OpenBSD 3.6 and later can be used to PXE-boot an install image on the Soekris and install directly onto a CF card. Just add /var/run and /tmp as mfs filesystems to save writes to your CF card, and you'll be fine.

This document is obsolete and will not be updated.

Soekris NET45x1, OpenBSD and flashdist

Chris Cappuccio's flashdist was used to install OpenBSD 3.2-current to a CF card in a SanDisk CF USB reader. These are some notes related to that procedure.

The NET4511 comes with 32MB RAM, 2 ethernet NICs and a PC Card slot. A vpn1211 crypto accellerator is used to power IPsec traffic. A local store provided two Netgear MA401 cards; one for the laptop and one for the 4511.

The NetGear wlan NIC has problems when the Soekris device is hidden away in a closet and the cover is put on. This leads to about 20% packet loss. If you are going to be hiding your device away somewhere, you might consider getting a wlan NIC which supports an external antenna for better coverage.

Getting started

Not surprisingly, every new flashdist release is imported to CVS for easier merging of local changes with those Chris made. This approach is strongly recommend as it makes upgrades so much easier.

When installing to brand new CF media, returns the following error:

Setting up disklabel...
disklabel: warning, DOS partition table with no valid OpenBSD partition
disklabel: sectors/track 0
Disklabel failed: disklabel  sd0 > /tmp/_aaam31392
Please fix something. Aborting...

Manually set diskgeometry (using disklabel -e sd0). Then run again.

The flashdist documentation is pretty forward. Follow it correct and look in the OpenBSD FAQ if you have problems. Most problems are caused by operator error.


The flashdist package contains a NET45x1 kernel config. Unlike the other kernel config, this one has drivers for Netgear MA401 wireless devices. As vlan support is not needed, this was disabled first.

Changes to flashdist

Local changes include:


Some limitations exist with this solution. 32MB of RAM puts a limit on what kind of tricks are possible, but it is plenty for most situations. The CF is not suitable for writing to, but a slightly more powerful Soekris models could take on a range of tasks, especially if a more flexible media is chosen. Diskless booting with PXE and filesystems mounted with NFS comes to mind.


This device will not be upgraded as long as it works. It has no services running that are exposed to the world, so upgrades would only take place to fix serious problems in the kernel or to take advantage of new features in wicontrol or pfctl.