I recently wanted to reinstall my trusty old Linux workstation with Debian 10. I imagined this would be a straight-forward thing to do. Just download the ISO and flash it out to a USB stick and be off to the races.
Well. It wasn’t.
As it turns out, some NUCs do not like modern USB sticks. After trying two or three different USB sticks I had laying around, none of them were picked up by the system (neither as booting devices or for flashing the BIOS). Since I bought a few “good” USB sticks last year, I gave away or threw away the “crap” ones…the ones that the NUC would have accepted.
Since really needed to re-install the machine such that I could use it for some heavy Docker builds, I needed to come up with a workaround. This is when I realized that I could in theory install Debian using PXE boot. I was a bit hesitant at first, but then I ran across netboot.xyz. In short netboot.xyz is a boot image that allows you to select among a large number of distributions and tools.
As it turns out, configuring PXE booting on my pfSense ended up being a breeze. Within a matter of minutes, I was able to boot my NUC into the Debian Buster installer. As a bonus, I’m also able PXE boot VMs instead of having to download ISOs.