Debian Lenny Network Boot on Dell 2650 (Broadcom Network Card)

Debian Lenny (and etch) both do not include the drivers for the broadcom network cards that come with many dell servers,  I use the Dell 2650 a lot but I have also had issues with the 1750 and 1950,   I am sure their are other
I hear it is a licensing problem with debian not being able to distribute the drivers or something.
Here is the solution I have come up with from my end.

On my pxeboot server (I refer to pxe booting but I dont describe how to set one up,  check this howto out)

I cd into the directory that my lenny installation is to be setup in (based on the pxelinux.cfg/default file)

#cd /tftpboot/debian/lenny/i386/

I am going to download all of the network installation files for debian lenny on i386, this should apply 64 bit too though.

# wget
# wget
# wget

download the broadcom drivers package and extract it to a folder called bnx2

# wget
# dpkg-deb  -x firmware-bnx2_0.14+lenny1_all.deb bnx2

Create a temp working directory

# mkdir temp
# cd temp

extract all of the installation files from the initrd.gz file so you can manipulate them (include the driver)

# zcat ../initrd.gz |cpio -iv

Copy all of the firmware drivers from the extracted bnx2 directory into the root of the extracted initrd.gz kernel directory

# cp ../bnx2/lib/firmware/* ../bnx2/usr/share/initramfs-tools/hooks/firmware_bnx2 .

Since the kernel initrd.gz is only used during installation of the OS,  this fix so far hasn’t addressed installing the broadcom driver package for the OS after installation.
To do this you will need to customize the kernel to select and install this package during installation using “preseeding”
Create and edit a file called preseed.cfg in the root of the extracted kernel directory (

# vi preseed.cfg

Place the following contents in that file (I have aso included the ssh server since I typcially do a minimum install without ANY packages but I need ssh)

#automatically select these packages when installing the server
#d-i pkgsel/include string openssh-server firmware-bnx2
base-config     apt-setup/non-free      boolean true
d-i     preseed/late_command            string apt-install firmware-bnx2; apt-install openssh-server;

As another shortcut that can shave a tiny bit of time of of your installation,  if you do not use USB storage during your installation,  there is no need to wait for the delay and errors that occur during the system’s search for those USB storage devices. Deleting the USB drivers from the installation kernel will prevent these errors

# rm -rf lib/modules/2.6.26-2-486/kernel/drivers/usb/storage

Now it is time to put the extracted kernel directory back together in the location that the pxe boot is looking for it.

# find . -print0 | cpio -0 -H newc -ov | gzip -c > ../initrd.gz

that is  it!  you have customized and rebuilt your installation kernel for network boot.
Simply pxeboot to this installation with your Dell or broadcom server and the drivers will be included.
The concepts used above can also help you to setup and customize a net boot which has packages already selected or otherwise speed your install along with drivers or other customizations already selected,  look into preseeding for more options here.