|Hi, I often do installs of Debian using famous LNX-BBC. I would like to ask, if someone has gone one step further and made some CD or package, that would enable fully-network installs of Debian. I mean a do-it-fast DHCP/TFTP/NFS server, that would allow you to boot right into Debian bootstrap over the network. This would be awesome! There are still many machines without CD-ROMs and writing floppy disks is quite out-of-date.
Robot101: There are a number of options here. For a more up to date net install CD, there are two popular options for woody. One is a boot-floppy only CD, about 30Mb, which can fit onto a bootable business card, and uses the Multiboot extension to allow you to choose between the 4 kernel images (default, idepci, bf2.4 and compact). This is suitable for installs over ethernet for relatively experienced users, because it contains little documentation. However, they look like they need updating for newer boot-floppy releases.
The second net install CD option, available here, includes the base system debs and documentation, and weighs in at about 200Mb, suitable for a ~3 inch CD. This is a more flexible option because with the base system you get support for PPP, PCMCIA, and a useful set of utilities for you to work out any special hardware or installation requirements before you can get on-line and proceed with the installation. It also uses the ISOLinux boot loader to let you choose the kernel image and provide bootup options, which is supported by far more BIOSes than Multiboot.
I’d quite like to see an ISOLinux-based version of the first CDs, giving the compatibility and flexibility of choosing the kernel and being able to specify command-line options. Also on the topic of bootable CDs, Progeny Graphical Installer (PGI)-based CDs have a live filesystem which can be booted into to facilitate system rescue in a more useful way than boot-floppies, featuring bash (ahh, tab completion), parted, and various filesystem utilities.
On the fully networked side, for media-less installs, you pass into the realm of FAI, the Fully Automated Installer. This is similar to RedHat’s KickStart, for installing multiple machines over a network with a similar configuration, using DHCP, TFTP and NFS as you say. At a pinch you could set it up for one or two installs, but at that level it seems easier to put the HDD in a machine with a CD drive, or vice versa.
In the future, the new debian-installer project should, through the use of small and flexible udeb packages, provide more options in the way Debian’s install system is put together and presented, and allow for network installation and automation in the project’s default installer.