PXE, diskless booting with a USB nic and Flash over HTTP

Now that the hard part is over:

One of the things Git and version control systems do not capture are the details about the actual hardware used to develop the code, or how testing was performed.

PXE, Sys etherboot gPXE and iPXE

PXE, gPXE now pulling dhcp and image

First I used a Combo Adapter (Although its called MacBook, it is an ASIX AX88772A device that works with everything from Windows 98/ME through Windows 7, and OSX 10.3 through 10.7 and Linux 2.4 or better) so its about as flexible a device as your likely to find.

Its available from a lot of places, but specifically here is a place that seems to provide a lot of details

USB to Ethernet Adaptor 2 Ports USB Hub Reader

On one side it has two USB ports, so its a mini-hub, and has a power connector in case you want to power it.

 On the other side are a number of memory card ports, including SD/M2/TF(microSD).

Carrying this out to its extreme conclusion, my hope was that most Laptops and Notebooks without an Ethernet port would have at a minimum a USB port, which could then be used with a Multi-function device like this to attach additional Flash memory devices or memory cards.

Now that gPXE has been proven to activate and PXE over [ http ] from this device (which opens up iSCSI, AOE, https.. and of course tftp). The next logical step would be to see if if could be written to a memory card, then inserted and booted from.

The boot feature would only require the Laptop or Notebook at a minimum support the USB hub type and to recognize a memory card or flash drive as a bootable device which many in Legacy mode will do.

The diverse form factor of the ports means boot media could be collected in one form and either used directly in a Laptop or Notebook port or in the Combo device itself.

I would also like to complete porting the gPXE driver set for this to iPXE.. and "then" explore WiFi booting over a similar USB nic device from ASUS

This is a complete linux type computer with a dhcp server, router and firewall in a tiny form factor, and its is bus powered.


In fact since it contains all the server and WiFi componets to support ad-hoc networking, it could be attached to the end of the Combo adapter above and provide a Wireless bridging function to boot off a WiFi enabled infrastructure.

One end is an Ethernet plug, the other end is a USB pigtail type connector.. so it could be attached Ethernet-to-Ethernet or Daisy chained off the Combo adapter USB hub.. but I tend to think E-to-E would be a faster thing to do.

If all of three components could be packaged into a single chip form factor.. the result would be something as useful as USB universal communications adapter.. which could be used either to retro-fit older computers with modern facilities for remote booting.. or uploading and backup.. diagnostics, provisioning.. forensics.. or on the spot networking of a node cluster in short order.

One of the things Data Centers today still have a problem with is node bridging and the inherent lack of thought that goes into network pathing.. if its merely a chip on every motherboard like an ipmi, bmc or ilo.. that becomes a lot less of a problem.

For consumers.. devices without brains (DWB) or "DWeeBs" could become very attractive as their prices fall and "form factor" takes an even more forward position in their value and design.