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Help netbooting a diskless, headless system

I have a computer that is not attached to a monitor or keyboard and has
no disk/CD.

I thought getting it to boot over the network would be easier than it
has proven, and would appreciate any pointers.  Searching turned up a
lot of material, but none of it exactly on topic.

My naive view was that I could point the system at an ISO image and have
something working.  Or switch to nfs early on and get everything from

I've found instructions about netbooting the Debian installer, but the
instructions seem to be for a system that is diskless but not headless.
I haven't found anything indicating the installer can be run via ssh.
There are also some issues with the paths in the config files which
cause it to start asking for files in the wrong locations part  way
through the PXE process (e.g.,
http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=530616).  This was with
the testing installer.

I do have the basic dhcp/tftp infrastructure working; wireshark shows
the dhcp dialogue, and then tftp serving up 1 or more files before
failing to find ones with bad paths.  As noted, even if I get past that
I think the installer wants to interact with me on the client machine,
and so that won't work.

Other instructions on the net call for building an image of the system
locally.  One issue is that the server is 32 bit lenny, while the client
is 64 bit and really should run 64 bit to use all its memory.  I do have
a testing chroot on the server, and perhaps could use it to get started.

Eventually I probably will want to customize the system running on the
client; since an ISO image read-only maybe using them isn't a good idea.

Anyway, I'm a bit disoriented and would appreciate some orientation.

I will attach the machine to a monitor eventually, and probably will get
a wireless keyboard.  But since clusters have lots of nodes with just a
CPU, and I know Debian runs on them, I figure there's some way to get it

Ross Boylan

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