I’ve finally got the Neoware box to actually do something (that it was not designed for). I managed to get it booting over PXE. I set up the network boot options on my Smoothwall box, pointing to a TFTP server on my laptop running XP. This didn’t quite work at first – the Neoware managed to get an IP address, and it was also confirming the IP address of the TFTP server, but wouldn’t load any files from it. So I installed the aftp mod for Smoothwall, copied the boot files over, and it worked like a charm. I reckon that although the PXE client was detecting the next-server option from the DHCP server, it wasn’t actually using it, and just tried to access a TFTP server on the DHCP server’s address – this is probably due to a fault in the firmware for the RTL8139 on board ethernet chipset, although I wouldn’t like to say for certain.
Now all I have to work out is why the Debian Etch installer is failing when its trying to partition the hard drive. I thought it was the drive itself at first (its untested) but it fails at the same place with another drive.