Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Linux Multi-Boot Disks

Check my November 7th post for a script to auto-make your own multi-boot disk and links to a small Cd iso image I made using this script.

There seems to be more info and instructions on how to make a multi-boot Windows
based disk then there is for Linux distros.
This is probably due to how different Linux distros boot up.
Some use vmlinuz and syslinux while others use casper to boot up the kernel.

This presents a problem especially when you have several distros that use the same kernel. Examples would be Knoppix, and Damn Small Linux. They both use the Knoppix kernel.

So how do you get around this problem when making a multi-boot Linux disk?
Well there are several options. You can change one of the kernel names then use a hex editor to make the name change in vmlinuz to point it to the proper renamed kernel.

You could also use a Grub Loader menu program to load the proper kernel.
And there is a program available for Windows called Easy Boot that supposedly allows you to add Linux distros to a multi-boot disk.
I have used the first 2 methods for my projects.

Yes, I have made a total of 3 multi-boot Linux disks.
I got interested when I saw a multi-disk in a Linux magazine. Didn't buy the magazine because it was too expensive. So I looked around the internet for info on how to make one.
Info was sparse or even cryptic in nature. But I pieced together the info and designed my first disk using the method of hex editting the vmlinuz files.
That first disk, a DVD, had 7 distros on it.

Not satisfied with it, I started a 2nd project.
That disk used the grub boot menu and had 8 distros on it.

My 3rd disk is more of an updated disk then a fully made from scratch disk.
I happened to find a release from several years ago by someone who also was interested in making a multi-boot Linux disk.
The distros were very old so I redid it with newer releases. This was the easiest of the 3 to make.

I am planning one more disk. That will be a Windows-Linux multi-boot.
Will use something like UBCD and either Slax, Gentoo or maybe Knoppix.
That way I will have a ultimate repair disk that I can use to fix both Windows and Linux systems.

Making these disks was a very good challenge and provided me the ability to try out different linux versions. And I did pick out a bunch of non run of the mill versions.
And it has paid off. I have found numerous software that works better for my needs.
Sticking with one or two distros keeps you too confined. Exploring various versions exposes you to the best of the best.

I also learned that all the distros on any of the 3 disks I made do not work on all computers.
It's strange but I guess it all depends on what the version supports.
Some distros hated my newer computer while others wouldn't even boot on my older computer.
That is something I'd like to fix but it would require the adding of drivers to each distro and recompiling each kernel. More work then it's worth because I have the ability to use one of the other distros on the disk.

All three of these disks were run as Live distros. I wouldn't attempt to use them to install that particular version seeing how some of the components were removed during the construction of these disks.

Will I make any more after the Windows/Linux disk?
Doubtful. It was a challenge to myself and I doubt anyone else would be interested in these disks.
I proved to myself that it can be done without cheating like they did with that computer magazine disk.

What do you mean they cheated?

Well I found out a few weeks later that the magazine used a dual layer DVD and had Ubuntu as their base system. You booted the disk and it started up Ubuntu. Then from Ubuntu you selected that other distros that were installed in vmware.
So they didn't create a 'real' multi-boot disk like I did.
And by running vmware from within Ubuntu while in a 'Live' environment, they require the user to have a fairly powerful computer with plenty of Ram.

My method only uses the needed resources for the single distro running at that time.
That makes it older computer friendly.

So go to Google, look up the info and make your own multi-boot disk.
It's not only fun, it gives you a good feeling after you finish it.



No comments: