I have a machine that I've been using as a server for a couple of years. Unfortunately, it has a broken cdrom drive which means that I can't easily reinstall a new operating system. I *could* bite the bullet and get a new cdrom but I have not done this because it needs a laptop drive and I don't want to pay the extra expense, I'm a little concerned about compatibility and I am not sure how much trouble it is to swap out the drive.
In any case, this machine has been long overdue for a os upgrade. I have been running some old version of ubuntu (hoary?) and I wanted to start from scratch with gutsy. The important data is on a couple of partitions that I can leave untouched and I had some free space on the drive.
My first thought was to copy an iso to a usb key but this did not work because, to my surprise, the machine does not have a way to boot from usb.
So, I fell back on installing from the network. For several years now I've done this with varying degrees of success using this page as a reference.... and I'm happy to say it worked today.
However, it took me a couple of times to get it to work. I think I might have downloaded the wrong linux/initrd.gz/default files the first time around. It took me a few tries to figure out how to specify the paths to the files in the menu.lst file for grub (it ended up being by full pathname). It was essential to specify a desktop environment to install - I used vanilla ubuntu - without that things just didn't seem to work at all. I had to specify /dev/sda to install grub onto the mbr instead of /dev/hda like the example said.
All that is behind me now and things seem to be working just fine!