Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Cool boot stuff for 2007 ...

On 2006-12-30 Knoppix 5.1.0 was launched and then on 2007-01-04 there was a small update with Knoppix 5.1.1 - Knoppix was always cool but the new 5.1 version adds the latest Firefox 2 (actually Iceweasel) , OpenOffice.org 2.1 and many other nice things (drivers, programs, games and so on) - and on top of that there is now some hot "eye-candy" for people that still have Vista/OSX envy - a 3D desktop called Beryl! The default boot files (Linux = 1.93 MB and minirt.gz = 1.16 MB) are just fine for CD booting but if you want to do a more tricky USB/HDD boot there is another minirt.gz on the knoppix forums (about 2.52MB) that fixes most things (but not all).

The main thing missing from Knoppix is entirely the fault of NVIDIA restrictive license on their drivers - basically in order to see the 3D desktop features on such a card you will have to do a more conventional install and get the binary-only NVIDIA drivers :( There is also still a small potential boot problem even with the large minirt.gz - even if you go for a boot from an ISO image on the HDD, any KNOPPIX folder on the same partition where the ISO file is located (KNOPPIX folder that might contain for instance the DSL-frugal files) has the potential of crashing the boot process - and for a solution for those situations see below on the details of my 8-in-1 USB magic boot device :)

Overall Knoppix remains the best general open-source LiveCD available and is highly recommended!!! As you will see below I have also placed it on bootable USB drives and I have remastered my old bootable mini-DVD+RW and there is also a Knoppix DVD image that has even more programs, but for very specific needs bigger is not always better ... and for those situations there might be some other tools!

One of those specific tools is a cool boot mini-cd called Trinity Rescue Kit - before going any further I need to say that ideally you should remember to burn that ISO on a mini CD-RW for reasons that will become clear in a few moments.

Trinity Rescue Kit (TRK for short, currently v3.2beta) is a not-so-graphical liveCD dedicated to those moments when your system was somehow severely damaged - TRK 3.2beta is a few months old but a few days ago a somehow funny post from Reddit revived my memories about it - the link is about a virus that was able to actually infect the anti-virus, which in turn quarantined himself :)

And precisely in those hostile conditions is where TRK shines - the miniCD will boot a clean Linux system (that can write even NTFS file systems) which can then scan (and eventually cure, or at least delete) even the most malicious virus or even rootkit. What is nice is that TRK will detect your network connection and will try to update virus definitions to the absolute latest, so in theory it should be able to catch even very, very recent stuff. What is nicer is that TRK 3.2 can now use not one, not two, not even three but actually FOUR different anti-virus engines - the basic 100 MB or so ISO will only have the open-source ClamAV, but TRK can download install and use trials for F-Prot, AVG and BitDefender - and all of them can obviously load their own updates from the net! The absolute icing on the cake is that from the same clean Linux system booted from that LiveCD you can re-master the ISO - and if you have a lot of RAM and you are an expert in cdrecord you can even burn de ISO back to the mini CD-RW from the same TRK command line - you can now see why a CD-RW is a good option :)

TRK might also need some very minor polishing, but overall it is also a highly recommended boot mini-CD and in my overall top-3 list together with DamnSmalLinux and MoviX !!!

And like all of the above (Knoppix, DSL, MoviX), TRK can also be booted from a USB device - either in a very simple but exclusive way - see the trk2usb command, but one FAT16 partition on the USB drive will be dedicated to it - or in a more custom way (which might need some manual editing of the initial ramdisk image).

Obviously for my old Archos XS200 with a single 20GB (actually more like 19GB, since HDD makers always like to steal a little from your disk size) FAT32 partition I had to go for the 'hard but fun' way - and in the end I had to live with only about 17 GB of MP3 files on it (I also have some portable stuff on it), but I can be proud with my own new record of different operating systems that can be started from it - not counting GRUB (which is 'almost' on OS in itself) or Syslinux I can boot:
- BartPE (chainloader /ntldr.bs - a bootsector saved from disk before installing isolinux);
- XP command console (chainloader /cmdcons.bin - the Win2000 command console can also bypass some passwords but I have other tools to do that in BartPE);
- SpinRite6 (kernel /boot/memdisk initrd /boot/SpinRite.img);
- FreeDos image coming on Knoppix (kernel /boot/memdisk initrd /boot/balder.img);
- KNOPPIX 5.11 (with and without beryl, in a folder /KNOPPIX.511 with knoppix_dir=KNOPPIX.511 cheatcode and with the big minirt.gz);
- MoviX (2 kernels, since vesafb is needed with certain video cards);
- DamnSmallLinux (several options; in a folder /KNOPPIX);
- Trinity Rescue Kit (with a simple chainloader +1 that goes to the original syslinux from TRK, with a second-level boot menu; also with a small change to /etc/mountcd.sh from initrd.trk).

So in the end my aging MP3 player still is the ultimate cool multi-boot device ... of course as long as the host computer can boot from a USB disk :) And if not I can still listen to music so I can still have fun :)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, like you, I've been trying to get the following useful tools onto my USB key, but just haven't been able to get them to work no matter what. Would you mind providing a bit more details on how you did it?

- BartPE (chainloader /ntldr.bs - a bootsector saved from disk before installing isolinux);

How do you get ntldr.bs?

- XP command console (chainloader /cmdcons.bin - the Win2000 command console can also bypass some passwords but I have other tools to do that in BartPE);

How do you get cmdcons.bin?

- Trinity Rescue Kit (with a simple chainloader +1 that goes to the original syslinux from TRK, with a second-level boot menu; also with a small change to /etc/mountcd.sh from initrd.trk).

What's the small change that need to be made to /etc/mountcd.sh from initrd.trk?


2:19 PM  
Blogger cool_stuff_or_not said...

a) ntldr.bs was the very first sector of the disk before installing isolinux - from windows you can use DiskProbe to save a disk sector but from linux dd is always there;

b) cmdcons.bin was also the very first sector on the HDD after installing the command console (I just saved it with another extension since that was a looong time ago)

c) changes for the beta can be seen at http://trinityhome.org/phpbb2/viewtopic.php?t=309&highlight= and at http://trinityhome.org/phpbb2/viewtopic.php?p=881#881 you can see the changes needed for the latest version (but the trick is that you will need to gunzip initrd.trk and then mount it with -o loop before editing the relevant mountcd.sh ; after that you have to gzip -9 to get back initrd.trk )

6:33 AM  

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