Friday, 22 May 2015

XMLtoE2B work continues...

I am still working on the XMLtoE2B.exe utility. Now it allows you to load different Disk Configuration files so that you can automate UEFI/GPT installs.
I also added a 'No User Accounts (Administrator only)  checkbox - this deletes any Local User accounts set up by WAFG and sets the AutoLogon Account Name to 'Administrator'. This has the affect of enabling the Administrator account.

Still loads more testing to do...

Thursday, 21 May 2015

E2B 1.68 (bugfix for 1.67)

Noam reported to me that the first menu entry in the MemTest menu (Ctrl-U -> Ctrl+M) does not work but just returns to the main menu.
It turns out this is a bug in 1.67 to do with using a .txt file with a payload file.
Please update to 1.68.
  • New grldr 0.46a,
  • auto win7/8/8.1 XML files added for fully automated installs.
  • 'Load_ISO (no prompt to Repair).XML' files added. 
  • LOADISNP.CMD added (does not prompt to repair system).
  • Bugfix to CountISOs.g4b. 
  • BugFix for .txt files stopping the menu entry from working (QAUTO.g4b and AUTOMN.g4b).

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Easy2Boot and automating Windows 7/8 installs using Unattend.xml files

I have had a few enquiries about automating Windows 7/8/8.1 installs using an XML file recently when using Easy2Boot, so I thought I would give a few pointers in this blog.

First you need to decide if you are going to install from an ISO or from a .imgPTN file.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Easy2Boot 1.67 released

  • $NAME$ now supported in .mnu and .txt files
  • QAUTO.g4b and AUTOMN.g4b changed so .txt files with no \n (help) now end in \n to suppress g4d default help text. 
  • Only first line in .txt files are now used (others ignored). 
  • RMPartUSB and grubinst added so RMPrepUSB no longer needs to be installed to make a USB drive. 
  • Update_E2B_Drive.cmd updated to use xcopy if robocopy not available for XP systems. 
  • Fixed problem with spaces in pathnames in Update_E2B_Drive.cmd.
  • New grub4dos 0.4.6a can now write to small NTFS files (fixes long-standing bug/'feature') + blocklist command enhanced.

WIth the new version of grub4dos, small 'resident data' files now display the location of the resident data inside the $mft entry - e.g. /menu.lst data contents are stored in the $mft resident record in relative sector 94 (and 95), from bytes 328 to 901.

Friday, 8 May 2015

E2B 1.67 Beta D with new grub4dos

yaya (a grub4dos developer) has fixed a long-standing problem with grub4dos with the latest 0.4.6a version (2015-05-08). E2B 1.67 Beta D uses this new version of \grldr.

In all previous versions, grub4dos could not write to small files on an NTFS volume. This was due to the way that NTFS stores the data of small files inside it's 'directory' record. This type of data is called resident data. Once the file exceeds the available space in the resident area (typically between 700 and 800 bytes) then it stores all the data in clusters outside of this area (the data space in the resident area is thus unused and used to store the used cluster information, if the file is larger than 800-ish bytes).

Older versions of grub4dos could not update the resident data area:
echo fred > file300bytes.txt
did not work with older versions of grub4dos, but now it does!

Note that grub4dos still cannot write more bytes than was originally contained in the file - i.e. you cannot overwrite a file containing 300 bytes with 301 bytes - the last byte will not be written.

You can detect these small 'resident data' NTFS files using the blocklist command:

f700 is a 700 byte resident file and does not list any used sectors.
f800 is an 800 byte files and lists two used 512-byte sectors.

Note that it is possible for a small file (e.g. 100 bytes) to be a non-resident file. This usually occurs when a larger, non-resident file has been reduced in length (e.g. a 900-byte file has been edited to be 100 bytes and saved as the same file).

The latest version of grub4dos shows the position of the resident data.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Download Windows 8.1 ISO from Microsoft

Microsoft have released a new tool (mediacreationtool.exe) which lets you download any version of Windows 8 (except Win8 with Bing) to an ISO or USB drive.

Monday, 4 May 2015

E2B 1.67BetaC

A few tweaks to the scripts

  • Update_E2B_drive now uses Xcopy if Robocopy is not available (for XP users). Also problem with paths containing spaces now fixed.
  • Now includes RMPartUSB.exe and grubinst.exe so it is not necessary to download and install RMPrepUSB to make an E2B USB drive using Make_E2B_USB_Drive.cmd.
  • Latest version of E2B_Editor included.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Get the day of the week from grub4dos

The next E2B 1.67 Beta c will include the grub4dos batch file dow.g4b

dow.g4b takes 3 parameters:   year    month    day-of-month
and returns the grub4dos variable dow which is a number from 0-6 (0-Sunday, 1-Mon, etc.).
This means you can call it to test what day of the week it is.
For instance, you can call dow.g4b like this:

call /%grub%/dow.g4b   %@date:~0,4%    %@date:~5,2%   %@date:~8,2% 

and test dow like this:

# only allow use at weekends
if not "%dow%"=="0" if not "%dow%"=="6" halt

# don't allow at weekends, just shutdown!
if "%dow%"=="0" halt
if "%dow%"=="6" halt

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

E2B 1.67 Beta available

As well as recognising $HOME$ in .txt and .mnu files, E2B now will replace $NAME$ with the filename of the .txt or .mnu file.

This means that a .mnu file can contain $NAME$ and all you have to do is make sure the .mnu file has exactly the same filename as the ISO that it uses.

e.g. before we had this type of .mnu which we had to edit, in order to use a different ISO file.

iftitle [if exist $HOME$/precise-5.4.3.iso] Puppy Precise 5.4.3\n Puppy with persistence (save on reboot/shutdown)
set ISO=$HOME$/precise-5.4.3.iso
if "%E2BDEV%"=="" set E2BDEV=hd0 && pause E2BDEV forced to hd0!
partnew (%E2BDEV%,3) 0x00 %ISO%
map %ISO% (0xff) 
map --hook 
root (0xff) 
kernel /vmlinuz pmedia=usbhd psavemark=1 fix=fsck 
initrd /initrd.gz 

It can now be re-written as:

iftitle [if exist $HOME$/$NAME$.iso] Puppy Precise ($NAME$)\n Puppy with persistence (save on reboot/shutdown)
set ISO=$HOME$/$NAME$.iso
if "%E2BDEV%"=="" set E2BDEV=hd0 && pause E2BDEV forced to hd0!
partnew (%E2BDEV%,3) 0x00 %ISO%
map %ISO% (0xff) 
map --hook 
root (0xff) 
kernel /vmlinuz pmedia=usbhd psavemark=1 fix=fsck 
initrd /initrd.gz

As long as the filename of the .mnu is identical to the filename of the .ISO file, you do not have to edit the contents of the .mnu file to use it on different ISOs - just copy it and change it's filename.

Monday, 27 April 2015

E2B v1.66 released

Basically same as v.1.65 with + a few Spanish/German tweaks and the E2B_Editor.exe added.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

E2B_Editor update (v1.0.53-v1.065)

More changes - I can't stop tinkering!
  • If you tick 'Other E2B options -  AUTONUM'  then the display now reflects the changes in the menu (i.e. numbers are removed from the menu)
  • Can now click on CENTREHD and bdwidth fields to auto-increment/cycle the values
  • v1.0.58 - mouse tooltip displays RGB value under cursor
  • v1.0.61 - CTRL+Z Undo added + help button
  • v1.0.65 - file + extension show in menu items (no file extension if EXTOFF=1)

Saturday, 25 April 2015

E2Bed now reads and writes UTF-8 .cfg files

                                               Checkout the accent over the Ú  in  MENÚ PRINCIPAL.
  • ANSI language sets supported (not Chinese/Japanese/Persian glyphs)
  • %@DATE% and %@TIME% now interpreted by E2Bed
  • Improved parsing of color commands
  • standard (console) color now supported
  • (config file path) - click on text to edit the .cfg file in Notepad
  • (image file path) - click on text to launch the file (view\edit) - depends on Windows file association for .bmp on your system
  • Extra dropdown list options added

Note that the grub4dos password will never be ticked after  loading a .cfg file (even if it has a password set or reset in it). Before saving the .cfg file you must tick the 'No grub4dos password' checkbox each time if you want that option.
Also note that the AUTONUM=0 will be ticked if your .cfg file contains any type of AUTONUM setting (it assumes you have set AUTONUM=0 even if it was set to something else!).

Thursday, 23 April 2015

E2B Editor v1.0.30 now available

I think it is pretty much finished now.
Please report any bugs!

Doc page is here.

OneDrive download area
Google Drive download area

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

New E2B_Editor version available

Latest beta version now does not need the OCX file.
Can load any .cfg file or .bmp file.
Keep checking for the latest version!

OneDrive download area
Google Drive download area

Monday, 20 April 2015

Easy2Boot Menu Editor

If you are feeling adventurous, try the new E2B Menu editor (written in VB6).
A Beta version can be found in the E2B Alternate Download pages.
Note: the first version required COMDLG32.OCX control - there is a separate ZIP file to install and register this. Subsequent versions don't require the OCX.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Cheryl's Birthday problem and others

The 'Cheryl's Birthday' maths test for the top 15/16 year olds in Singapore - can you solve it?

Here is a link to the problem that's taken the world by storm and a video on how to solve it.

For the 'What colour hat am I wearing' puzzle - click here.

Two students arrange to meet - both thought they had arrived at the correct time, but one was 29 minutes late - how come? Click here.

Want some more? Click here.

E2B v.1.65 and MPI Tool Kit 0.048 released

E2B v1.65 2015-04-16
  • New background
  • set CENTREHD=1 will now auto-centre menu headings. 
  • Menu hotkeys changed in all STRINGS.txt files
  • AUTOMENU feature added - can now press first letter of a menu entry to select it, 
  • Current language displayed in footer HELPTEXT (can be changed in MyE2B.cfg). 
  • grub4dos letters, e.g. p for password entry and c and e now only work if SHIFT is pressed at same time. 
  • Small speed improvement in counting Windows ISOs. 
  • New version of hotkey utility (thanks chenall!). 
  • New version of grub4dos 0.4.6a.
See previous blog posts for details.

The new MPI Tool Kit now centres the heading and payload description in the CSM menu and the \menu.lst is re-organised to help you make modifications more easily. It also now has hotkeys for F7/F9/F10 and first-letter menu hotkeys too. New grub4dos 0.4.6a is used too.

If you want your own background and menu for the CSM menu, just use the CUSTOM folder in the download to add any new or replacement files.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

E2B website now in Klingon

I had an email from a very cross guy called Khan today, asking me to provide instructions on how to make an Easy2Boot USB drive that are written in Klingon, as his Earth-English is not very good.

So Khan, please click HERE.

 (OK, not really)... ;-)

E2B 1.65d Beta available

  1. Chenall has fixed a few bugs in new grub4dos and the new hotkey utility.
  2. The Menu hotkeys have changed (they all use Ctrl key now).
    The Windows Install Menu is now Ctrl+I not W plus some others have changed!
  3. New wallpaper to signify change of hotkeys
  4. Griub4dos password entry now needs SHIFT key before pressing p. Same for c, b and e.
  5. Changed the way I detect Admin rights in Make_E2B_USB_Drive.cmd and QEMU_MENU_TEST.cmd.
  6. Grub4dos 0.4.5c/0.4.6a menu and USB driver menu moved from Main menu to Utilities menu.
As soon as chenall fixes and releases new grub4dos 0.4.6a I will release this new version.

Spot the changed hotkey assignments and new wallpaper!

Monday, 6 April 2015

E2B v1.65b with auto-hotkey feature

This new Beta has the updated grub4dos hotkey utility which chenall has kindly enhanced for us!

I have also improved the speed of the code that counts Windows ISOs.

Menu on my E2B drive used for testing, etc.

The new AUTOMENU hotkey jump feature is now enabled by default. e.g. press the f key and the Fedora menu #18 will be selected (but not run). Press the f key again and Fedora menu #19 will be selected.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Which is the best Portable app. Launcher for your USB drive?

It is often useful to have portable apps on your USB drive, so that you do not have to install any applications or drivers on the system that you are trying to use or fix.

Portable apps launchers are great, but most often you will need to run a launcher from a WinPE environment rather than a full Windows OS with .Net and WoW64 (the Windows-on-Windows 'thunking' which allows Windows to run a 32-bit application in a 64-bit OS).

Many of the portable apps themselves are 32-bit only apps (and thus require a full 64-bit OS or WoW add-ins), but what about the Launcher apps? If these require a full blown OS to run in with .Net, etc. then we cannot even run the Launcher app to choose a portable app! - A 'library' of all free portable apps with links. Useful for finding and adding portable apps to your launcher!

Friday, 3 April 2015

E2B v1.65a (Beta) supports centered headings

After making the YouTube video about configuring the menu and centering menu headings, I thought that maybe I should support automatically centered menu headings. This would save having to manually modify all the STRINGS.txt files just to have centred menu headings.

So E2B v1.65a will now centre Menu headings if you add


to the \_ISO\MyE2B.cfg configuration file.

If the value is 1, then E2B will use the menuw  (menu width) setting to calculate where the centre point of the menu is. This would be the normal use for it. So if menuw is 65 then E2B will use 65 as the menu width for centering the headings.

However, you can specify your own value for CENTREHD. For instance if your menu width is 65 characters, but you want your menus to appear a little bit to the left of centre, use a CENTREHD value of say, 60 instead of 1.

The Beta is available in the Alternate Download areas. Let me know if you find a problem!

Tidbit: Freda, a female acquaintance of mine, named her red setter puppy Heathcliff because she is a big fan of Emily Bronte. However, it turned out not to be such a good idea, She takes it for walks on the Chiltern hills, and if it gets lost, she goes wandering all over the hills shouting 'Heathcliff, Heathcliff'! The other dog walkers look at her like she has just escaped from the local asylum!

New E2B YouTube video - how to change the menu position, colours and headings

I have had a few requests by people to make a MyE2B.cfg for them and also a request on more info on how to change and/or center headings.
So here is a new (quite long!) video.
Hope you don't fall asleep watching it!

Monday, 30 March 2015

E2B 1.64 released

Just fixes two issues in 1.63

  1. Long-standing issue - If you run XP Setup, when it gets to the first 'Welcome to Setup' blue screen, it will change the Disk Signature of the internal hard disk that you are about to install XP to. If you then abandon the install by rebooting, the OS that you had on the internal hard disk may no longer boot (BSOD - 0xc000000e  inaccessible boot device).  This has now been fixed.
    Tip: It could be repaired by using 'bcdboot D:\Windows /s C:' after booting to a Windows Install ISO console window.
  2. The new version of  \_ISO\docs\E2B Utilities\E2B TXT Maker.cmd caused a problem if you try to make a .txt file for a Windows Vista/7/8/10 ISO file. The 'if exist' conditional code has now been removed because it is not needed in .txt files, because the .txt file is only used if the ISO already exists.
Files are available from here as usual.

To update your E2B USB drive, download and extract the smaller non-DPMS version to a new, empty folder and then run the UPDATE_E2B_DRIVE.CMD script.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Add HitManPro to your Easy2Boot USB drive

A previous blog post here described how you can add and run HitManPro from an E2B USB Removable Flash drive (NTFS or FAT32). The E2B USB drive must be of the 'Removable' type - it won't work if your E2B  flash drive is of the Fixed-disk type (a USB HDD will not work either - Hitman will not auto-run when you boot to Windows).

HitmanPro needs to see a Removable USB drive which has some special code in the sectors at the very end of the USB drive (currently they use the very last 55 sectors).

I have written a grub4dos batch file HitManXfer.g4b which will transfer these sectors from a valid HitManPro USB Flash drive to the end of your E2B USB flash drive.

Friday, 27 March 2015

UEFI-booting Ubuntu\Xubuntu\Voyager with persistence

As a follow-on from my previous blog post, I thought you might like to see how to boot Voyager from a .imgPTN partition image AND have a persistence file too.

Add Voyager Live to your E2B USB drive

I came across the Xubuntu-derivative Voyager today.
It also includes 'Kodi Media Centre' in the hidden right-hand menu which is Xbox Media Centre (XBMC) and it ran fine booting from an E2B USB drive under VBox (set VBox Audio to ICH AC97 to enable audio) and I was quickly watching Al Jazeera (with persistence)!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Easy2Boot v1.63 released

Changes from v1.62
  • QRUN Auto-suggest feature  - now suggests a 'better' file extension, 
  • Make_E2B and Update_E2B cmd files now asks to create a MyE2B.cfg file for language/kbd support. 
  • New grldr grub4dos 0.46a version to fix NTFS bug with + improved USB 2.0 grub4dos driver.
  • \_ISO\isoboot.g4b supported for user's own version of isoboot.g4b.
  • QEMU test boot files added to root. 
  • FreeBSD, pfSense and GhostBSD memstick images now supported. 
  • Make_E2B_USB_DRIVE.cmd now will detect all drives if no USB drive found in system. 
  • XP 32-bit Mass Storage DPMS drivers updated for latest chipsets.
  • Sub-Menu Maker script file improved.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Add a Clonezilla Backup/Restore menu to your Easy2Boot USB HDD

If you have Easy2Boot on a large (e.g. 2TB) NTFS USB HDD, you can add a clonezilla ISO and a .mnu file to E2B. This allows you to quickly and easily make a backup of the first hard disk in all your systems (PCs, notebooks, tablets). You can then perform a 'bare-metal' restore at any later date.

The Tutorial 118 on the RMPrepUSB website gives you all the details. You don't have to save the backup images onto the E2B drive, you can connect a second USB HDD to act as the backup device and then keep it in a drawer, happy in the knowledge that you can restore any of your systems at any time in the future.

The .mnu file is already in the \_ISO\docs\Sample mnu Files\linux folder as CloneZillaBackupRestoreHDD0.mnu. Just copy it to the \_ISO\BACKUP\clonezilla folder and read the Tutorial for more instructions.

As an alternative, you can make a fresh install of E2B onto a large USB 3.0 HDD drive and dedicate this drive as your 'backup drive' and keep it in a safe place until needed.

Note: I recommend you install E2B onto a freshly formatted USB drive. Don't install E2B to a large USB drive that already contains lots of files because the E2B and clonezilla files need to be within the first 137GB on the USB drive. This is because many BIOSes have a USB driver bug that prevents them from accessing sectors on a USB drive past the 137GB point on the USB disk. Once an operating system is loaded from the USB drive, this BIOS limitation is removed because the OS drivers are used to access the USB drive.
Clonezilla uses compression, so you can store many disk images on the same USB backup drive.
Obviously a USB 3.0 drive will give better backup\restore times than a USB 2.0 one.

Why not go round all your systems this weekend and make backups. Then if your hard disk gets corrupted or fails, it will prevent that horrible 'empty pit in the stomach' feeling when you realise that you have lost irreplaceable files or you cannot restore the original OEM OS!

P.S. Do you have one of those notebooks where they made you spend half a day making backups onto a series of writeable DVDs because they were too mean to provide an OEM OS install DVD? Do you think you will still be OK, even if your notebook hard disk fails? If so, remember that these writeable DVDs have a finite life, are prone to damage and are temperature- and photo-sensitive. After a few years, they may develop unreadable areas - and it only takes ONE error on ANY of the backup DVDs to stop the whole re-install process from working successfully! Unfortunately, I know this from experience...

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Easy2Boot DPMS now with updated XP 32-bit Mass Storage Drivers

E2B v1.63 Beta 5 ( has the latest XP 32-bit Mass Storage Drivers added + a few bug fixes to fix a few issues in the DriverPack. The new version will hopefully allow XP to be installed from an ISO file onto newer systems that have more modern chipsets - e.g. Z87/Haswell.

If you have any systems (new or old) that you can install XP onto to test it, please do so and let me know if there are any problems as there may be bugs in the new DriverPack files.

As a very quick preliminary test, try the Utilities - List matching XP DriverPack.ini entries  menu option - this should identify your systems Mass Storage (e.g. AHCI) controller and tell you what driver it will use from the DriverPack. If that works then go ahead and try a 2-Stage XP install from ISO and see if it works. If it cannot find a driver, please report the PCI ID to me by using the 'Show Mass Storage Controller PCI IDs' menu entry.

Don't forget to use a USB 2.0 port and not a USB 3.0 port for the E2B USB drive!

The new Beta is in the Alternate Download Areas as usual. Unfortunately, the E2B zip file is larger than before (38MB instead of 31MB), due to the extra drivers.