The new operating system supports the RaQ 3, RaQ 4, RaQ 550 and Qube3 hardware.
Currently the new installer is only available to those who update from Strongbolt1, but there is work in progress to make the new installer accessible to users that want to go straight from Cobalt Linux.
Strongbolt2 is now capable of loading a fully featured enterprise style kernel onto the servers for the first time. Previously, the Cobalt was unable to handle this kind of kernel due to a size limitation.
New Features included in Strongbolt2
- New 2.6.23 ROM
- Installs from USB key
- Installs using Anaconda
- Boots the system using SBinit (Strongbolt init)
- Provides Installation from USB
- Install is fully automatic (no network required)
- Monolithic Enterprise kernel
- Support for dozens of external USB devices
- Support for PCI cards (examples additional NIC's, ISDN, sound)
The Cobalt ROM has always been seen as a limitation of the hardware. It has prevented the ease of install of other OSes, as the installation has traditionally been a tricky network based affair. This has disuaded OS vendors from providing a specific installer for this hardware and until Strongbolt was avaiable, Cobalt hardware was restricted to the Cobalt installer. However, there is many useful features that have been overlooked. The ability to change settings in the CMOS from the booted OS means that you can change the boot method of the system from a fully booted machine. A simple command like "cmos -c defboot hda1" will set the Cobalt to boot from hda1 the next time the system boots up. This is not an easy thing to do on most whitebox machines. We have exploited this feature in Strongbolt2 to easily set the server to reboot to the install medium. In short, if you have the Strongbolt2 USB key permanently placed in the USB port, and need to re-install, you simply set the machine to boot from sda1 and reboot.
The 2.6.23 ROM is a massive update to the Cobalt hardware. This highly tweaked, modded and specialist ROM includes a micro kernel that has been developed specifically for the hardware and Cobalt specific features. Every single kernel option has been included to provide the functionally required to run a modern Linux distro. Whilst still retaining the original kernel network boot options, the ROM kernel is USB and SATA aware (only sata_sil cards work). This means that the system will boot from USB and SATA drives. The kernel has been modified to wait for USB devices to settle whilst booting - making them available to read from during the boot process.
Installing the TeraQube is simple. Using the LCD controls or a serial connection, the system was set to boot from sda1. The 2.6.23 ROM then starts booting. After detecting the USB disk, the system reads thekernel from the USB drive. This loads a new kernel, executes our modified version of Anaconda and proceeds to install the system as defined in the Strongbolt2 install kickstart file. This is all completely automatic, and no user interaction is required. After the system files have been installed the post-installation scripts set the server to boot from the system disk and reboots! All of this is network-less and hassle free! The newly installed system is then easily networked via setting IP address, netmask and gateway options using the LCD control panel. What could be easier!
Anaconda has replaced the Strongbolt install script. This is because Anaconda is better able to deal with some of the more complicated parts of the install procedure. This also makes maintenance of the system easier. Anaconda is also better suited to doing a system update. Remote system updates are made possible through keeping an up-to-date USB key image on a USB key permanently plugged into the server.
SBinit (Strongbolt init) is a replacement for the kernel code used to perform the "Leap of Faith" part of the boot sequence. After the ROM kernel has started, it reads the kernel options in the configuration file and boots the second stage kernel. SBinit removes the restrictions of having to run a specialist bzipped kernel. It also removes the size restrictions (1.6MB) of the second stage kernel. This has facilitated the ability to run a modified enterprise type kernel similar to one shipped with CentOS.
The USB install method provides the capability to remotely re-install the operating system in a few keystrokes. After backing up the files that are essential for networking, the remote reinstall will set the system to boot from the USB device, then run through the anaconda installer. After the system has run the installer the networking configuration will be re-applied ready for logging in.
With all of the required configuration files and package files stored on the USB device, the re-installation procedure is performed without any need for network connectivity. This provides an easy to manage re-installation method, very useful in situations where the unit is stored in a remote location (such as a data-centre).
The Linux kernel has come a very long way in the last few years. The Kernel now supports more hardware than ever out of the box. Whether you want to use a PCI wireless card, a sound card or an external USB bluetooth adapter the chances are that your device is probably supported in the modern kernel. We have taken the current enterprise kernel and patched it to support the Cobalt specific hardware.
The new modular enterprise kernel provides support for many new devices. In particular, USB devices are probably of most interest to users. For example, there is modular support for:-
- External USB hard drives
- USB Printers
- Some USB modems
- Some USB wireless adapters
- Some USB bluetooth devices
- Some USB camera's
- Some USB scanners
- Some USB Webcams (Maybe of some use to someone:))
- Some USB ethernet adapters
- Some USB serial adapters
The enterprise kernel will also open up the possibilities for those who want to add PCI cards to their servers. Cards that may be of interest include:
- SATA cards
- ISDN cards
- Additional Network cards
- ADSL Cards
- Sound Cards (someone may be interested in this)
- USB PCI cards
- SCSI cards