I’ve slowly been going deaf in the last few days. On the desk in my study is a new 19" rack-mounted server which will soon become Winkwaves’ main web server, and its fans are making a racket. I’m glad it will be in the data center soon, but for a while it seemed like that would never happen.
When the server arrived earlier this week I thought it’d be a matter of simply popping in a Gentoo minimal install CD, running through the installation steps, and be done with it. So I popped in the CD. Rebooted the machine. Nothing happened. No boot disk present. Please press any key. Hmm. Popped the CD into another machine and it booted just fine. Lots of tinkering with the BIOS resulted in exactly the same situation. The machine was pretty eager to boot over the network, though. So, in the spirit of adventure and learning new things I decided to make it happy. Followed the instructions and rigged dhcp and tftp servers on my laptop. Succes! At least now the machine booted and showed that it could run a Linux kernel.
After some creative use of disk partitions and shuffling stuff on a too-small USB stick, I finally got to the point where I should be able to boot off of the harddisk, but again the dreaded ‘No boot disk’ message. My mind, devious as it can be, linked this failure to the problem of not being able to boot from the CD.
Time for a BIOS update. Intel had already posted two updates since the one I had on the board, so perhaps that would fix things, even though the very summary release notes didn’t seem to hint at a fix. After updating the BIOS I could again boot from CD, but still not from the harddisk. That should have been a red flag that perhaps this was an unrelated problem, but I didn’t see that at the time. It wasn’t until some time later that I finally realized, thanks to a lilo message, that the boot partitions weren’t flagged as active (ie. bootable). Not setting this flag works fine with the ASUS boards I’ve been using thus far, but the Intel board is a bit more strict. Anyway, set the active flags, and: success!
Now the machine runs fine, and it sure is quick to compile stuff. I did had to use the e1000 network driver from Intel, because the e1000 driver that is in the Linux 2.6.22 kernel isn’t new enough to recognize it. I didn’t play around with the other hardware such as video and audio since this will only need to work as a server anyway.
Finally, we got this server from HPS Industrial. They delivered right on the day they said they would and gave us a good price as well.