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1.  Hardware Requirements


Before we start, we first list what hardware requirements you need to successfully install Gentoo on your box.

Hardware Requirements

Generally if you have an ARMv4 or later, it can run Gentoo. This is pretty much a given, so below we'll cover the CPUs that have actually been tested.

CPU (Big Endian) IXP425
CPU (Little Endian) IXP425, StrongARM-110
Memory 32 MB
Diskspace 1.5 GB (excluding swap space)
Swap space At least 256 MB

1.  Installation Notes

A note about ABIs

We support the new ARM EABI as well as the classic ARM ABI, sometimes referred to as the Legacy or Old ABI (which is required for some old ARM chips like armv4l). Thumb may not be as well tested, but in theory it should work. Feel free to help out.

Also, another important concept to grasp is the concept of endianness. Endianness refers to the way that a CPU reads words from main memory. A word can be read as either big endian (most significant byte first), or little endian (least significant byte first). Intel x86 machines are generally Little Endian, whilst Apple and Sparc machines are Big Endian. On ARM, they can be either. To separate them, we append eb to the architecture name to denote big endian as little endian tends to be more common in practice.

The Stage3 Tarball

A stage3 tarball is an archive containing a minimal Gentoo environment, suitable to continue the Gentoo installation using the instructions in this manual. Previously, the Gentoo Handbook described the installation using one of three stage tarballs. While Gentoo still offers stage1 and stage2 tarballs, the official installation method uses the stage3 tarball. If you are interested in performing a Gentoo installation using a stage1 or stage2 tarball, please read the Gentoo FAQ on How do I Install Gentoo Using a Stage1 or Stage2 Tarball?

Stage3 tarballs can be downloaded from ${release-dir}current-stage3/ on any of the Official Gentoo Mirrors and are not provided on the LiveCD.

1.  Netbooting Overview

In this section, we'll cover what you need in order to successfully network boot a NetWinder. This is just a brief guide, it is not intended to be thorough, for more information it is recommended that you read the Diskless HOWTO.

What You Need: Depending on the machine, there is a certain amount of hardware that you'll need in order to successfully netboot and install Linux.

  • In General:
    • TFTP server
    • Patience -- and lots of it
  • NetWinders: you can either do a serial console with a null-modem cable, or you can hook up a regular VGA monitor and a PS/2 keyboard.

Note: A null modem cable can be found in most electronics stores.

Note: For the terminal, this could be a real VT100/ANSI terminal, or it could be a PC running terminal emulation software (such as HyperTerminal, Minicom, seyon, Telex, xc, screen -- whatever your preference). It doesn't matter what platform this machine runs -- just so long as it has one RS-232 serial port you can use, and appropriate software.

Setting up TFTP -- a brief guide

Okay, so you've got your bits and pieces together, now to set everything up. As mentioned earlier -- this is not a complete guide, this is a bare-bones config that will just get things rolling. You can either use this when starting a setup from scratch, or use the suggestions to amend your existing setup to support netbooting.

It is worth noting that the servers used need not be running Gentoo Linux, you could quite reasonably use FreeBSD or any Unix-like platform. However, this guide will assume you are running Gentoo Linux. You also may run TFTP/NFS on a separate machine to the DHCP server if desired.

Warning: The Gentoo/ARM Team cannot help you with setting up other operating systems as netboot servers. If you choose a different OS, it is assumed you know what you're doing.

First step -- setting up the TFTP server. It is recommended that you use tftp-hpa as it is the only TFTP daemon known to work correctly. Proceed by installing it as shown below.

Code Listing 1.1: Installing tftp-hpa

# emerge net-ftp/tftp-hpa

This will create /tftproot for you to store the netboot images. You may move this elsewhere if you wish. For the purposes of this guide, it is assumed that you have left it in the default location.

1.  Netbooting your ARM Machine

Downloading a Netboot image

Depending on the system you're installing for, there are several possible images available for download. These are all labelled according to the system type and CPU they are compiled for. The machine types are as follows:

Machine Files
NetWinder Netboot

Make sure to place the image into your /tftproot directory.

Start Your Daemons...

At this point, you should be ready to start the daemons. Enter the following:

Code Listing 1.1: Starting the TFTP daemons

# /etc/init.d/in.tftpd start

If nothing went wrong in that last step you should be all set to power on the ARM machine and proceed with the guide. Note that below we assume the TFTP server has the IP so you may have to change this for your setup.

An easy way to verify if the tftp daemon is running is to type the following command -- if you see something like the output mentioned below -- everything is fine.

Code Listing 1.1: Checking TFTPd is running

# netstat -al | grep ^udp
udp        0      0 *:bootpc                *:*
udp        0      0 *:631                   *:*
udp        0      0 *:xdmcp                 *:*
udp        0      0 *:tftp                  *:* <-- (look for this line)

Netbooting the NetWinder

Okay, everything is set, the TFTP server is up and running. Now it is time to fire up the NetWinder. Once you get into the NeTTrom console, enter the commands below.

Code Listing 1.1: Netbooting from NeTTrom

NeTTrom> setenv kernconfig tftp
NeTTrom> setenv kerntftpserver
NeTTrom> setenv kerntftpfile netboot-netwinder
NeTTrom> setenv netconfig_eth0 flash
NeTTrom> setenv eth0_ip
NeTTrom> boot

From this point, the machine should start downloading the image, then, roughly 20 seconds later, start booting Linux. If all is well, you should be dropped at the Busybox ash shell, where you can move on to (Configuring Your Network).

Page updated December 17, 2013

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