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Roll your own Netboot server on Linux


It can't be denied; NetBoot is cool. Even though Apple's network startup technology is mostly aimed at big educational and corporate deployments, it can be helpful in a small gaggle of Macs as a tool for diagnostic boot or machine imaging. There's a price to be paid, though: by default, you need Mac OS X Server (starting at $499 retail for a 10-client license) to provide the various bits of plumbing needed for a successful NetBoot deployment.

Enter Jeff McCune of Ohio State, with help from Christopher Suleski at Rutgers. Sensing the inherent injustice in this situation, Jeff has written up a thorough guide to getting NetBoot working with a Linux server, using the CentOS distribution and a slew of open source tools. While previous guides have tackled NetBooting OS 9 clients from a Linux server, this is the first I've seen that addresses OS X for both PPC and Intel machines. Grab an old PC with two Ethernet cards and you're on your way to NetBoot nirvana.

Keep in mind that this is not a project for the faint of heart or wary of the CLI. As McCune indicates on his wiki, even experienced UNIX admins would probably spend a few hours getting everything just right. Compare your time cost vs. the old G4 tower you could probably draft into service and the price of a 10.4 Server 10-user license... you do the math.

[via mailing list]

Update 3:30 pm Sat:
"Read" link corrected below via tinyurl (it's HTTPS, so it has to be redirected).

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