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Re: PXE Booting Grip

On Fri, 25 Oct 2013 16:51:02 +0100
Dan Hawker <danhawker@googlemail.com> wrote:

> I have a few older thin clients (x86) that I'd like to install
> Embedian Grip onto. More of a because I can, than any real use,
> although it will be handy to have something low power and quick
> booting in my workshop to lookup manuals and access the rest of my
> stuff from.

"Using the same packages with a Debian installation is likely to be
little different to the same packages with an Emdebian installation."

Emdebian Grip is neither lower power nor quicker booting than standard
Debian for the same package selection.

The files removed in Grip processing do not typically get loaded in the
equivalent Debian boot process, with the possible exception of

The packages are smaller but the binaries which get executed have
precisely the same resource requirements as the identical binaries you
get from Debian. You can compare the checksums of everything
in /usr/bin on Emdebian Grip with the same versions from Debian - all
will match. Grip has no functional changes compared to Debian - that is
the entire point of Grip. Resource requirements are dictated by the
functional behaviour of the binary, the only difference is the tiny
amount of effort of loading (absent) translations.

> I started out installing a minimal Wheezy install on a USB key that
> plugs into it. That works, but the USB interface on this older client
> is a bit slow so am attempting to use the internal flash instead,
> which is only 256MB, and the minimal text-only install is still a
> touch chunky and I'd like a lightweight X interface. Hence the desire
> to try Embedian.

A minimal XFCE GUI multistrap installation from sid-grip comes out at
231Mb. If you want swap (not advisable on flash) or if you want to have
any data at all, you will struggle. At that rate, even an apt-get
dist-upgrade would fail with ENOSPACE.

There is no kernel in that selection, nor grub. A standard Debian
kernel for x86 will easily swallow all your remaining space - it could
actually exceed that amount and fail to install. I'd estimate you'd have
less than 5Mb free if you are lucky. Not enough room to even upgrade
the kernel should you get it installed, not even enough to upgrade
even small packages using apt. (Even on Emdebian Grip, a single
Packages file is 3Mb.) Add to that you'd be using ext4 rather than an
optimised filesystem like YAFFS or JFFS2 and your flash will soon

> I'd like to PXE boot it and use the debian-installer to install
> rather than any other (even maybe use a preseed) mostly for the sake
> of simplicity.

A standard Debian Installer run, even for Emdebian Grip, will fail with
the tiny amount of storage available. Only multistrap will get you
anywhere close and that cannot be done over PXE. Even then, I doubt you
will be able to fit a kernel into the space.

> I have tried using the normal Debian PXE kernel and initrd from the
> Wheezy CD/DVD, however it fails when trying to download the installer
> files from the Emdebian mirror, complaining that it is a 'bad archive
> mirror'. A quick look at /var/log/syslog from the installer, says
> that 'libc6-udeb' does not exist, I'm guessing that the normal
> installer looks for things that the default Emdebian distro doesn't
> include.

Emdebian no longer keeps the udebs, those come from Debian, as it is
pointless to mirror udebs when there are no changes possible in udebs.

The typical way to do it would be to install standard Debian and then
upgrade to Emdebian Grip but that requires that the installed system
has enough space for Debian in the first place. Installing a base
Debian system and then adding XFCE after upgrade to Emdebian is
possible but it's quite likely that you will run out of space in the

> * Is it possible to use PXE and debian-installer to install Emdebian??

Yes, if there is more space available. Minimum would likely be 1Gb, 2Gb
to be comfortable with an X-based installation.

You might be able to install onto other media and then copy an image to
the flash but you will still struggle with ENOSPACE on a daily basis.

> * Is there an alternative group of default PXE resources for grip (eg
> emdebian kernel and initrd) that I can download?? If so, can anyone
> point me in the right direction.

There are no PXE resources explicitly for Emdebian Grip.

> * If not, what is the simplest way to create these?? Again can anyone
> point me in the right direction for some docs or a how-to??

No. What you are trying to do is not possible without excluding the
option of installing an X environment or adding an IDE/SATA hard drive.

> * Or will I be better off creating my own mirror and adding the
> required packages from Wheezy (or rebuilding my own of course).

No. That will make no difference.


Neil Williams

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