HOWTO : Penguinzilla (DRBL) on Ubuntu 8.04.1

Penguinzilla or Diskless Remote Boot in Linux (DRBL) is developed by The National Center for High-Performance Computing (NCHC), Taiwan which is also the developer of Clonezilla.

DRBL is quiet difference from LTSP. Actually, DRBL is a NFS and NIS server.

Penguinzilla (or DRBL) is an Open Source software which is ideal for schools, libraries and cyber cafes. The current version is 1.9.1-26 which also supports remote boot Windows system by the technology of ATA over Ethernet (AoE). The current version of DRBL supports one NIC on the server.

However, I am not going to demonstrate how to configure AoE for Windows system. I am targeted to Linux only. I set up a worse but not the worst testing environment for this howto. The main purpose is to test the performance of the DRBL under this environment so as you can predict the performance under the modern hardwares.

The installation of DRBL and related softwares require about 4 hours as the server of the DRBL is very slowly.

The onboard NIC that manufactured on or beyond the year of 2001 supports boot from LAN (PXE).

Hardware
DRBL server – Athlon XP 2600+, 1GB DDR RAM, 200GB IDE HDD, 100Mbit NIC
Client (1) – IBM ThinkPad T23 (Intel P3-M 1.2GHz, 1 GB SDRAM, 100Mbit NIC)
Client (2) – VIA Eden 1.6GHz, 1GB DDR RAM, 100Mbit NIC
Router – Planet XRT-401E 10/100Mbit Broadband Router
HomePlug – LevelOne PLI-2020 85Mbit X 2

Software
Operating System – Ubuntu Desktop 8.04.1 or my remastered Ubuntu SE 8.04.1

Basically, the bandwidth of the testing environment is less than 85Mbit due to the HomePlugs limitation. The installation is done on the server only.

Installation

Step 1 :
Install Ubuntu Desktop 8.04.1 as is. The filesystem can be ext3 or reiserfs. The /boot should be ext2/ext3 only. Create a /tftpboot partition in ext3 or reiserfs in the size of 200MB per client at least, i.e. if you have 20 clients, the size of the /tftpboot should be 20*200MB (4GB). Reiserfs is slightly faster than ext3 under this testing environment.

Step 2 :
After installing the Ubuntu, you should download and add the GPG key for the DRBL.

wget http://drbl.nchc.org.tw/GPG-KEY-DRBL
sudo apt-key add GPG-KEY-DRBL

Step 3 :
Append the following lines to /etc/apt/sources.list.

deb http://free.nchc.org.tw/ubuntu hardy main restricted universe multiverse
deb http://free.nchc.org.tw/drbl-core drbl stable

Step 4 :
Update and upgrade the system before installing the DRBL. The process will take over 4 hours as the server of NCHC is very slowly.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install drbl

Step 5 :
Configure the DRBL server. Follows the instructions of the script. The first 2 questions should be answered as default (N). The third questions should be answered as 2 if you have clients come with modern CPU; otherwise, choose “0” for i386 and “1” for i586. The warning and briefing messages are in yellow that is very hard to read under a coloured terminal.

sudo /opt/drbl/sbin/drblsrv -i

Step 6 :
After that, it is high time to configure the clients but it is setting on the server. The first question should be answered “Y”. Follows the instructions of the script. I choose not to capture the MAC addresses of the clients and not to assign the same IP to the clients in my testing. Therefore, I cannot use Wake on LAN command. If you want to, you should make a file with a list of all MAC address of your clients.

You should know how many clients you have and make them under the instruction for this script. I do not choose assign public IP to the clients but allow NAT for the clients so as they can surf the internet. Lastly, make sure you save the configuration file by answering “Y”. Mostly, the default setting is okay.

sudo /opt/drbl/sbin/drblpush -i

Step 7 :
Now, you go to your clients and set the BIOS to boot from NIC (i.e. PXE or boot from LAN). Boot your clients now.

Step 8 (Optional) :
If you added some softwares on the server or added some clients, you should run the Step 6 again. If you have switched off the server, you should run the following command on the server when you boot it up every time.

sudo /opt/drbl/sbin/drblpush -c /etc/drbl/drblpush.conf

Step 9 (Optional) :
I chose auto login for all clients and the password for each client is at /etc/drbl/auto_login_id_passwd.txt.

Control Panel
The control panel of DRBL is at /opt/drbl/sbin/dcs and you can also ssh to control it.

sudo /opt/drbl/sbin/dcs

Performance
I have choose Full DRBL and SSI mode. SSI mode is slightly faster but it cannot save the individual setting of each client. SSI mode requires same hardware configuration of every clients.

The booting speed under this testing environment is more or less similar to boot up a Live CD/DVD on the client. The application softwares executing speed is also similar to running a Live CD/DVD.

If you boot all clients (two in my testing environment) at the same time, it will take longer time to boot up for every client. It is recommended to boot all the clients before the students coming into the computer room.

Conclusion
Penguinzilla (or DRBL) is a nice Open Source application that ideal for classrooms, libraries and cyber cafes. The Clonezilla features can clone the clients’ hard drive vice versa. It is very easy to setup and configure.

The bottleneck is on the speed of the hard drive and the bandwidth of the network. I recommended to use Gigabit network and NICs for all clients and server; the hard drive of the server should be RAIDed (such as RAID 0 or 5) or the server should be clustered.

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One Response

  1. […] HOWTO : Penguinzilla (DRBL) on Ubuntu 8.04.1 […]

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