Notes on automated network installation of Ubuntu

Last month, I taught an advanced seminar for Ateneo de Davao's MS in Information Technology program. Per their request, I covered automated network installation of Ubuntu. On the whole, the exercise was successful, but with a few glitches I could have done without.

Now, I've done automated network installation before, but some time way back so I needed a refresher. The Ubuntu Installation Guide provided a quick refresher, in particular, the section on TFTP net booting. Unfortunately, the instructions needed a bit of polish.

I won't go into the process in much detail here as it's already well-covered in several other places on the web. Too many, in fact, such that sifting through the sometimes-contradictory information becomes a challenge. Thus I'm writing this note to point out which sources gave me the most relevant help.

In a nutshell, you need three components on the server to set up automated network installation: the DHCP server, to give out IP addresses and instructions on where to download the boot image; the TFTP daemon, to serve the boot image; and a web server or FTP server to serve out the operating system files.

For the most part, the instructions on TFTP net booting work well. However, it has a problem on its recommendation concerning which TFTP daemon to use.

The Ubuntu repositories offer two TFTP daemons, the plain old tftpd (used in the instructions) and tftpd-hpa. Of the two, tftpd-hpa is easier to set up. tftpd-hpa runs standalone, so you don't need to install and configure additional components.

Tero Karvinen's notes on PXE Network Booting were particular helpful, as well as the Ubuntu community help notes on PXE Install Server.

I'll revisit the topic again with step-by-step instructions at a later time. I'll be taking this up with my undergraduate class later this semester.