Rich Freeman on 21 Dec 2011 18:06:42 -0800

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Re: [PLUG] Linux distributions without version upgrades

On Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 10:29 AM, K.S. Bhaskar <> wrote:
> What this exercise has done for me is to give me a tremendous appreciation
> for the level of effort it takes to package a Linux distribution.  I have a
> lot more appreciation for the folks at Ubuntu - and maybe I will stay on
> Ubuntu after all.  But for now, more experimentation is underway.

I feel a similar sense.  :)  I've been running the minimyth
distribution for my mythtv frontend.

Minimyth is designed to run on low-power mini-itx systems, like my
zotac ion front-end.  It can boot with PXE and either run off of an
initramfs or with an nfs root.  It works well, but every time I
upgrade mythtv I find that it has change substantially and it isn't
always easy to tweak.  Also, mythtv wants you to use the exact same
revision of the software on both the front and back ends, and using
two different distros doesn't make that easy.

After chatting with another Gentoo mythtv user I decided to try to
build my own Gentoo-based PXE booting frontend that will run from an
nfs root.  Getting it initially installed was easier than I thought,
but as Bhaskar pointed out there are a lot of little details that go
into making for a smooth experience.  I've got mythtv to launch from
inittab, and now I need to get lirc and sound working.

Running from an nfs root actually makes it pretty easy to set up,
especially since my frontend runs on atom.  I just installed Gentoo
into a chroot on my server (which is little more than a slight
variation on the normal procedure), and then exported the chroot
directory.  I can do all my building from a quad core and then run
from either virtualbox (as a PXE boot) or from the actual front-end.

Interestingly enough everything but mythtv runs fine from virtualbox -
mythtv gives me illegal instructions.  Maybe virtualbox doesn't handle
some nuance of the atom instruction set that mythtv uses for
optimization.  I just built using -march atom, which works on GCC 4.5.
 Atom can run core2 or below so that is purely an optimization (and
the little front end can use all the help it can get).

Hmm, if there is interest PXE-booting with an nfs root is something
that many might find useful in general for a talk.  I'd have to do it
as an outline though as there are a bunch of things to set up (dhcp,
tftp, pxelinux, the chroot itself, nfs, your PXE kernel, and maybe a
few things I'm not thinking of offhand).  Once you've done it once or
twice it gets a lot easier - since I was already running minimyth half
of that stuff was already ready to go and I just needed to copy/edit
some config files.  I imagine that it would work with most distros,
though I've only done it with Gentoo so far...

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