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I've got some embedded systems which I'd like to deploy a debootstrap-prepared Ubuntu rootfs to. But I need some kind of a stub which I can use to boot these systems, either via USB or PXE. Basic requirements:

  • Recent-ish kernel (>3.8)
  • Starts SSH server on startup with a default user/password (or something it receives from the DHCP server somehow).
  • Entirely in initramfs, total size < 50MB.
  • Contains filesystem utilities like parted.
  • Bonus points for Python 2.7 (for example, to use Ansible)
  • Bonus points for an iso which can boot both i386 and amd64.
  • Bonus points for announcing itself on the network and/or providing some kind of status information using Avahi.

I could just build this up myself, but it seems like it should be a problem which must have been solved before. Is there something preexisting which I can just deploy?

Most recovery-oriented distros like GRML seem to assume that you a) want a desktop and b) don't want an SSH server. I don't want a desktop, I just want the bare minimum that will be necessary to get a system rolling so that I can push the "real" rootfs to it over the network, chroot to it, and install the bootloader.


share|improve this question
GRML does not start a desktop by default, and it includes a boot option for configuring ssh.;a=blob_plain;f=templates/GRML/… – sciurus May 17 '14 at 21:03
Another option is SystemRescueCD, – sciurus May 17 '14 at 21:04
GRML's most svelte iso is still almost 200MB. It's not out of the question, but I'm just surprised there isn't something tiny out there which does exactly this. – mikepurvis May 17 '14 at 23:02
Since modern systems have gigabytes of RAM and everyone wants a different set of tools, making these systems tiny likely isn't a priority. You can remaster both GRML and SysRecCD to slim them down. Also, you only need their initrd to fit in RAM since they can mount their primary filesystem over NFS. – sciurus May 18 '14 at 15:27

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