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Introduction (alpha-specific), Diskless NetBSD HOW-TO

Client hardware requirements

Any Alpha machine running SRM console can be netbooted. The only Ethernet device the console on most Alpha systems knows how to boot from is the onboard Ethernet interface or a DEC Tulip (21040, 21041, 21140) based PCI Ethernet card. <> tested an older SMC 100 Mbps card that uses this chip and it works fine. Many older systems will not be able to use the newer 2.0 stepping of the 21140, however. If your system appears not to be receiving packets, this may be the problem.

Setting up the client hardware

How the bootrom starts loading from a diskless server

Booting and running NetBSD/alpha over a network requires a BOOTP server, a TFTP server and an NFS server. (These are usually all run on the same machine.) There are three basic stages to the boot:

  1. The Alpha console software sends a BOOTP request to get its own address, the address of the TFTP server and the file to download. It downloads this file, which is the second stage bootstrap, via TFTP and then executes it.

  2. The second stage bootstrap uses further information in the BOOTP packet that the console received to find the NFS server and path and retrieve the kernel (the file /netbsd). After loading the kernel into memory, it executes it.

  3. The kernel probes and configures the devices, and then sends out another BOOTP request so it can find out its address, the NFS server, and path. (The kernel probably should get this information from the console, but it currently doesn't.) It then mounts its root via NFS and continues.

A few things worth noting

Using BOOTP with old Alphas

On some, mostly older, Alphas, you must force the use of RFC1048-style BOOTP replies.

To do this, use vm=rfc1048 instead of vm=auto in the bootpdtab entry. If you use dhcpd(8), enable the always-reply-rfc1048 and use-host-decl-names options.

Begin setting up your bootloader

Get installation/netboot/netboot from the NetBSD distribution. This is what is sent by TFTP. Copy this file to an appropriately named file in /tftpboot, such as boot.netbsd.alpha.

  1. bootpd
  2. tftpd
  3. nfs
  4. client filesystem
  5. finishing up

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