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Linux PXE Server

Synopsis
In my home lab I found myself burning DVD's every time I wanted to test a new Linux OS or check out an ISO based tool. I knew there had to be a better, more efficient way to do my testing. My experience led me to The Preboot Execution Environment (PXE). PXE is an industry standard that allows a networked computer to load an operating system remotely. So I grabbed a Raspberry Pi, loaded it with the latest Rasbian image and built a PXE server…

Basic PXE Setup

First thing, update package lists. Then install a TFTP server, DHCP Server, NFS support, and the PXE booting files .(Since my router is providing DHCP I am using a proxy dhcp. dnsmasq comes with many tools, two of which are tftp and proxy dhcp.)

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install dnsmasq nfs-kernel-server syslinux-common

Lets make the root directory for our tftp server. I'll put mine at / for this example

mkdir /tftpboot

The next step is to copy all the PXE boot files to the / of the tftp server(/tftpboot) and create the necessary files and directories .

cp -r /usr/lib/syslinux/* /tftpboot/
mkdir /tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg
sudo nano /tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/default

Add following:

    DEFAULT menu.c32 
    PROMPT 0 

    MENU TITLE PXE Boot 

    LABEL Test 
    MENU LABEL Test 

Now, edit the dnsmasq settings. by adding the lines below to the end of the dnsmasq.conf file(this will enable the tftpserver and proxy DHCP required to assign PXE clients IP address). After editing the dnsmasq.cof file restart dnsmasq.

sudo nano /etc/dnsmasq.conf

Add/Edit the following info to the dnsmasq.conf

    interface=eth0
    dhcp-range=192.168.0.0,proxy
    dhcp-boot=pxelinux.0
    pxe-service=x86PC,"Booting from Network...",pxelinux
    enable-tftp
    tftp-root=/tftpboot
    dhcp-boot=pxelinux.0,servername,192.168.0.50

Restart dnsmasq

sudo service dnsmasq restart

Intermediate Test

Now is a good time to test our configuration. From a remote computer, attempt to PXE boot. You should successfully receive an IP address and go to a boot menu.

Configure NFS Boot

Next we will set up th NFS support. Here we will create a few directories for organization and mounting purposes.

mkdir /tftpboot/iso ##Store distribution iso's here 
mkdir /tftpboot/nfs ##Directory where we will create distribution mount folders. 
mkdir /tftpboot/nfs/ubuntu ##Folder where we will mount the ubuntu iso

Edit the /etc/exports file

sudo nano /etc/exports

Add following line:

   /tftpboot/nfs/ubuntu/    *(ro,sync,no_subtree_check)

Mount the ISO

mount -o loop iso/ubuntu-13.04.iso nfs/ubuntu/ 

NOTE: In the future, if you add any additional entries to the /etc/exports file, nfs-kernel-server must be restarted.

Now enable rpcbind and restart nfs.

update-rc.d rpcbind enable && update-rc.d nfs-common enable
service rpcbind start
service nfs-kernel-server restart

Edit the default config file

sudo nano /tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/default

Add the following:

   DEFAULT menu.c32
   PROMPT 0

   MENU TITLE PXE Boot

   LABEL Test
   MENU LABEL Test

   LABEL Ubuntu
   MENU LABEL ^Ubuntu 13.04
   KERNEL nfs/ubuntu/casper/vmlinuz
   APPEND initrd=nfs/ubuntu/casper/initrd.lz boot=casper netboot=nfs nfsroot=192.168.0.50:/tftpboot/nfs/ubuntu

Note: For some distributions I had to add the following to the end of the APPEND line:

ip=HostIP:ServerIP:RouterIP:Subnet:::none rw

Example: ip=192.168.0.10:192.168.0.50:192.168.0.1:255.255.255.0:::none rw

Install Windows over PXE

In this tutorial I only covered how to PXE Ubuntu. If you are interested in installing Windows using this PXE Server, head over to my Install Windows over PXE Tutorial

Diskless Booting #2

If you have made it this far, congrats you are well on your way to diskless booting. This tutorial only convered booting to livecd's and installation media. If you are interested in diskless booting, then you may want to check out my iSCSI PXE boot tutorial.

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