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Debian Live web-booting


By leveraging iPXE capabilities I'm currently aiming to build a PXE setup that directly boots off officials repositories. In you never saw what you may do with iPXE, please have a look at http://boot.salstar.sk. That's really great.

Web-booting Debian Live is quite easy as all the needed files are issued : http://live.debian.net/cdimage/release/stable+nonfree/amd64/webboot/. Please just add Debian Jessie & Sid and it'll be absolutely perfect ;)

However I'm getting trouble with distros derived from Debian like GParted, etc... because they usually don't publish the 3 needed files (Linux kernel, initrd & root fs) but only a live ISO. But thanks to the great syslinux project we've got an alternative way : memdisk. Unfortunately it's not actually supported in Debian Live as for now.
As I've been successful with Clonezilla which AFAIK is also derived from Debian, I did further investigations that led me to find out the use of the phram & mtdblock kernel modules. When extracting Debian's initrd image, I did not find either module despites I noticed the needed setup is already provided through the script 9990-main.sh (commit e08c082e758afa3341a9ebb6e00927d9873c7230) :
                                       # We found a memdisk, set up phram
                                       modprobe phram phram=memdisk,${MEMDISK}

                                       # Load mtdblock, the memdisk will be /dev/mtdblock0
                                       modprobe mtdblock

I did not find anything else concerning memdisk so it looks like Clonezilla only added those modules in their initrd build to make booting through memdisk working.

As a consequence it'd be great if those modules could also be added in Debian since it would permit derived distros to be booted off remotely right of the box.

PS : concerning security concerns, iPXE provides all the necessary features to guarantee the integrity of every download file. This check is enforced by a digital signature, for more information please read http://ipxe.org/crypto. As an example Sal (boot.salstar.sk) created its own CA to generate some signatures.
I'm not sure if this tiny usage of iPXE could bring Debian Live to provide digital signatures, but I hope someone would consider it as it'll give users yet another easy method to get Debian.


H. Werner


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