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Introduction to syslinux?


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#1 tummychow

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 01:18 AM

Is there an introduction to making a syslinux install for a multiboot USB key with ISOs? (I know absolutely nothing on the matter, literally, so I'm looking for something that's really entry-level.)

#2 Icecube

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 11:28 AM

It depends on which kind of ISO's you want to boot.

Read to get a general idea about the problems you might experience:
http://syslinux.zyto...DISK#ISO_images

Most of the ISO's listed in the grub4dos ISO topic can be booted with MEMDISK/Syslinux too:
http://reboot.pro/5041/

#3 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 11:35 AM

It depends on which kind of ISO's you want to boot.


Compare with:
http://reboot.pro/8944/

JFYI, there are THREE apps hosted on the Forum that autoamtes the task for a number of known (or "common" .iso):
Sardu:
http://reboot.pro/forum/100/
Unetbootin:
http://reboot.pro/forum/79/
and the newish (requires .Net 4 :frusty:) XBOOT:
http://reboot.pro/13246/

It is very probable that one of them can do what you need/would like to do with a minimal effort.

:happy_dance:
Wonko

#4 Mikorist

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 12:04 PM

it all depends on the purpose and what you want to boot.

i have this manual among my links:
http://www.guruja.co..._USB_Flash_Disk

(very slowly opens the page from here)

and this one:

MultiBoot USB with Grub2 (boot directly from iso files)
http://www.panticz.de/MultiBootUSB

or go to:

pendrivelinux.com

The application uses Syslinux and loads GRUB4DOS to present you with
a nice GUI MultiBoot menu when booted from the configured USB.

(something that's really entry-level)

http://www.pendrivel...-multiboot-usb/

#5 sambul61

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 03:27 PM

Is there an introduction...to making a multiboot USB key with ISOs?


Here is one of many possible road-maps:

- First try to figure out and list, what do you need a Multiboot Thumb for? Most ppl ever wanted to find the answer, but were afraid to ask. :frusty: Usually the need occurs, when a system no longer works properly, or to install an extra OS, or a hard drive malfunctions, or to learn and prepare in solving future problems;
- Then find approaches and apps that may lead to resolving your identified PC issues. It may be possible to install these apps preferably onto a virtual hard drive inside a VM like QEMU (Manager) or onto your system HD directly (less advisable) to master work with them, finding the right ones for your tasks;
- At that point it makes sense to try booting the selected apps using ISO images prepared by their developers, and see the same tasks often performed faster and more smoothly compare to installed app versions;
- You can also master the task and apps needed to prepare service images yourself (often they may contain several versions of a selected app), and even more complex tasks of preparing a bootable OS image with multiple apps of your choice and device drivers integrated into it;
- Another important task at that point would be to properly select Thumb drive type & model, and "prepare" the drive (partition and format) to make it bootable on most PCs you may encounter (success often depends on their BIOS version, and at times on the Thumb's chipset model). Many threads on this forum may help;
- Now you're motivated enough to try making a service USB Thumb that would allow to boot independent Service images and bootable OS images with many extra apps integrated you gathered. Syslinux or Grub4DOS & Grub 2 bootloaders may help, try using basic techniques to prepare their plain or graphical Boot Menus without any helper tools. This way you'll better understand how they work, making it a lot easier down the road to improve your Service Drive.

:happy_dance:

#6 tummychow

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 07:25 PM

@Icecube: I've read some of those things; the problem is that I have no idea what to do with that information. I'm *really* new to this.

@Wonko the Sane: I've tried Xboot and it's an amazing tool. However, I want to understand how it works and, ideally, do the job myself manually. (This also takes away having to wait for compatibility fixes with various ISOs. Since I'm a bit impatient, I'd prefer to learn myself.) I've read the thread on no free lunch and I understand the essence of what it's saying; again though, I don't really have the knowledge to apply that.

@HAL9000: The first tutorial is great (they're suitable for my skill level I think, namely zero =]). The second one, I'm not so sure about. It looks like it was written for a Linux system (I'm on windows 7 32-bit). Nevertheless, I'm definitely looking into them. Thanks!

@sambul61: I'm with you on most of the steps; I know what I'm looking for (Ubuntu, system rescue cd, ophcrack, etc), and I know how to prepare the live CDs, individually (not multiboot), using the ISOs that said utilities provide for download. I'm also looking into slipstreaming packages to an Ubuntu live cd using remastersys. My interests lie primarily in the last step: how do I begin using syslinux or grub4dos bootloaders? I've read the explanations that their individual websites and the tutorials provide, but I'm still mostly stumbling around in the dark.

#7 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 07:44 PM

@Wonko the Sane: I've tried Xboot and it's an amazing tool. However, I want to understand how it works and, ideally, do the job myself manually. (This also takes away having to wait for compatibility fixes with various ISOs. Since I'm a bit impatient, I'd prefer to learn myself.) I've read the thread on no free lunch and I understand the essence of what it's saying; again though, I don't really have the knowledge to apply that.

Yep :) but you see, an actual tutorial is made of THREE steps:
  • partition/format the USB stick
  • install syslinux to it
  • add to it's .cfg the "right" entries for the .iso's you want to boot.

Which translates to:
  • EASY, just use RMPREPUSB
  • EASY, just read the Syslinux docs, basically here: http://syslinux.zyto...UX#NT.2F2K.2FXP
  • DIFFICULT :ph34r:, as each .iso may have a different setting and it's NOT easy to find it yourself - given that you are a non-expert

So the idea is - for beginners - to try an automated tool, then check the .cfg entries it produces, then try to understand their syntax, by checking them against the docs of syslinux or memdisk, at which point you will be not anymore a beginner and you will be able to experiment on your own. ;)

An alternative is using grub4dos instead of syslinux and check the list of .iso's known to be working (to which Icecube pointed you to) then try "translating" the .lst entries to syslinux .cfg ones.

Or do the same with GRUB2 (links by HAL9000).

With this latter approaches you will need to learn ALSO the grub4dos and GRUB2 syntax, besides the Syslinux/memdisk one... :whistling:

:cheers:
Wonko

#8 tummychow

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 08:40 PM

Ah, OK... I see how the installation process works =] Thanks on that end for sure! So in the config files, the "kernel" is the live ISO image being used, and the APPEND is the boot options (the finicky part).
Alternatively, you say I could learn how to use grub. What exactly are the diffs/pros and cons between grub and syslinux? I understand that they both about serve the same purpose.
(In the tutorial for Grub that HAL9000 linked, you need a separate partition on disk for each "kernel" and you need to actually unpack the ISO contents right? Is this not necessary for syslinux?)

#9 tummychow

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Posted 25 December 2010 - 03:22 AM

I don't know if double posting is allowed, but I can't seem to edit...
Anyway, when I execute the command

syslinux.exe -m -a -d /boot/syslinux e:

Is the E:\boot\syslinux directory supposed to be formed on my USB key? Nothing (visible in Windows Explorer) changes when I execute the above command.

EDIT: It seems I can edit this post. Anyway, I reformatted it with RMPrepUSB, and it indeed created the boot\syslinux directory. Is the ldlinux.sys file supposed to be at the root (E:) or the syslinux dir (E:\boot\syslinux)? I used RMPrepUSB's "Syslinux bootable option", which made the most sense to me.

Edited by tummychow, 25 December 2010 - 03:51 AM.


#10 Icecube

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Posted 25 December 2010 - 10:44 AM

I don't know if double posting is allowed, but I can't seem to edit...
Anyway, when I execute the command

syslinux.exe -m -a -d /boot/syslinux e:

Is the E:\boot\syslinux directory supposed to be formed on my USB key? Nothing (visible in Windows Explorer) changes when I execute the above command.

EDIT: It seems I can edit this post. Anyway, I reformatted it with RMPrepUSB, and it indeed created the boot\syslinux directory. Is the ldlinux.sys file supposed to be at the root (E:) or the syslinux dir (E:\boot\syslinux)? I used RMPrepUSB's "Syslinux bootable option", which made the most sense to me.

Which version of Syslinux did you install?
The older versions don't care where ldlinux.sys is installed. This Syslinux will look for its config file in /boot/syslinux/syslinux.cfg, /syslinux.cfg and /syslinux.cfg.
The newer version, will first look in its instation folder (directory where ldlinux.sys is located) and after that, it will look at /boot/syslinux/syslinux.cfg, /syslinux.cfg and /syslinux.cfg.

#11 tummychow

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Posted 25 December 2010 - 04:54 PM

I'm using 4.0.3.
I seem to have come across another problem. For some reason, my USB key is now read-only. I was trying to clear the flag in diskpart, but it told me this:
On basic master boot record disks, the HIDDEN, READONLY and NODEFAULTDRIVELETTER attributes apply to all volumes on the disk.
So has syslinux forced my drive to be read only? How do I get rid of this?

#12 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 25 December 2010 - 06:49 PM

Alternatively, you say I could learn how to use grub. What exactly are the diffs/pros and cons between grub and syslinux? I understand that they both about serve the same purpose.
(In the tutorial for Grub that HAL9000 linked, you need a separate partition on disk for each "kernel" and you need to actually unpack the ISO contents right? Is this not necessary for syslinux?)

Disambiguation.
  • GRUB (legacy) <- NO SUPPORT for .iso
  • grub4dos <-Support for .iso of *any* kind
  • GRUB2 <- Support for Linux based ONLY .iso

GRUB (legacy) is NOT grub4dos
GRUB (legacy) is NOT GRUB2
grub4dos is NOT GRUB (legacy)
grub4dos is NOT GRUB 2
GRUB 2 is NOT GRUB (legacy)
GRUB 2 is NOT GRUB grub4dos

Till now noone talked about GRUB but only about grub4dos (suggested as an alternative to syslinux) and GRUB 2 (NOT suggested currently as an alternative to syslinux).

Compare with:
http://reboot.pro/12395/

Now that you have hopefully the issue disambiguated, time to confuse you a bit more :ph34r: :whistling:, there is also BURG:
http://reboot.pro/12474/
that can be defined as a mix between grub4dos and GRUB2.

;)
Wonko

#13 sambul61

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Posted 25 December 2010 - 07:47 PM

What exactly are the diffs/pros and cons between grub(4dos) and syslinux?

As I understand, Syslinux / Memdisk can boot only a few image varieties (review Icecube sig links), while Grub4DOS boots a lot more images, including DOS and WinPE based. Nonetheless, Syslinux may help boot some Linux based images that Grub4DOS can't boot. Grub4DOS is based on Grub Legacy, while newer Burg is based on Grub2 (destined to replace Grub Legacy in Linux apps). Ideally Burg is meant to replace Grub4DOS one day in Linux & WinPE based apps, but their current feature overlap is loosely documented, and it appears Burg as well can't boot DOS and WinPE images now. Often it takes trial and error to find the bootloader for select tasks, since developers avoided direct feature comparison. Consider these bootloaders to be of high value, whatever you choose, since they make easier PC service, OS install and other tasks.

You may want to read the best available yet hard to find Diddy's Grub4DOS Guide for better orientation in G4D commands. Its better to consume step-by-step, while you read it and practice booting various images. It may be somewhat incomplete in its examples (and also Diddy's hardware specific in some results), so read the above linked threads to complement it.

Your Thumb format problem may be caused by a bug in RMPrepUSB, old version used, or wrong feature selection at formatting. It appears RMPrepUSB created a hidden Read Only MBR partition on your Thumb that affected your ability to write to the Thumb's visible partition. Of course, the root cause may be different, so why not try repartition & reformat the thumb, and add Grub4DOS to its MBR instead of Syslinux to play a bit more. Keep in mind, one bootloader may be chainloaded from another to broaden your options. What's the exact make & model of your Thumb, and its size?

#14 tummychow

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Posted 25 December 2010 - 08:06 PM

Alright, thanks for clearing up on the grub/grub4dos/grub2 business. As for RMPrepUSB, I'm using 2.1.600. I selected my USB key, left the size as MAX, set the name to STEPHEN (my actual first name, of course). Boot option I chose was syslinux, and I had FAT32, boot as HDD checked. (Was that boot as HDD the problem? Now that I think about it, maybe that's it.) Copy OS files was unticked; I then pressed prepare drive.
Now though, it seems my key is bricked. What will happen if I try RMPrepUSB's clean command?

EDIT: OK well, I tried clean on my USB key and it worked fine, but when I tried to reformat the key in RMPrepUSB (clearing the boot as HDD option this time), I encountered the same write protected error. Are utilities such as MBRWizard or MBR Fix capable of clearing the drive more "completely"?

EDIT 2: In response to your second suggestion on repartitioning/reformating.... unfortunately, I cannot. The drive is stuck because of the read-only state - as a result, all attempts to clean or reformat fail. (as far as I've tried)

Edited by tummychow, 25 December 2010 - 08:23 PM.


#15 sambul61

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Posted 25 December 2010 - 09:15 PM

Once you ID your Thumb make & model & chipset accurately, it may be possible for you to find a Depository link on this forum that stores its chipset maker's Format tool among other similar, that will hopefully do the job you seems to need so badly. As well you can find advice specific to your Thumb model "preparing". :whistling:

#16 tummychow

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Posted 25 December 2010 - 09:24 PM

It's a Kingston Datatraveler, first generation, 16GB. Kingston has no tools for reformatting it, as far as I'm aware, and the creator of the storage controller (Skymedi, i believe) doesn't seem to have any utilities either.

EDIT: On a side note, is there any list of working syslinux configs like there is for grub4dos?

Edited by tummychow, 25 December 2010 - 09:32 PM.


#17 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 26 December 2010 - 11:00 AM

You may want to read the best available yet hard to find Diddy's Grub4DOS Guide for better orientation in G4D commands.


Hard to find? :w00t: :)
Actually sticky in the grub4dos forum:
http://reboot.pro/forum/66/
http://reboot.pro/5187/
(i.e. one of the things one should read FIRST thing when entering the grub4dos "world")

Syslinux can boot all the same images that grub4dos can - though of course with different methods/syntax - they are pretty much exchangeable, the whole point is that they can be cross-chainloaded, and unless there are "ideological" reasons to "prefer" one over the other, the "simpler" approach is to use one of the two as "main" loader and chainload the other for those particular images for which you cannot find the right settings for the "main" loader.

The only BIG advantage (as I see it) of grub4dos over syslinux is it's command line mode that allows you to interactively test sequence of commands and "refine" or "test" them (as opposed to "write a full entry/test it/if it fails rewrite it/test it/loop).
Besides - but this is my personal view only - it has a more "logical" syntax.

There are all the Skymedi tools you want available:
http://www.flashboot...es&op=cat&id=12
now, having the "guts" (and knowledge/experience) to use them is another thing. :cheers:

The READONLY etc. is very strange. :)
It is not "normal".
You may have some "filter driver" or "upper filter" or "lower filter" from another app running on your system.
There have been reports of "queer" things happening when some "peculiar" software is installed, tyically virtual disks (Alcohol is one) and partitioning/imaging tools (some Acronis products, as an example).

EDIT: On a side note, is there any list of working syslinux configs like there is for grub4dos?

Not that I know of, or at least, not so extensive or "as verified" as those ones, but as said, if you try running the "automated" apps, they will create the "right" settings, that you can re-use manually.

:cheers:
Wonko

#18 sambul61

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Posted 26 December 2010 - 02:07 PM

tummychow

This clarification may help too. :)

Currently MEMDISK supports only booting images from memory. MEMDISK is seen like a linux kernel by the bootloader (Syslinux like bootloaders, GRUB, GRUB4DOS, GRUB2, ...). MEMDISK doesn't read any data from disk (or network). This is done by the booloader, which will pass the image (floppy, hard disk, ISO) to MEMDISK as an initrd.
Grub4dos can read its own files and thus can use direct mapping (image not loaded in memory) and memory mapping.

So MEMDISK currently can't do what you want.

Shao Miller started working on a COM32 module for Syslinux, which reads its image files by itself. In the future it might be possible that direct mapping of images is possible with this memdisk.c32 module.
http://syslinux.zyto...rch/013850.html



#19 tummychow

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Posted 26 December 2010 - 11:03 PM

Those skymedi tools look like what I'm looking for, but I definitely don't know how to use them. They can't even seem to detect my flash drive (same result given by similar tools from apacer or transcend). Any advice? (I'm probably going to RMA on its five year warranty soon anyway.)

#20 sambul61

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Posted 26 December 2010 - 11:16 PM

You may want to find out the EXACT model number of your Thumb and its storage controller. Look at Win Device Manager & Device Properties for its ID string and go from there. Consider asking for help the author of format utility that allegedly :) broken your Thumb.

#21 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 27 December 2010 - 02:21 PM

Get Chipgenius:
http://reboot.pro/4661/

Post what it says.

:)
Wonko

#22 tummychow

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Posted 27 December 2010 - 10:05 PM

Very nice tool, this is what I got on my USB key:

Device Name: +[E:]+USB Mass Storage Device(SKYMEDI USB Drive USB Device)

PnP Device ID: VID = 1516 PID = 8628
Serial Number: 04
Revision: 1.00

Device Type: Standard USB device - USB2.0 High-Speed

Chip Vendor: skymedi(??)
Chip Part-Number: SK6281/SK6201

Product Vendor: SKYMEDI
Product Model: USB Drive

Tools on Web: http://bbs.mydigit.c...d.php?tid=20620



#23 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 11:55 AM

This should be latest version of the tool:
http://flashboot.ru/...s-file-472.html

This older version:
http://flashboot.ru/...s-file-145.html

has additional tools.

The device does have a setting for Removable vs. Fixed.

;)
Wonko

#24 tummychow

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 04:23 PM

Alright, well I've given up on recovering my USB key and I'm just going to RMA it. Back to figuring out syslinux while I wait for my replacement.

Which brings me to another question I have. (I have a lot of questions, eh? I'll try to sum up everything I've learned if I make it work at some point in the future.) What exactly "are" the append options in menu.lst/syslinux.cfg? As I gather, they're kernel command line parameters, right? I'm not much for linux (ironically I've almost never used operating systems based on the linux kernel) but these parameters control basic systems in the kernel like hardware drivers, etc?

So then where exactly do operating systems document their kernel parameters? If you look at any command line utility in windows, it'll probably come with help explaining what parameters you'll need to control it, either with an in-command-line /? switch or with a help file/readme. But where do people find the commands for ubuntu, etc? Is it literally trial and error, or is there a list somewhere? (Or am I totally off the mark in trying to interpret this concept?)

Edited by tummychow, 29 December 2010 - 04:24 PM.


#25 sambul61

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 04:34 PM

It may be useful for you to look through this thread Successfully booting ISO image files with Grub4dos. Its devoted to booting Linux based ISO images, so the info can also be applied to other bootloaders.




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