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SYSLINUX and derivates compared to Grub4dos


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#1 Icecube

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 05:48 PM

ISOLinux
Pros:
- Pretty! supports PNG and JPG backgrounds and a nice popup password box
- Menu syntax is easy to understand
- Granular password protection...you can password protect one menu and leave the others with full access
- Haven't met anything DOS/WinPE/Linux that I couldn't boot with it yet
- Can boot zipped floppy images (zip or gzip)
- Hotlinks for menu options
- Under active development
- Documentation is excellent
- Has a plethora of included modules (.c32)
- Can boot ISOs with MEMDISK: http://www.boot-land...?showtopic=8258

Cons:
- Some people have issues getting some specific floppy images working
- Can't boot OpenSolaris (at least I haven't gotten it to work yet...something to do with RockRidge extensions i'm sure)
- Only can access files on the partition from which it is booted.


GRUB4DOS
Pros:
- Can have a background image
- Granular password protection (I think?)
- Can boot some ISOs
- Can boot zipped floppy images (gzip)
- Floppy images that people couldn't get working with memdisk work
- You can do some other cool stuff from the GRUB command line
- Can access files on all partitions that it can understand

Cons:
- The background image is in a weird format and limited to 16 colors
- Password prompt is not as pretty as ISOLinux
- It only supports gzipped floppy images (no zip support)
- Can't have blank lines in menus
- No menu hotlinks
- Syntax can be daunting at first
- Documentation is ok, can be hard to find some stuff (Like how to boot an ISO!)
- Customization factor is low unless you like to hex edit
- Lead developer said he's taking a break from development but others will be taking over

Based on Jotnars post (bit modified): http://ubcd4win.com/...showtopic=12790

#2 was_jaclaz

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 10:45 AM

Well, that doesn't count much, with all due respect to Jotnar :P.

He is notoriously expert with Syslinux, hence the syntax of Syslinux being "easy" while that of grub4dos being "daunting".

Compare with this:
http://www.boot-land...?...=7204&st=25

I could say exactly the same thing reversed, :idea: not being familiar with Syslinux/Isolinux as much as I am with grub4dos.

About documentation, I think that BOTH projects have a very poor one, I was NEVER able to find a decent set of docs about Syslinux/Isolinux, only some sparse examples, and often not very clear.

The few things I have learned is through the various Forums (particularly thanks to Icecube) and from the (IMHO very difficult to navigate/read/understand) mailing list.

The grub4dos situation is only slighly better due to the good work by diddy, but still it is not complete/exhaustive, just imagine having ONLY the guide and NOT the grub4dos Forum....:P

This is NOT a "pro" of grub4dos anymore:

- Can boot some ISOs

as syslinux can now also boot .iso's through memdisk.

This is NOT a "con" of grub4dos:

- Customization factor is low unless you like to hex edit

syslinux cannot be even hexedited easily, see here:
http://www.911cd.net...o...c=23099&hl=

Besides, this is not that much a problem on both apps, did you ever notice the CATCH22 that is usually around this theme:
  • Users that know how to hexedit an app DO NOT want/need to customize it.
  • Users that DON'T know how to hexedit an app DESPERATELY want/need to customize it.

:)

I think that this kind of comparisons should be carried by people like Icecube that are familiar with BOTH apps, in order to make them as "fair" as possible, and for each "feature" (or missing one) the two apps should be given a rating side-by-side.

The risk otherwise is to put the seed for one of those endless 98 vs. XP, NTFS vs. FAT32, Godzilla vs. King Kong types of completely unuseful/pointless threads. :P

For example, I really cannot see what is the problem of "- Can't have blank lines in menus" though I doubt it is impossible to have it in grub4dos :P, it never came to my mind the actual need to have one! :)

I think that BOTH Syslinux (and derivatives) and grub4dos are very good apps, that users should try BOTH and then see if they can do what they need to do, and choose the one they personally "feel" better with. :P

:)

jaclaz

#3 Icecube

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 01:24 PM

I did send him a PM about it recently:

SYSLINUX can boot iso's now (MEMDISK actually):
http://www.boot-land...?showtopic=8258

chain.c32 can boot ntldr and setupldr.bin and bootmgr directly (you don't need to boot a extracted boot sector anymore (works only from Syslinux 3.83-pre1).
http://www.boot-land...?...10&start=10

Grub4dos can have black lines in the menus (at least recent versions).
See the grub4dos config files of UBCD50b12.

tittle

pause
This code will display an empty line that will be skipped when you move with your arrow keys, just like MENU SEPARATOR

Grub4dos supports displaying of help text (added on my request).
But the implementation sucks a bit (especially if you want to add a help text of several lines):
title Reboot\n Reboot the PC

reboot
The menu entry is "Reboot"
"Reboot the PC" will be displayed at the position where the text "Use the UP and DOWN ..." appears. You start a newline with "\n".

If you use the new Syslinux syntax, the extension for booting grdlr from CD doesn't need to be grldr.bin.
LABEL grub4dos

MENU LABEL Boot grub4dos (grldr)

BOOT grldr
For com32 modules use (you can change the extension in that case):
COM32 chain.c32
instead of (you can't change the extension):
KERNEL chain.c32
Use LINUX instead of KERNEL for normal linux kernels (also for memdisk).


Most of the grub4dos tricks to mimic SYSLINUX behavior, I learned while making the grub4dos menu for UBCD50b12.

The new SYSLINUX syntax is easier than the old one (at least for me)
LINUX /path/to/a/linux/kernel

INITRD /path/to/an/INITRD

APPEND all parameters that you want to pass to the kernel
Old syntax:
KERNEL /path/to/a/linux/kernel

APPEND initrd=/path/to/an/INITRD all parameters that you want to pass to the kernel
GRUB4DOS syntax:
kernel /path/to/a/linux/kernel all parameters that you want to pass to the kernel

initrd /path/to/an/INITRD

@ jaclaz
I probably will cleanup this topic (delete all post and start a better comparison table). This can take a while.

#4 was_jaclaz

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 05:03 PM

@ jaclaz
I probably will cleanup this topic (delete all post and start a better comparison table). This can take a while.


No prob, though I would NOT delete posts on this topic, I would rename it to something like "Discussion about features of grub4dos and Syslinux" and, when you are ready (you have all the time you need, and even more :idea:) to publish a "real" comparison, create a new thread titled like this one presently is: "SYSLINUX and derivates compared to Grub4dos"

:P

jaclaz

#5 Jotnar

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 10:58 PM

notoriously expert with Syslinux

:idea: I wish. I can just make a pretty menu and have some (tiny) Linux skills.

Granted I did make that post in April right after the lead developer of GRUB4DOS said he was going to take a long break (and has since decided not to do so apparently?) and if a project has no lead developer than I have less confidence of features added/bugs being fixed (See BCDW). Both GRUB4DOS and Syslinux have added new features/bugfixes since then so some of my observations aren't accurate anymore.

My main gripe with GRUB4DOS is that I had to look in multiple places (forum/wiki/round the web) for documentation on how to do certain things. With Syslinux all the documentation is included in the download package so no searching required.

Most of the other gripes are mostly purely aesthetic in nature, so YMMV. There is still no jpg/png background support...in 2009! I don't want to jump through hoops just to create a low color background with weird formatting in Windows. I (and this is just a personal thing) also think boot menus look better with spaces between different sections. Until recently (Thanks Icecube!), I had no luck in searching for how to create a blank line in the grub menu. Again, not at all a functional problem just one that bugged me. As for the customization/hexediting part, I didn't see anyway to change the title besides hexediting (if someone knows please tell). In general I find it far preferable to not have to hexedit anything if at all possible.

The one purely functional thing that I dislike in the extreme is that zipped floppy images in GRUB4DOS must be gzipped and not zip zipped. On Linux this isn't so much of a problem since everything supports gzip but on Windows (my main dev platform) this kinda sucks since I don't want to drop to the command line (7Zip/WinRAR can read gzip but not create) to gzip and gunzip floppy images when I work on them.

I had transitioned from BCDW (ugh...so ugly) to GRUB4DOS for booting some isos I had that were easier to boot as isos rather than split apart (I'm looking at you Paragon Software!). This did have some benefits since GRUB4DOS lets you do more things and is more modern. The other reason I was using it was for the chainloading feature. Now that Syslinux has both of those I think I'll transition back to syslinux for most stuff, but I think it's still a good idea to have the same menuing system replicated in GRUB4DOS since I can always add something back in there that doesn't work in Syslinux.

I'm sure there's far more features to GRUB4DOS that I don't use so it was really just a comparison from the point of view of a bootable menu system for a CD/DVD. I don't really do anything with bootable USB disks for example and I know GRUB4DOS can do a lot with those. I just have no experience with the pro or cons of either Syslinux or GRUB4DOS in that area so I didn't mention any.

The more improvements to both the better I say! :P

If someone is up to the challenge of writing out a full comparison that would be a great resource for when people trying to figure out what to use for a given project.

Cheers as always!

#6 was_jaclaz

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 07:35 AM

The one purely functional thing that I dislike in the extreme is that zipped floppy images in GRUB4DOS must be gzipped and not zip zipped. On Linux this isn't so much of a problem since everything supports gzip but on Windows (my main dev platform) this kinda sucks since I don't want to drop to the command line (7Zip/WinRAR can read gzip but not create) to gzip and gunzip floppy images when I work on them.


Yep :P, that's exactly the "right" example to explain my general point of view on the issue.

There is NO reason to be "integralist" on bootmanagers.

You like zipped images instead of gzipped ones?

You like grub4dos?

Good, NO problem, just use memdisk together with grub4dos.

You have a particular image that simply does NOT boot with memdisk on particular hardware?

See here:
http://www.boot-land...?showtopic=8543

use grub4dos until memdisk is fixed. :)

:idea:

jaclaz

#7 Icecube

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 08:09 PM

On Linux this isn't so much of a problem since everything supports gzip but on Windows (my main dev platform) this kinda sucks since I don't want to drop to the command line (7Zip/WinRAR can read gzip but not create) to gzip and gunzip floppy images when I work on them.

You can't complain anymore :idea: :

  • Supported formats:
    • Packing / unpacking: 7z, ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2 and TAR
    • Unpacking only: ARJ, CAB, CHM, CPIO, DEB, DMG, HFS, ISO, LZH, LZMA, MSI, NSIS, RAR, RPM, UDF, WIM, XAR and Z.
  • For ZIP and GZIP formats, 7-Zip provides a compression ratio that is 2-10 % better than the ratio provided by PKZip and WinZip

http://www.7-zip.org/




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