In my previous article, Building a Linux-based Folding Farm, I covered the steps required to build a diskless folding farm using Farm-Server. In this second article, I am going to go over some of the changes I made to the server once I installed it. But first, I will address a possible alternate booting scheme for those who donít have bootable NICs.
Booting with Compact Flash
Setting up a machine without a bootable NIC requires an image that will allow us to boot off the LAN and run F@H. Normally, this would be a bootable floppy, and the procedure for creating such is in the documentation, but I wanted to deviate a little from this. Instead of using a floppy drive/disk, I wanted to use a CompactFlash card in an IDE/CF adapter.
Yes, there is a method behind the madness. A floppy drive costs somewhere around $10-$25, depending on whether it is new or used and where you are purchasing it. I can get an IDE/CF adapter for $4 on eBay and an 8MB CF for about the same. Low capacity CF cards are almost given away with any CF-compatible device-many people I know have 8MB or 16MB cards they don't ever use, which puts the price of my solution at around half of what one would otherwise pay, worst-case.
Add that to the fact that lately, it seems, floppy drives have become painfully unreliable and floppies do wear down after constant use, and the CF appears a lot more sensible. Granted, leaving the same disk in the same drive minimizes the reliability problem, which stems in part from alignment issues, and flash memory does have a finite number of writes before it dies, but we are hopefully writing only once to the card and the read-only image will last much longer than one on a floppy would.
The CF card/NIC combo I had would not work when I attempted this procedure. It's likely that this is due to a faulty CF card or NIC. I only have one non-bootable NIC, of questionable quality. I will go through the procedure as it should happen, but note that I was unsuccessful at it; therefore, again, YMMV. If any of my readers do manage to get it to work, by all means PM me and let me know.
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