Thursday, June 09, 2005

Boot ltsp from NT/2K/XP

This week I have been tasked with the setup of a Linux terminal server for a press room with 15 terminals (mostly used for OpenOffice, browsing and printing). The terminals are refurbished pcs with intel II processor and 128MB of ram.
In case the terminal servers failed I decided to keep the original hard drives and install NT4 on them. I also set a small FAT partition apart for installing the linux kernel necessary for bootstrapping the client.

I installed Fedora Core 3 on the two servers (they roughly share the load) and chose KDE as the default desktop environment. Then I installed LTSP.
For the initial phase I went with bootable floppies, but after the setup was considered stable I wanted something installed on the local hard drive of the terminals.
After some googling I found syslinux. SYSLINUX is a bootloader that can be used to boot the zlilo images from rom o' matic.
The installation is very easy: I downloaded and uncompressed syslinux on the NT box while I was running NT, then I ran win32/syslinux.exe and installed syslinux on partition d: (the partition must be FAT).
After that I copied the zlilo image in d: and renamed it to linux (this is the default kernel booted by syslinux).
At this point I needed to make the NT boot loader aware of syslinux, so I stripped off the boot sector of partition d: and added it the the boot.ini file.
This is a straightforward process: run the copybs utility that comes with syslinux and save the sector to the c:\ts.bss file. After that modify boot.ini to include the new entry, make it the default, shorten the timeout and reboot.
The whole process can be easily automated with the help of a trivial batch file.

Et voila'

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