booting from usb pen drive

Jim Lux james.p.lux at
Sun Nov 23 09:46:10 EST 2003

> >  How could one tell
> > (without having the mobo sitting in front of you)?
> Check online specs/user guides/feature lists from your manufacturer.
> Ask your sales rep.  Consult the almighty oracle that resides at
>   And any other method you'd normally use to find out
> information on specific motherboards and other hardware components.

Online spec sheets are usually a bit sketchy, and, while one can download
the usermanual for the mobo most of the time, it often resorts to some hokey
"Press F2 to get the boot selection menu, then press + or - to move the
order around, see Figure nn" which you KNOW isn't the BIOS version you're
going to get.  As for the almighty oracle that is google, isn't that what
this list is???<grin>

Perhaps one could email the mfr of the mobo and get an answer..

> > This could be a very elegant solution for booting diskless nodes, since
> > virtually every mobo made today has USB interfaces on it, and would save
> > the hassle of putting CDROM or Floppy drives out there.
> I'm not sure I'd be a fan of it.  On one hand, you could just have one
> usb pen drive that you use to boot all the nodes.  Nice in theory, but I
> really don't want to have to touch a slave node just to reboot it.

I was thinking of a USB drive on each and every diskless node, not moving
the one drive around.

> Other than that, you'd have a nice usb key sticking out of either the
> front or rear of all your machines like a sore thumb, and would be quite
> easy to accidently brush against and break/pull-out/snap-off in your usb
> port.
Only if you packaged it that way... Lots of mobos have USB ports that come
out to a header and they expect you to put a little adapter dohickey (which
can cost as much as the USB drive) to create the USB jack on the front
panel.  Leave the USB drive inside the case.

> I have heard of people using usb devices (ipod's) to boot public kiosk
> machines so that if a machine were cracked into, the real system files
> couldn't be tampered with, and a reboot would wipe any added back doors.
> But that's a very different situation.
As far as I know, you can't make a USB pod readonly, which is what I'd want
for a non-tamperable, non-hackable, backup.

Not so different.  For what it's worth, this is how they do electronic
voting machines, except I think they use Compact Flash.  There's an
"interesting" story about mass software updates of machines in Georgia over
a weekend on the internet. (and you think managing the software
configuration of a cluster is a challenge!)

In my specific case, I'm looking for a cheap, off the shelf diskless boot
solution that is compatible with having only wireless access to the node. My
application is almost embarassingly parallel (by deliberate design) and the
goal is to show that "useful work" can be done with power being the only
physical connection to each node.  So far, the CF/IDE adapter looks like a

Beowulf mailing list, Beowulf at
To change your subscription (digest mode or unsubscribe) visit

More information about the Beowulf mailing list