netboot.me: Turning 'netboot' into 'internetboot'
After a couple of weeks of concerted effort, I'm pleased to announce the initial release of a new service, netboot.me. Netboot.me takes regular netbooting and makes it a whole lot more versatile - now, you can netboot directly into the installers for many popular linux distros, as well as system tools and even live linux distributions, all directly over the Internet, and without any local configuration required!
All that's required to set up netboot.me is a spare writable CD, USB key, or floppy disk to write a small (less than 1MB) disk image to. Alternately, determined geeks can change their DHCP server to allow computers to netboot directly. Once you've done that, booting off the device on any computer with wired ethernet (wifi is a work in progress) will automatically cause the bootloader to download the current version of the menu from netboot.me, which you can then find the boot image you want to boot from. Selecting it causes the boot image to be downloaded and booted immediately.
Currently on the boot menu:
- Installers for several popular linux distros (Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE, Debian).
- The FreeBSD installer.
- Tiny Core and Micro Core Linux, incredibly small (10MB) bootable linux environments. Tiny Core Linux also includes an X environment and package manager!
- GParted and Parted Magic.
- Memtest86 and Memtest86+
- HDT (The Hardware Detection Tool).
- and more...
The getting started and help pages have many more details on how to use netboot.me, and how to contribute to it. The more boot images in the system the better, so contributions are much appreciated.
Netboot.me is built on top of App Engine, which simplified things enormously. Also, the idea of booting a computer off App Engine is just awesome.
For all of this, I owe a huge debt to the gPXE project and its support for netbooting over HTTP. Its many other excellent features have also proven invaluable, such as direct support for USB, CD ISOs and regular netbooting, and support for syslinux comboot files for the menu system.
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