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iODD/Zalman vs E2B and G4D?


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#1 AnonVendetta

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 03:47 AM

I just bought an iODD 2541. Which, after the fact, I discovered is the same as the Zalman ZM-VE400, except in name and firmware. It's no wonder they look pretty much identical. I used to own the VE400 a few years ago, it worked pretty well but didn't quite function as expected sometimes. I had no idea that Zalman just rebrands iODD devices. And not too long ago they released the VE500, which seems to have mysteriously all but disappeared from the market, probably due to Zalman struggling to remain solvent as a business.

Anyway, now that I have an iODD, I'm wondering what useful role E2B plays in my toolbox, if any. The iODD boots every ISO I've thrown at it so far, in both UEFI and legacy, without needing to modify the ISO or convert to imgPTN. It even works with a few ISOs I had trouble with before, like FreeBSD disc 1 ISO, which on the VE400 hung up with a "failed to find root directory" or similar error. And the iODD has no need of a helper flash drive/imgPTN when booting Windows installer ISOs from a fixed HDD, unlike E2B.

Some advantages and disadvantages of each that I've noticed:

iODD:

Pros
1. Can also boot raw disk images including VHDs, from what I've read E2B can only boot VHD and imgPTN (partition image, not a whole disk) files.
2. Can emulate a disc drive, disk drive, and flash drive.
3. Can be encrypted
4. Isn't dependent on a particular bootloader
5. Can boot almost any ISO as-is, in either UEFI or legacy modes
6. Can be write-protected, I can't count the number of times I've inadvertently destroyed an E2B drive with the "clean" command after selecting the wrong disk

Cons
1. Needs MBR
2. Capacitive touch buttons don't always work or aren't sensitive enough to touch to be accurate
3. Only recognizes NTFS and FAT32, which fragment easily
4. Requires specialized hardware and an HDD/SSD

E2B:

Pros
1. Only requires a flash drive or HDD/SSD, making it an inexpensive solution compared to iODD/Zalman
2. Can make use of G4D's specialized capabilities
3. Easy to use and somewhat flexible

Cons:
1. Is dependent on G4D (i.e. is boot loader specific)
2. Mostly tailored toward Windows users, making a E2B drive in Linux/OSX isn't straightforward
3. Depending on the circumstances, requires the use of nonconventional file formats (i.e. imgPTN)
4. Can't easily boot disk images other than VHD
5. Has the same NTFS/FAT32 limitations as iODD/Zalman
6. Sometimes restoring the MBR of a disk doesn't work, RMPrepUSB crashes
7. Requires ImDisk for certain operations

E2B is the 2nd best booting tool I've used, iODD/Zalman easily wins in most respects. I could have titled the topic "iODD/Zalman vs <insert multiboot solution here>, but honestly nothing else I've tried compares to E2B, and these are the 2 that I have personal experience with. I've also tried UNetBootIn, SARDU, a few others, but they pale in comparison to E2B and are relatively difficult to use. I have alot of respect for steve6375 as a skillful developer, which is why I've avoided confrontation with him on the forum. Practically everything he posts is useful info, though I disagree with some of it.

Right now I've installed E2B to a fixed 1TB HDD, and that same drive is used with iODD. This is mostly a "just in case" scenario. I bought the iODD first and foremost as a booting tool, and 2ndly for its' ability to pull triple duty as a HDD enclosure and an E2B drive, as well as for static data storage. I feel that they complement each other well.

If I've made any incorrect statements then feel free to correct them. I'm mainly just looking to solicit discussion on how I can use the iODD to its' fullest potential, and whether E2B is really still needed/useful.

#2 steve6375

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 08:19 PM

There is an E2B page here which you may or may not have seen.

 

Some advantages of E2B over a HDD emulation caddy are:

  • E2B fits on a flash drive that can be easily carried on a key chain or lanyard and needs no USB cable
  • E2B is free
  • Some systems have problems booting from a IODD\Zalman (usually to do with spin-up times to get to a 'ready' state or not enough power from the USB port)
  • E2B can install Windows using an XML file for configured\unattended installs without needing to modify the ISO.
  • E2B can also be used for automated installs + unattended install of apps+drivers+updates (SDI_CHOCO).
  • E2B can also use grub2 which allows you to boot some linux ISOs via UEFI that do not have UEFI boot files and so you cannot boot them from an ISO on a IODD.
  • E2B can directly boot NT6 .WIM files and XP VHD files.
  • E2B can boot many linux ISOs with persistence.
  • E2B can be used with HitMan Pro (if it is on a removable flash drive)
  • E2B can install XP to a SCSI, SATA or RAID system from an unaltered XP ISO
  • Images of other flash drives can be converted to .imgPTN files and run from E2B
  • E2B can boot from some Hackintosh (.dmg) files
  • E2B menu is highly configurable (e.g. will not list 64-bit ISOs on a 32-bit system, password protection, brandable, etc.)
  • E2B can directly boot from IPXE and netboot.xyz kernel files (.krn)

Of course, there are disadvantages to E2B too (e.g. cannot use E2B with a write-protected USB drive) and many other things besides!

 

I have a Zalman and an IODD. Due to power issues, I use them with a USB Y-cable (more power is required from some laptops) and use an SSD (so no spin-up delay + more robust). I also have a USB 2 extension cable which I connect if there are any communication issues on USB 3 enclosures (e.g. freezing during loading of an image).

 

If you are a pro, you will have both an E2B and an IODD\Zalman and probably other devices too. It's not a case of 'either/or' or which is best, it's just about having more tools in your armoury.


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#3 ambralivio

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 10:24 PM

Very interesting topic !!!!! :)  :)  :)

 

 

 

If you are a pro, you will have both an E2B and an IODD\Zalman and probably other devices too. It's not a case of 'either/or' or which is best, it's just about having more tools in your armoury.

 

I completely agree with Steve.  :cheers:

 

Zalman/iODD and Easy2Boot are effectively complementary, and both are a MUST-TO-HAVE.

 

I wonder if, in some way, they could be combined by using the same HD !!!  :idea:



#4 steve6375

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 10:48 PM

'combined on the same HD' ??

There is an E2B page here which you may or may not have seen.

You obviously didn't see it!



#5 ambralivio

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 11:10 PM

'combined on the same HD' ??

There is an E2B page here which you may or may not have seen.

You obviously didn't see it!

You are right and I'm getting old, too... :worship:

 

Unfortunately, the combination you're talking about is not among my next targets, but I'll certainly dedicate some time in the next future.

 

Thanks a lot Steve for the brillant idea.

 

If it does really work on a practical and reliable way, I think it confirms the good "marriage" between iODD and Easy2Boot.

 

Good job !!!  :cheers:



#6 assarbad

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 10:47 AM

  • Some systems have problems booting from a IODD\Zalman (usually to do with spin-up times to get to a 'ready' state or not enough power from the USB port)

 

Question: could you please name some configuration where the iODD/Zalman hasn't worked for you? Until now I haven't encountered it at all, the only thing I have encountered (but rarely) was that I had to use various USB ports and it didn't work on the first one I tried.

 

Another thing I encountered was that whenever that "ready" state was not yet reached I entered the boot menu, hit Ctrl+Alt+Del for a soft reboot (which in most cases doesn't seem to cut power for the USB device) and had the entry for my device appear the next time around.

 

With the ISOStick for example I have so far only found a single configuration in which it works. And with the proliferation of UEFI it's bound to work on less and less devices.



#7 steve6375

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 10:53 AM

When using a Zalman\IODD with a fairly old HDD, some notebooks could not provide enough power and I had to use a USB Y-cable so that I could use two USB ports to power the device. As I already said, some spinny HDDs did not become 'ready' quickly enough too.

 

Another issue is with Chromebooks which do not have a warm reset button or keyboard. These try to boot too quickly before the IODD\Zalman has itself booted.

 

The fix is to use a USB Y-cable but power the device from an external battery pack USB power charger before you switch on the ChromeBook.



#8 ambralivio

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 11:45 AM

When using a Zalman\IODD with a fairly old HDD, some notebooks could not provide enough power and I had to use a USB Y-cable...some spinny HDDs did not become 'ready' quickly enough too.

I agree with Steve and , also adding below some advices to conveniently manage Zalman/IODD devices :

  • Use low power (or, better, requiring low startup current) HD inside them; best should be a SSD
  • In extreme cases, use a USB Y-cable (to increase available power) and connect power cable just 5-10s before connecting tha data cable


#9 assarbad

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 11:55 AM

Cool. Glad to have learned something. It's just not a case that I ever encountered.

 

Btw: I have only ever used my Zalmans with SSDs, so spinup time wasn't an issue either.



#10 ambralivio

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 01:01 PM

Cool. Glad to have learned something. It's just not a case that I ever encountered.

 

Btw: I have only ever used my Zalmans with SSDs, so spinup time wasn't an issue either.

Good for you!

 

BTW, it's not a problem of spin- up time related to HD, but, probably, a too fast controller/firmware inside Zalman/iODD device wrt HD one.

Anyway, my several tests indicate that the main problem is just related to the start-up (inrush, or spin-up, or peak) current of HD; and from this standpoint SSDs have lower requirements.



#11 assarbad

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 01:04 PM

BTW, it's not a problem of spin- up time related to HD, but, probably, a too fast controller/firmware inside Zalman/iODD device wrt HD one.

Anyway, my several tests indicate that the main problem is just related to the start-up (inrush, or spin-up, or peak) current of HD; and from this standpoint SSDs have lower requirements.

Ah, so technically even more of a problem in regards to sticking to the specs, right? Either the HDD draws too much or the USB can't deliver enough. Effect should be about the same.

 

Thanks for the followup.



#12 ambralivio

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 01:33 PM

Ah, so technically even more of a problem in regards to sticking to the specs, right? Either the HDD draws too much or the USB can't deliver enough. Effect should be about the same.

Sure!

 

And infact, please, consider that max output current from USB 2.0 port is standardized as 500 mA and certain old mechanical HDs (even if in small form factor) could require more than 1 A as spin-up peak current, so that even if a USB Y-cable is essential in these cases anyway, it could be not sufficient enough when 2 USB ports from laptop/desktop are used...hence a high power USB source is a MUST.



#13 AnonVendetta

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Posted 12 July 2019 - 12:11 AM

Well fuck, I posted this topic nearly 18 months ago and forgot to respond at all. In my experience:

 

iODD is far superior to Zalman, even though they are mostly the same hardware, and otherwise differing in firmware only. iODD uses higher quality materials than Zalman. And is less flaky/erratic in regards to behavior.

 

E2B is a perfect compliment to either iODD or Zalman, as long as you are using NTFS firmware and MBR partition table. E2B does things the iODD can't do natively, and vice versa.

 

I have not yet had to use a USB Y cable with the iODD, probably because I only use it with modern PCs that I own (or on a friends' PCs). If I were a technician and had to work on many different PCs, the probability is increased that I would need to use a Y cable.

 

My iODD works perfectly with both legacy/CSM and UEFI/Secure Boot, but this is probably because my laptop's BIOS supports both at the same time (courtesy of a paid BIOS mod) without having to change BIOS options all the time.

 

Does E2B support GPT partitioning?



#14 steve6375

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Posted 13 July 2019 - 09:23 AM

Does E2B support GPT partitioning?

 

No, not to boot from. So you can only have up to 2TB for E2B drives.



#15 AnonVendetta

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Posted 13 July 2019 - 11:27 AM

I don't see why E2B couldn't support being installed on a GPT-partitioned drive. GRUB4DOS supports GPT (but not UEFI). And a GPT disk can have a protective MBR, E2B's boot code could go there (regardless of what the UEFI spec says). What are the technical reasons that this either:

 

1. Isn't possible?

 

or

 

2. Is possible but difficult?



#16 steve6375

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Posted 13 July 2019 - 11:35 AM

It would be difficult (if not impossible) to implement and certainly would not be fully compatible.

DOS or XP could not access files on the USB drive once booted and probably many linux OS's.

I could come back with a question to you - why would you need a GPT multiboot USB drive?



#17 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 13 July 2019 - 01:48 PM

I don't see why E2B couldn't support being installed on a GPT-partitioned drive. GRUB4DOS supports GPT (but not UEFI). And a GPT disk can have a protective MBR, E2B's boot code could go there (regardless of what the UEFI spec says). What are the technical reasons that this either:
 
1. Isn't possible?
 
or
 
2. Is possible but difficult?

 
Only for the record, the protective MBR partition entry in GPT is actually a "protective" partition entry, i.e. it is actually meant to "protect" the disk (partitioned GPT style) from operating systems that do not "understand" GPT.
 
What you want is a "hybrid" setup, which is:
2. possible but difficult
1. impossible to work with *any* OS (a selected subset might work just fine, though).
 
A good primer is here, aptly titled "Hybrid MBRs: The Good, the Bad, and the So Ugly You'll Tear Your Eyes Out":
http://www.rodsbooks...isk/hybrid.html
 

No, not to boot from. So you can only have up to 2TB for E2B drives.

It depends, up to 4 TB it may be possible with two partitions (as well with some incompatibilities with some OS on the second partition).
 
:duff:
Wonko

#18 AnonVendetta

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Posted 13 July 2019 - 09:31 PM

It's funny how you say "many Linux OSes". Name any popular distro, I'll bet money that it does support GPT, as well as booting from it, either in UEFI or legacy mode. If a particular Linux distro doesn't support GPT, it's because it's too old, or is running on an antiquated kernel.

 

As for Windows, even XP supports GPT. And I have even read a report (perhaps false, not sure where I found it) that someone managed to boot XP x64 in native UEFI on GPT partitioning.

 

The only reason for a GPT multi boot USB, would be to support a disk larger than 2TB.

 

@Wonko: I know what the protective MBR is for, but that wouldn't stop someone from exploiting it to install boot code there, in violation of the UEFI spec. But who cares,  if it works then it just does. I care more about the end rather than the means, almost anything that works is an acceptable solution. But since I havent postep am issue that is in need of a solution.....

 

No, I don't need hybrid MBR, and yes, I have read that rodsbooks guide. I might consider it for use for a particular scenario on a fixed internal disk, but not with E2B.

 

For MBR to work on a 2.2TB+ disk (and I believe I saw some of your posts on this:

 

1. Create up to 3 primary partitions of variable size in the disk space before 2.2TB.

 

2. Create a large partition that spans to the end of the disk, but make sure it starts before the 2.2TB boundary.

 

With a modern/recent Windows/Linux, there should be no issues.

 

I think that it would be safer to just store data in that last partition, booting an OS from it sounds a lot riskier.

 

Can the last partition be an extended containing logical? Or must it be plain old primary? It's no issue to place the extended before the 2.2TB limit.

 

Have I missed something? I recently ordered a pair of Samsung 4TB SSDs for my laptop, and would like to try MBR on one of them as a test. I had wanted to buy them months ago, but needed a significant price drop on Amazon to justify the buy.



#19 steve6375

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Posted 13 July 2019 - 10:59 PM

One of the main features of E2B is that it uses the partnew command to create new primary MBR partitions using a linux ISO. This would not work on the protective MBR partition of a GPT disk.



#20 AnonVendetta

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Posted 13 July 2019 - 11:03 PM

Doesn't GPT have an equivalent partnew command? Or, all the necessary partitions could be created in advance, and used in their existing state.



#21 alacran

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Posted 14 July 2019 - 12:00 AM

@ steve6375

 

AFAIK there are Grub versions capables to boot from UEFI/GPT even on (the stupid) Secure Boot (as the version used on linuxmint-19.1) also I have read partnew is a valid command on Grub (not sure if valid on GPT or only on MBR), not only on grub4dos (MBR only), so I think maybe Grub could be used on this scenario.

 

alacran



#22 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 14 July 2019 - 08:54 AM

 also I have read partnew is a valid command on Grub (not sure if valid on GPT or only on MBR), not only on grub4dos (MBR only), so I think maybe Grub could be used on this scenario.

Where did you read that? :unsure:

Here we are talking of GRUB2 (now senselessly called GRUB), not of GRUB (0.97 now senselessly called GRUB legacy)

https://github.com/r.../legacy_parse.c

 

/* FIXME: partnew unsupported. */

 

@anonvendetta

In the experiments till now the partition(s) before the 2.2 TB limit can be primary or (one of them) extended (and thus containing possibly more than one logical volume), last one MUST be:

1) Primary
2) extending for the whole remaining size of the disk

3) NTFS or however a filesystem using 64 bit fields for offsets

 

The whole point is that the MBR partition entry has two 32 bit fields, LBA start ( how many sectors before the partition) and LBA number (how many sectors in the partition) and both values can be at the most 2^32-1.

So you can create that last partition as extended, but you cannot create any logical volumes inside it because the EMBR's will have the LBA start (or the calculated LBA start+Extended partition start offset) exceeding that value.

It is still possible that Windows 7+ uses 64 bit math for those offset/addresses and thus can calculate correctly the offsets, but it hasn't been tried yet AFAIK and I wouldn't count on it (even IF it works at some level, a number of programs won't likely work in such a setup).

 

If you don't want the Hybrid MBR, there are a couple ways to make a GPT disk BIOS bootable to grub4dos that imply custom MBR code BUT that leave the partition table "kosher":

http://reboot.pro/to...in-bios-to-gpt/

 

 

http://reboot.pro/to...-11#entry197690

http://reboot.pro/to...o-gpt/?p=197691

 

But then booting the actual OS carries some "queer" behaviours that need to be dealt with, on a case by case basis, if you prefer this appraoch is "cleaner" than Hybrid MBR, but does not remove all the ugliness.

 

:duff:

Wonko






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