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Re: [alpine-devel] PXE boot of Alpine Linux

From: Johnson <>
Date: Sat, 27 Apr 2013 17:32:22 +0800

Thanks for your comprehensive description of the situation. I love the Alpine Linux architecture, However considering your instructions I suspect that I might not be able to get PXE boot working soon. Specifically I have no experience on compiling a package for alpine using the ulibc library, installing my own built package, getting the correct boot parameters such as alpine_dev... The obstacles are just too much. So I prefer to wait for a while until the PXE boot feature gets into the next alpine distribution, if this will probably happen soon (in 1-2 weeks), or at least until some packages such as mkinitfs have been built with the new patch applied ( Thanks again for your effort. Meanwhile I might try my chances with finnix (
 Thanks again for your great instructions, I might have a try on them and get your help again if there is no hope of this getting into alpine soon.
 On 04/25/2013 08:39 PM, Hugo Landau wrote:
 Alpine does not support root=/dev/nfs or nfsroot.
 However, I recently submitted a patch to enable Alpine to PXE boot and run from RAM. You can find this patch here:, but it should eventually go into Alpine itself. The patch is for the init script placed into the initrd by mkinitfs.
 You must configure mkinitfs to include appropriate files in the initrd.
 Create the following files:
 /etc/mkinitfs/modules.d/nfs, containing:
 /etc/mkinitfs/modules.d/ethernet, containing:
     (you can make this more specific if you know what NICs you'll
      be using)
     (required for udhcpc to work)
 /etc/mkinitfs/files.d/dhcp, containing:
 Finally add nfs, ethernet and dhcp to the list of features in
 /etc/mkinitfs/mkinitfs.conf and run mkinitfs to regenerate the initrd.
 This new init script is compatible with ordinary "sys" booting, so you can use it for both PXE and MBR boot. Just copy /boot/initramfs-grsec to whereever you need it for PXE.
 You will want to boot with something like
   alpine_dev=nfs: ip=dhcp
 However, do note that this does not result in an NFS *root*. The alpine_dev parameter is used to provide a filesystem to the run-from-RAM init script code path, similar to a LiveCD boot. Currently this is used to locate a squashfs file containing extra kernel modules and a repository of apks. Copying from an Alpine CD would be a good start here. You need the ".boot_repository" indicator file and so on in order for it to autodetect the repository. Alternatively, specify the alpine_repo argument (e.g. alpine_repo= Whatever you specify will be placed in /etc/apk/repositories.
 This patch only modifies the init script. There are still some things that need to be cleaned up, e.g. with post-initrd init scripts such as modloop. I'm fairly sure that modloop should correctly detect a squashfs image located on an alpine_dev nfs share just like it would on a LiveCD, though I haven't tested this. (Eventually I'll patch it to support kernel modules simply sitting on an NFS share.) You might need to specify modules=loop,squashfs. At any rate, you should be able to boot to a login prompt.
 ovl_dev has also been modified to accept an HTTP URL. As a convenience, {MAC} and {UUID} will be substituted with the MAC address of the boot interface and the machine's SMBIOS UUID automatically. e.g.
 You can use this to generate an apkovl dynamically, if you wish. The quotes are essential.
 (If you wanted to discriminate by machine earlier in the boot process, you might be interested to know that gpxe, which can be used instead of PXE linux, is also capable of doing this MAC and UUID substitution, and can load and boot kernels from an HTTP server, too. If you have any inexplicable network issues with gpxe, you may want to try selecting the "undionly" driver, especially if using the online binary generator, which is possibly buggy.)
 If you're new to Alpine, an apkovl is basically a "overlay" tar.gz file containing all system files which have been changed from the package default. You can create one using "lbu". The list of packages installed on a system is canonically represented in /etc/apk/world, and any packages specified in /etc/apk/world in an apkovl will be installed automatically by the init script.
 Keep in mind that the contents of /etc/fstab in an apkovl provided via ovl_dev should be honoured, if you want to mount any extra NFS shares.
 This PXE boot support is completely new, so I'd be very interested to hear how you get on. In some ways a run-from-RAM arrangement might be superior to a NFS root since this reduces network reliance. Currently alpine_dev is still needed, and required to be a filesystem, for purposes of loading kernel modules (which, due to hotplugging, can potentially happen at any time). At some point I will probably work on a way to cache a squashfs image locally to remove this NFS requirement. If having an NFS -root- is absolutely vital, I'd be interested to hear your use case and reasoning. Appropriate further changes to the init script could probably be made to enable such functionality if it were needed.
 Hugo Landau
 On 20130424 1550, Richard Johnson wrote:
I want to setup a PXE boot server offering customized alpine linux
images. Initially I used 'setup-alpine' to configure alpine linux to
boot from my external hard drive. Now I have copied the contents of the
external hard drive on a debian server which acts as a PXE server. I am
using syslinux to boot alpine using the following boot description:
     KERNEL linux/alpine/boot/mboot.c32
     APPEND linux/alpine/boot/xen.gz dom0_mem=256M ---
linux/alpine/boot/vmlinuz-3.6.11-grsec --- linux/alpine/boot/grsec.gz
root=/dev/nfs rw rootfstype=nfs nfsroot=
Where "linux/alpine/" is the relative folder where I have copied alpine
on the debian server and "" is the IP of the debian server.
Now, the PXE starts with booting xen.gz, vmlinuz-3.6.11-grsec and grsec
successfully, however it then complains with the error:
cp: can't stat '/media//.alpine-release': No such file or directory
/sbin/init not found in new root. Launching emergency recovery shell
Type exit to continue boot.
sh: can't access tty; job control turned off
I have attached a photo of the boot logs. Sorry for the bad image
quality, I could not take a snapshot. I suspect that the boot parameters
might not be completely correct. Does anyone have a working solution for
booting alpine linux using PXE?

Received on Sat Apr 27 2013 - 17:32:22 UTC