.. and all through the house

At 4:50 am in my quiet house, a HP ia64 machine in my office, which has been quietly running a little-used Debian installation, spontaneously reboots. Five minutes later a loud roar comes from the server room next door, where a HP proliant with 6 drives and many loud fans has just turned on. While the ia64 is still wading through its pre-boot sequence, the proliant begins pulling software down over the network, and boots into the Debian installer. Minutes later, invisible hands scroll down and select "netboot" from a menu on the ia64 and it does the same. A few prompts are filled in by those same hands, flitting back and forth between the two machines, but they mostly seem able to do their tasks without intervention.

In a few minutes they're done and first the proliant and then the ia64 reboot. This time they're booting from disk drives that are now running software that was not present a few minutes before. On both a prompt comes up, asking for a password. Apparently, one is filled in. Both machines then proceed to suck down more software from the net, and install it.

Now the ia64 finishes first. Its ethernet light sparkles a few more times as it serves up web pages to the network. It reboots. Several minutes later, the proliant, which was downloading much more software, flips into graphics mode and displays a window with a big swirley logo and a login prompt. Soon it too reboots.

Over the next hour or so both computers repeat this process many times, with some variations. Sometimes one or the other will get stuck for half an hour and reset without finishing. At the end, the ia64 boots back into the installation it was running before, as if nothing had happened. And a while later the proliant turns itself off with a long whine.

In the morning, I wake up and check this with my morning email.