr/~erayo

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