Wednesday, 16 April 2014

MPI Update pack v0.012 had a large bug (current pack= 0.015b @ 2014-04-17)!

Please use download the latest version and remake any .imgPTN files that you made with 0.012.
Sorry!

MakePartImage Update Pack 0.012/0.013 available (Note: BUG in 0.012! Please use version 0.013 or later!)

Note: sorry, I introduced a bug at the last minute before uploading this version - linux string replacement was skipped! Please re-make any linux .imgPTN files with version 0.013 or later and they should boot in MBR mode!

I have tweaked MPI to work with more linux ISOs. The following all now work booting in MBR boot mode as .imgPTN files.

  • trinity-rescue-kit.3.4-build-372.iso
  • PandaSafeCD.iso
  • precise-5.7.1.iso
  • Porteus-XFCE-v3.0rc2-i486.iso
  • antergos-2013.11.17-i686.iso
  • liberte-2012.3.iso (requires WinRAR or PowerISO)
  • manjaro-xfce-0.8.9-i686.iso
  • grml64-small_2014.03.iso
  • justbrowsing_20140409.iso

Let me know if you find one that doesn't boot in MBR or UEFI mode (if it supports EFI booting).

Full list of tested .imgPTN payloads here (scroll down to bottom of page).

MakePartImage Update Pack v 0.011 available

I have been unable to find an extraction program that works for all ISOs that is free, unlimited and distributable. MPI v 0.011 uses 7Zip by default, but if that fails, it uses the user-installed version of either WinRAR or PowerIso if present).

Thanks for the suggestions for alternatives, I have checked 26 of them so far and none fit the bill. They are either not free or are limited Trialware, don't extract UDF ISOs correctly, cannot be legally distributed or don't accept command line parameters.

The other change is that there is now a CUSTOM folder. Any files you place in this folder will get copied to any .imgPTN file that you create. This allows you to customise each image.
For instance, you can modify the menu.lst file and create a new background for the CSM menu and place the new files in the CUSTOM folder. This will overwrite the files used by MPI.
You could also add any utilities, etc. to the CUSTOM folder (or make a subfolder) so that every image would contain your utilities.

This means I can release new updates which can overwrite your existing folder, but it won't overwrite your files in the CUSTOM folder.

P.S. The only one which did seem to extract ISOs correctly was: ISO Workshop (free but no command line support yet for extraction). Notably, Windows 8.1 Explorer, 7Zip and WinRAR all fail to show the correct contents with some ISO file formats!
A good test is to try extracting the antergos-2013.11.17-i686.iso file. It should work and not be in all uppercase (one of the files in \arch\boot is in mixed case).  PowerISO (trial), WinZip(trial) WinISO(trial) and UltraISO(trial) failed with this one. PeaZip and 7Zip shows lowercase files but these fail on UDF ISOs. ISO Workshop also shows lowercase files and mixed-case files.

P.S. Do you sometimes use YUMI, XBoot,  LiveUSBCreator, PenDriveLinux, SARDU, Rufus, WinSetupFromUSB, etc. Well why not add all of your USB drives to one large E2B drive! Just make an .imgPTN file from each USB stick and then add the files to E2B. Just make sure to use the E2B CSM menu.lst file (or choose the Combine option if prompted).

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

All I want to do is extract files from an ISO!

During testing of MakePartImage, I found that 7Zip did not extract a few of them correctly.
I had an ISO which I made of my Win7 Install DVD using MagicISO.
If I viewed or extracted the contents  in 7Zip or PeaZip, I get

README.TXT
Bootable_NoEmulation.img

or

README.TXT
[BOOT]


The ReadMe.txt says that the file is in UDF format,
This disc contains a "UDF" file system and requires an operating system
that supports the ISO-13346 "UDF" file system specification.

Both WinRAR and Windows 8.1 Explorer can view the correct contents, so why can't 7Zip and PeaZip?

So, I changed MakePartImage to use WinRAR. Then I discovered two things:

1. WinRAR had faults extracting some linux ISOs, it converted all the filenames into uppercase and also converted hyphens and multiple dots in filenames ( - and .) incorrectly into underscores! e.g. extracting from antergos-2013.11.17-i686.iso. WinZip also did the same thing on this ISO. Windows Explorer also shows all uppercase names.

2. It was not freeware, so I can't add it to my download and distribute it!

I tried a few other free unzip utilities that supported a command line, but they also had similar problems.

Who would of thought it is so hard to unzip an ISO reliably in this day and age?

So now I have gone back to using 7Zip, but if it detects a UDF-only ISO that 7Zip cannot handle, I ask the user to download and install WinRAR, so that I can automatically use that to extract the ISO when 7Zip fails.

P.S. ISO Workshop seems to work correctly with all the ISOs, if you need a good ISO extractor - www.glorylogic.com

sheesh!

E2B small update in v1.33


  • There was a small problem when loading .imgPTN files, when it swapped to the new CSM menu inside the image, the menu headings and borders did not display correctly (but were OK if you rebooted). This is fixed in v1.33
  • Also, I have added an autorun.inf file and e2b.ico file so that you can easily see which drive in Explorer is the E2B drive.


The MPI Update Pack continues to improve and the new CSM menu now displays the name of the payload in the menu so you can see what it is going to boot to. The latest pack is v 0.008.


You can change the menu picture by changing the compressed .bmp file in MakePartImage\csm\e2b\CSM_Mode.gz. When you next run MakePartImage, the new bitmap will be used. To change the position and size of the menu and colours, edit the MakePartImage\csm\menu.lst file.
The easiest way to experiment is to switch your E2B drive to one of your .imgPTN images and then edit the files directly on the drive via Windows and test it by booting using VBox. When it is all looking nice, copy the menu.lst and CSM_Mode.gz files to your MakePartImage folder.

If you already have an E2B USB drive with a previous DPMS version of E2B on it, just download the non-DPMS version and extract it to your E2B USB drive - there is no need to download the whole DPMS version as the only difference is the driver pack files which haven't changed.



Sunday, 13 April 2014

WinSetupFromUSB and E2B compared

I was asked today how WinSetupfromUSB and E2B compare, now that E2B also supports UEFI booting.

WinSetupFromUSB is a very versatile and clever utility that allows you to multiboot Windows installers, WinPE and linux-based ISOs.

For MBR booting of linux ISOs, it now uses the same trick as E2B - it maps the ISO to a partition table entry - this works 99% of the time with nearly all linux ISOs.

For Windows OS's however, WinSetupfromUSB extracts the contents of the ISO and places them in separate folders on the USB drive. For XP, this is probably going to be more reliable than E2B's approach of mapping the XP ISO on the USB drive (WinSetupFromUSB uses my modified DPMS2 batch file for auto-generation of the F6 driver floppies). It does however take longer to prepare the USB drive.

For Windows Vista/7/8 Install ISOs, WinSetupFromUSB extracts the contents and then modifies them and also the BCD, and uses bootmgr to give the user the choice of which one to load. The advantage of this is that if you are running from a USB Hard disk, you don't need another USB Helper Flash drive like you did with E2B. However, with the new v1.32 of E2B, you can make a .imgPTN file from each Windows Install ISO. This now allows you to boot a Windows Install (or any WinPE) from a Hard disk without needing a USB 'Helper' Flash drive (as a FAT32 image, it will even boot in UEFI mode - as an NTFS image, you can only boot in MBR mode but it will support files > 4GB).

With regards to UEFI booting, WinSetupFromUSB needs to be on a single-partition FAT32 USB disk. However, it can only multi-boot Windows-based OS's in UEFI mode, because it uses bootmgr and a BCD entry for UEFI booting - E2B does not rely on bootmgr and so can boot virtually any FAT32 image.

Here is a feature comparison between WinSetupFromUSB v1.4 (WSFUSB) and E2B v1.32+:
  • WSFUSB will probably be more successful when installing XP onto a wider range of different systems than E2B
  • WSFUSB XP installs only require one boot to the USB drive
  • WSFUSB is more flexible with XP installs (in some ways) than E2B
  • E2B can use the latest XP mass-storage driver packs (though WSFUSB will probably catch up soon!)
  • E2B supports a range of user-selectable winnnt.SIF files and unattend files for the same XP ISO
  • E2B supports a range of user-selectable product key and unattend file installations from the same ISO
  • You cannot easily remove 'payloads' from a WSFUSB drive
  • Making a WSFUSB drive and adding payloads can take a lot longer time than making an E2B USB drive which is just drag-and-drop.
  • E2B supports linux booting in UEFI mode (or anything that can UEFI-boot as FAT32) whereas WSFUSB doesn't
  • An NTFS-formatted E2B drive can boot ordinary (<4GB) Windows Install images and linux images via UEFI. With WSFUSB, if you want Windows UEFI booting, the whole USB drive has got to be a single FAT32 format volume.
  • FAT32 is more compatible for some things (like Hirens boot CDs) than NTFS. A FAT32-formatted E2B drive can still boot large Windows Installs by using an NTFS partition image. With a FAT32 WSFUSB USB drive you cannot have large Windows install files
  • E2B can support multiple different Hirens (or other) FAT32 images on an E2B NTFS USB drive.
  • You can have multiple partitions on an E2B drive (FAT32 or NTFS) and can still UEFI boot -WSFUSB must have only a single (FAT32) partition.
  • E2B supports multiple linux ISOs, each with their own persistence file.
  • WSFUSB is faster to boot to the USB menu than E2B (although E2B can be speeded up a lot using a pre-cached menu)

 (please correct me if I am wrong on any point or have missed a key feature - I am not very familiar with WSFUSB!).

So, there is no clear winner - it's 'horses-for-courses' really, why not use both!


Easy2Boot v1.32 Released

v1.32 2014-04-13
  • XP install enhancements (new chkpci utiity, win2k,2k3 driver support)
  • XP ISOs can use a .SIF file for unattended installs, etc.
  • .imgPTN recognised for UEFI image booting. 
  • USB 'Helper' Flash drive no longer required for USB HDDs (if .imgPTN used)
  • List PCI IDs changed to use grub4dos utility (no reboot required)
  • Utilities menu has XP driver search menu entries.
If you prepare a partition image using MakePartImage (download the MPI_Update_Pack), then you can reboot to a single-partition. This allows you to add to your E2B drive linux and Windows Installs in UEFI mode. You can also install Windows from an NTFS E2B USB HDD without needing a Helper Flash drive.
The Update Pack is still in Beta and password protected - please email me for the pwd.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

RMPrepUSB update for Windows 8

I found that the Drive Eject function in RMPrepUSB did not work very well on 'some' USB Flash drives - Windows 8 seemed to remount the drive after a while - e.g. if an attempt was made by RMPrepUSB to access the drive (e.g. Test Ready) then Windows kindly mounted the Flash drive volume for me!
RMPrepUSB v2.1.719 should fix this issue.

Also, for some reason I cannot fathom, pressing Ctrl-O on my Win8.1 system seems to first simulate a Ctrl-M and then a Ctrl-O. This means that when you are running RMPrepUSB and press Ctrl-O it first runs the Ctrl-M 'Make grub4dos ISO from USB drive' command! For this reason the Ctrl-M has been removed (as Ctrl-O is more useful than Ctrl-M).



Booting from multiple UEFI partition image with Easy2Boot - testing so far...

Progress is being made on the MakePartImage.cmd script to convert ISOs and bootable USB drives into images for Easy2Boot. The actual code in Easy2Boot has not needed to be changed for a week now, I am just working in the conversion of ISOs and USB drives into partition images that will boot as .imgPTN files.

For most ISOs, you can drag-and-drop the ISO onto a Desktop shortcut for MakePartImage.cmd and just hit [Enter] about 4-6 times to accept the default suggestions (FAT/NTFS, size of image, image name and location and syslinux version if required + any 'fixups'.)



So far I have tested these ISO conversions, they are all on my 32GB USB flash drive and they all work (black=MBR mode, red= also boots in UEFI mode).
  • 12.Hiren.s.Boot.CD.15.2.imgPTN
  • android-x86-1.6-r2.imgPTN
  • DLC.Boot.2013.imgPTN
  • DLCD_Ultimate.2014.v1.imgPTN
  • dsl-4.11.rc2.imgPTN
  • Fedora17.imgPTN
  • Fedora-18-i686-Live-LXDE.imgPTN
  • Fedora-Live-LXDE-i686-19-1.imgPTN
  • HBCD_DLC 2.0.imgPTN
  • HPACUOFFLINE.imgPTN (made from a working USB Flash drive)
  • zorin-os-8.1-core-64.imgPTN
  • 7601.17514.101119-1850_x64fre_server2012_eval_en-us-GRMSXEVAL_EN_DVD.imgPTN
  • 9600.16384.WINBLUE_RTM.130821-1623_X64FRE_ENTERPRISE_EVAL_EN-US-IRM_CENA_X64FREE_EN-US_DV5.imgPTN
  • bitdefender-rescue-cd.imgPTN
  • Fedora-Live-Desktop-x86_64-19-1.imgPTN
  • Fedora-Live-Desktop-x86_64-20-1.imgPTN
  • linuxmint-14.1-cinnamon-dvd-64bit.imgPTN
  • pmagic_2013_06_15.imgPTN (allows changes to be saved too!)
  • Sabayon_Linux_14.05_amd64_Minimal.imgPTN
  • korora-20-x86_64-gnome-live.imgPTN
Since they are booting from a 'flat filesytem', if the OS supports it, changes can be saved to the same partition. If you want this feature in say, the Partition Magic image, remember to make the image size larger than the ISO files actually need, to allow extra room for the extra files that it will save.

I found a few that wouldn't fully boot inside VBox (using DavidB's VMUB utility to boot from the USB drive), but they did work on a real system. Some were even more fussy about booting in UEFI mode from VBox, although most UEFI-booted successfully  (much to my surprise!). They did all boot on a real system however.

I have made some more changes to the MakePartImage.cmd script and found quite a few more problems that needed solving. The user can now choose the version of syslinux that is needed (it defaults to installing version 4 if syslinux/isolinux is detected). For instance, I found the HP Tools image (made by MakePartImage from a working USB flash drive) needed to have an older version of syslinux 3.75 installed.

If you have a working, single-payload USB Flash drive with a special tool on it which won't work as an ISO and won't work if using MakePartImage to make a new image from it, you can always use RMPrepUSB's Drive->File function to make a partition image from the working flash drive and then copy that image to RMPrepUSB. Tip: shrink the partition on the flash drive first, to get the image as small as possible.

The MakePartImage script also attempt to 'fix-up' any config files it finds, to correct them for the E2B image boot method. For instance, the volume name of the image is different (you can't have a volume name of 'Fedora-Live-Desktop-x86_64-19-1' as a FAT32 volume label!), it also changes 'CDLABEL' to 'LABEL' and 'media=cdrom' to 'media=USB' as well as updating any occurrence of the volume UUID in the config files to match the new volume UUID of the image.

So far I have tested these images as FAT32 volumes. I don't really intend to support NTFS volumes (due to problems with syslinux installing to NTFS volumes on older versions), but Windows Install ISOs with large Install.wim files will work on NTFS volumes, as should WinPE ISOs.

I found that Windows get very confused if you change the disk image of the E2B drive inside Virtual Box and then exit Virtual Box! Even though the partitions have been changed, Windows quite happily carries on accessing the files inside it as if it still had the original partitions! To fix this you can either eject the drive and re-plug, or use Disk Management Tool to Rescan all Drives. Alternatively, launch DavidB's VMUB utility again and then quit it. Then Windows will see the 'new' partition and you can access all the files inside your partition image.

If anyone is interested in testing it out, let me know and I will send you an 'update pack' password!
The download is on the www.easy2boot.com site in the alternate Downloads area as usual.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Adding HP Utility ISOs to E2B



HP utility ISOs such as the HP ProLiant Offline Array Configuration Utility are non-standard format. HP provide a special HP format tool to convert them for use with a single-boot USB drive. The one I looked had just had a compaq, system, punchout and usb folder.

I have added a .mnu file to support these linux-based ISOs into v1.32, however, you need to extract the ISO contents and so you can only have one 'payload' at a time on your E2B USB drive, due to folder name conflict.

The basic .mnu file for hpacuoffline-8.75-12.0.iso for instance is (one line is very long!):

# Extract the ISO contents (\usb folder is not required)
# Place this .mnu file in any E2B menu folder (e.g. \_ISO\MAINMENU)

title HP ProLiant Offline ACU Image\n
kernel /system/vmlinuz rw root=/dev/ram0 media=usb ramdisk_size=353272 init=/bin/init loglevel=3 ide=nodma ide=noraid pnpbios=off usrramfs=1 vga=791 splash=silent showopts nox2apic
initrd /system/initrd.img


The important change is to use media=usb. If this does not work for your HP ISO, you will need to look at the \system\isolinux.cfg file to see what parameters are required in your .mnu file; however the basic menu format should be maintained  (i.e. kernel command followed by an initrd command).

However, with v1.32 of E2B you will be able to use partition images, and so you can have any number of HP utilities on your E2B USB drive

1. Prepare a spare USB Flash drive using the HP Format utility and an HP ISO as instructed by HP
2. Make an image of the USB Flash drive using MakePartImage.cmd
3. Add the .imgPTN file to your E2B drive
4. Repeat for all other HP ISOs.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Easy2Boot and .imgPTN file development proceeds...

I have decided to not call the file extension '.imgEFI' for the partition images for UEFI booting. Instead they will be called .imgPTN which stands  for 'ParTitioN images'.

The new feature in E2B 1.32 (release version) is actually pretty powerful! It will swap in a new single-partition image to replace all of the E2B partitions instantly. You can then boot to whatever was in the new partition. Most UEFI systems will only boot from a single-partition, FAT32 USB drive (or a GPT drive). Once you have finished, you can use the grub4dos boot menu in CSM mode to return the USB drive back to the 'E2B' partition state and carry on using E2B in the normal way.

The Windows script I ma working on, MakePartImage.cmd, will convert ISOs, a folder or drive contents to a partition image file, which you then can just drop onto the E2B USB drive and it will appear in the menu just like any other menu item.

MakePartImage works best on non-grub4dos payloads that don't have a menu.lst file because it adds it's own menu.lst file into the image.

As long as the biggest file inside the image is below 4GB and it is a FAT32 image, then you can also UEFI-boot it (as long as the image is UEFI-boot capable, of course!). If some files are over 4G, then only MBR (non-UEFI) booting is possible, as the .imgPTN image must be in the NTFS format.

MakePartImage will also attempt to convert isolinux-based source files (ISOs) to syslinux-based ones. It will also rename any overlay file it finds in \LiveOS to match the new drive label and UUID too. It also warns you about any LABEL= and UUID= cheat codes in the syslinux config files - though you will have to change these manually if there are any.

Basically, if you have a single partition (FAT32 or NTFS) USB Flash drive (or HDD) that works correctly, then you should be able to easily convert it to an .imgPTN file and boot from it using Easy2Boot. You can thus convert all you flash drives into images and add them to Easy2Boot (if they don't work as ISOs in E2B).

You can use MakePartImage.cmd to automatically convert the following types of payloads to working .imgPTN files:
  1. Windows Install ISOs
  2. Multi-boot ISOs such as Hirens, DLCD, etc.
  3. WinPE v2+ based Windows ISOs
  4. Various Linux ISOs (Lubuntu, Ubuntu, Fedora, CentOS, Deft8, etc. just work)
  5. UEFI-capable utilities such as KonBoot or EasyRE
  6. Any working single-partition USB drive that is in FAT32 or NTFS format.

Linux ISO conversion
Some linux ISOs may not boot in MBR\BIOS\CSM mode, due to the change from an ISO(CD) to a disk filesystem(USB drive). In these cases, you can edit the image to fix the problem (just mount the .imgPTN file in ImDisk). However, they probably boot fine in MBR mode as an ISO under the E2B menu, so you don't really need to get them working from the CSM menu.
Some linux ISOs may not boot as .imgPTN images in UEFI mode. Typically you will need to change the grub .conf file to fix these UEFI images.

The most common fixes are:

1. Look in all .cfg, .conf and .lst files for CDLABEL and change CDLABEL to LABEL
2. Where a value for CDLABEL was defined, change it to the Volume label of the image: - e.g.
    Was: root=root=live:CDLABEL=SL-65-x86_64-LiveMiniCD
    Change to: root=live:LABEL=LIVE
3. Look for UUID= in the .cfg, .conf and .lst files. Change the value to that which is listed at the top of the CSM Menu when you boot from the .imgPTN. e.g.
   Was: root=live:UUID=%UUID%
   Change to: root=live:UUID=xxxx-yyyyy
where xxxx-yyyy is the UUID in the Easy2Boot CSM menu.
4. Lastly, if all else fails (for MBR booting only), add a grub4dos menu entry in the \menu.lst file which uses the correct kernel and initrd commands and parameters. e.g.

title Boot YlmF 3.0 (Windows Like OS) \n Image made from the ISO file Ylmf_OS_3.0.iso
kernel /casper/vmlinuz file=/cdrom/preseed/ubuntu.seed boot=casper floppy.allowed_drive_mask=0 splash
initrd /casper/initrd.img

Progress
I have not had to do any sector editing to restore my E2B drives for several days now, so the partition swapping is looking fairly robust and reliable! I just have to go through a selection of different payload files (ISOs) to test them out and check they work.

If you have any favourite UEFI ISOs or other UEFI-enabled payloads, please contact me tell me what they are and I will test them for you. This way they should work for you when I finally release v1.32 of E2B!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Easy2Boot will soon support UEFI booting!

Easy2Boot soon will support booting of FAT32 UEFI disk images!

To make these image files you need to run a Windows script...

Example 1: lubuntu-13.10-desktop-amd64.iso
1. Run the MakePartImage.cmd Windows script to create an image file - e.g. LUBU64.imgEFI
2. Copy the file to your E2B drive \_ISO\MAINMENU folder

Example 2: KonBoot 2.4
1. Make a KonBoot 2.4 USB EUFI drive using a spare flash drive. You can use the batch file provided by KonBoot or just make a single partition USB FAT32 drive using RMPrepUSB. Make sure the \EFI folder is present.
2. (optional) Test that the USB drive boots via UEFI
3. Run the MakePartImage.cmd Windows script to create an image file from the USB drive - e.g. KonBoot24.imgEFI. As an alternative you can skip steps 1 and 2 and just point MakePartImage.cmd at the KonBoot folder on you C: drive that contains just the EFI folder - e.g. C:\temp\KonBootV2.4
4. Copy the image file to your E2B drive \_ISO\MAINMENU folder

Example 3: Windows 8.1
1. Run the MakePartImage.cmd Windows script to create an image file - e.g. Win81x64.imgEFI
2. Copy the file to your E2B drive \_ISO\MAINMENU folder

Note: Due to the file size limitation of FAT32, the \Sources\Install.wim or Install.esd file cannot be over 4GB.

You can also make an .imgEFI file from a working FAT32 USB Flash drive using RMPrepUSB - Drive->File (use P1, P1, 0) - but see the easy2boot website for instructions as you need to add some grub4dos files first.

Some linux ISOs won't boot from a FAT32 filesystem unless the files are modified. You can use Fedora Live-USB Creator to make a working USB Flash drive and then use the contents of that Flash drive in your .imgEFI. You just need to ensure that the volume label of the image is the same as that of the USB stick. To get the USB Flash drive working, some editing of the .conf and .cfg files may be necessary to get both MBR and UEFI booting to work. Once a USB Flash drive works, the same image should work when copied into a .imgEFI file using the MarkPartImage.cmd script, as long as the FAT32 volume names are the same.

Now we have prepared our Easy2Boot drive ready to use for MBR or UEFI booting and we can boot any one of the images via UEFI (and most via MBR too) - sweet!

 Here is how to use it:

1. Boot from the target system via MBR\CSM booting to the Easy2Boot menu

2. Select one of the .imgEFI images - this will change the MBR on the drive and load the new CSM Menu (after some warnings about the possibility of it destroying your E2B drive!)


3. From the CSM Menu, you can instantly switch back to E2B Mode, or run the payload files in the current MBR mode (works for Windows and KonBoot, etc. but not linux) OR...


4. Choose Reboot and boot from the USB drive via UEFI BIOS mode - it should immediately boot to the selected EFI payload (e.g. CentOS, Deft8, Lubuntu, KonBoot or Win8.1 install in UEFI mode).

5. To change back to E2B again, reboot from the USB drive via MBR\CSM booting - you will see the CSM Menu- choose Switch and it will immediately restore the E2B partitions and load the E2B menu.

The advantages of this process is that this should be 100% compatible with most UEFI BIOSes as it uses a single FAT32 volume. It is also a very simple concept. Switching modes is virtually instantaneous.
The 'cons' are that you can easily accidentally 'destroy' the MBR of your E2B USB drive if anything goes wrong and it does not boot in MBR mode. Secondly, you have a file size limit of 4GB which may apply to files like install.wim (the .imgEFI file can be bigger if your E2B drive is NTFS, but the individual files inside the image cannot be larger than 4GB). Another disadvantage is that you have to prepare an .img file first (though this takes only a minute or so when using the MakePartImage script, even for a 4Gb Windows 8 ISO).

For some EFI images - e.g. KonBoot and Windows Installs, you can run them in MBR mode and UEFI mode, thus you don't need to have both the .ISO files  and the .imgEFI files on your E2B drive for these. The linux images however won't boot in MBR mode unless you add a grub4dos boot menu entry to run the correct kernel/initrd commands (the files are already in 'flat-file' format in the FAT32 image).

If anyone is interested in trying out a very early Alpha, please let me know. You may need to be experienced in Disk Sector editing if you run into trouble (but only your USB E2B drive will be affected) but by using Disk Doctor in RMPrepUSB it is quite easy to put back the E2B MBR should anything go very wrong!

Installing Windows from a USB Hard Drive without needing a Helper USB Flash drive

Using .imgEFI images also has the side-affect that you dont' need to use a USB Removable Flash 'Helper' drive to install Windows. If you format the image as FAT32 then you can install Windows from an E2B USB Hard disk both in MBR mode or UEFI mode. However, you are limited to install.wim files of less than 4GB.

If you format the .imgEFI image file as NTFS, you can only install Windows in MBR mode but the install.wim file can be of any size and at least you don't need a Helper Flash drive.

More information on the easy2boot site here.

MakePartImage now installs syslinux to the PBR if it sees a \syslinux folder in the image. This allows you to run linux in MBR mode. The file extension .imgPTN is now recognised as well as .imgEFI (deprecated). It makes more sense to call it .imgPTN as it is just an image partition and does not necessarily have to contain EFI files or support UEFI booting.

Friday, 4 April 2014

New XP unattended install feature for E2B v1.32

The next release version of E2B 1.32 will have a new feature which will allow the user to select or automatically use an unattend.txt answer file (or winnt.sif file) with the XP Install ISO that is picked by him/her. This was previously only possible using the WinPE method of install, but now you can do it using the 2-Step DPMS install method too.

You can either have one specific unattend.txt file for each XP ISO file which will be automatically used, or you can configure E2B so that it prompts you to manually select an unattend file from a list of files. This means you can auto-install to a hard drive, however if you specify any extra driver files or other files in the unattend answer file for XP Setup to copy, this probably won't work (unless you add them into the ISO).

E2B will copy your answer file to the F6 virtual floppy disks and rename it to winnt.sif so that it is automatically picked up during the start of XP Setup. Due to the way this works, the DOS floppy can only contain 8.3 filenames and so the .sif files must be of 8.3 format too. However, the file that the user picks from a list is actually a batch file with a .AUTO file extension and this file can be of any filename length.

For full details, see here.

I will place a TEST version Easy2Boot_v1.32a_TEST_XP_WINNT.SIF.zip in the Downloads area as usual.

P.S. Rev2 - You can now also run a .cmd file from the USB E2B drive automatically after installation. This .cmd file can call another .cmd file on yourUSb drive to complete the installation by 'xcopying' over a large folder from your USB drive to your target system and then running a script to install drivers and applications. You must write the copy and installation folder yourself.

Note: Although you should re-boot back to the E2B drive after Step1 and select Step 2, I have found that this is not always necessary and you can allow the system to boot from the hard disk after Step 1. 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

End of Windows XP - good news for some?

There has been a lot of talk about the end of Microsoft support on April 8th 2014 for Windows XP SP3.

Who ate all the TeleTubbies?

Recently, there have been some articles on why you should switch to a newer, supported OS like Windows 8.1. However, I suspect that many people and small businesses will continue to use XP for at least 6 month to a year. I know that many people in 'poorer' countries still install and use XP illegally. I also know that in these countries, many computer shops openly pre-install XP (activated but unlicensed!) for their customers.

XP may still be used in many pieces of equipment that you use: disk copiers, stage lighting consoles, recording/mixing desks, data servers that 'just sit there and work', card payment systems, etc. It has been said that 95% of the worlds ATMs run XP (embedded) - though I doubt these are updated with the latest hotfixes every week or even once a year!.

So the question is, will XP really die after April 2104?... Of course not!

Many people will continue to use XP for many years. However, there is one thing that the end of MS support does mean, and that is the end of XP drivers for new products. Why is that such a big deal?...

Many businesses and education establishments demand XP drivers, because their systems and applications still run on XP. This, in turn, puts pressure on the chipset manufacturers and specialised peripheral manufacturers to develop and release XP drivers and associated software.

Over recent years, it has been harder to find XP drivers for new systems, but now it will be impossible. Chipset, peripheral and card manufacturers now have a perfect excuse to not supply XP drivers for their new products because XP is no longer supported by Microsoft. In fact, these manufacturers had actually ceased to 'support'  XP since late 2013 for any of their new products.

So it will be a death by attrition. As old hardware dies and is replaced by newer hardware, there will be a dearth of XP drivers for any new hardware.

Windows 8 has been around since August 2012 and there is now a good driver base for all hardware and peripherals (at least for all hardware younger than 5-6 years of age). However, most of the people running XP will have older peripherals such as old printers, scanners, etc. It is hard to find drivers for these old peripherals now for Win7/8, as the manufacturers don't write and release drivers for kit they no longer sell.

Equally, A lot of XP software does not run under Win7/8 very well (which is why companies have held onto their old XP systems and their bespoke software and hardware). If you have an old XP laptop, the special drivers for these (e.g. hotkeys, special trackpad features, power managent, docking bays, etc.) will not be available for Win7/8. These hardware drivers won't work in a VM running XP on a Win7/8 system either!

So changing from XP to Win8.1 actually involves more expense than just paying for a new OS. For XP users it involves:

1. A new system (Win7/8 won't run too well on low-memory PCs and no drivers for old laptops)
2. A new OS
3. New peripherals (no drivers for older printers/scanners and special peripherals for midi/recording/video capture, etc.)
4. A lot of time getting it all to work from the IT department
5. Training costs

This is all good news for the poor old PC industry which has been in decline over the last few years.

So what can we look forward to after April 2014? My guess is:

1. Increased sales of PC and related software and hardware products
2. Increase in hacks for activating Win 7/8 illegally
3. XP-alike versions of linux gaining in popularity
4. Increase in jobs for consultants who specialise in upgrading systems, writing/converting software and training.

Maybe it's time for me to buy shares in PC World and Microsoft...





Easy2Boot, linux ISOs and persistence



It is possible to boot the following linux ISOs with persistence from your E2B USB drive:

linuxmint, XiaOpan, ubuntu, YLMF, Puppy, Slax, Ubuntu, LUbuntu, Fedora, Backtrack 5, BitDefender Rescue (old versions only), geebox, kali linux, kaspersky, PCLinuxOS, Porteus, StartOS and XBMCbuntu.

They can all be on the same E2B drive and all boot using different persistence files. The E2B drive justs needs the one partition for E2B (partition #3 and partition #4 which should both be unused/free).

You can even have multiple persistence files used by the same one ISO. For example, you could have a Bob_Ubuntu.mnu for Bob and a Mary_Ubuntu.mnu for Mary - both would boot from the same Ubuntu ISO but use different persistent files.

You normally will need to copy and edit a small .mnu file and make an ext2 file using RMPrepUSB for each ISO.

For more details, please see here.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Adding the Kaspersky Rescue ISO to Easy2Boot (with persistent updates)

You can easily download and add the kav_rescue_10.iso to your E2B drive easily. Just copy it to the \_ISO\MAINMENU folder.

When you first run it, you will want to update the virus definitions. When you do so however, it will store the updates on the internal 'target' hard disk of the system that you booted the E2B USB drive from, instead of storing them on the E2B USB drive. This means that when you boot on a different system, you will have to download the updates all over again (if the system has an internet connection).

Previous E2B versions included a Kaspersky_Rescue_10.mnu file in the \_ISO\docs\Sample mnu Files folder. However, the instructions in the .mnu file were not to too clear.

Actually, you don't need a .mnu file at all.

IMPORTANT: The key to the whole procedure is to ensure that Kaspersky linux mounts all the storage devices as volumes.


This will not be done if you do not select a drive to scan when prompted, or if you use the 'Skip' button when prompted if the volume is 'dirty'. Once all the volumes have been mounted, you should see the icons on the Desktop - if not then it won't find the Updates on the USB drive and you will have to reboot!



The instructions to get persistent updates to stay on the E2B USB drive are:

1. Download a recent ISO file from http://support.kaspersky.com/viruses/rescuedisk#downloads - it should be under 'Distributive' and called  kav_rescue_10.iso.

2. Copy it to a menu folder, e.g. \_ISO\MainMenu folder (or \_ISO\ANTIVIRUS or any other menu folder where you want it to be listed).

3. Ensure that your USB drive (sdb1) volume has been mounted and appears as an icon on the Desktop as well as the C: drive icon (don't abort any dialogs!). If they are not there then reboot and try again.

On first boot to Kaspersky from E2B using this menu, download the updates (you will obviously need an internet connection). They will usually be automatically stored on internal Hard Disk C: by Kaspersky.

4. When the download of the updates have finished, copy the whole "\Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10.0" folder which now contains the updates from C: or sda1 (the internal HDD) to sdx1 which is the USB drive partition 1 (if you only have one hard disk, the USB drive will be sdb1).

Now rename the "C:\Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10.0" folder on the hard disk  it to something else like 'Junk' to get rid of it.

IMPORTANT: Ensure the update folder \Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10.0 does NOT exist on the Target hard disk in any volume.

5. On the next boot, the updates should be found to be already present on USB drive (check you can see the drive icon on the Desktop).

If you find that the Updates are old or not present...

1. Ensure you can see the sdx1 icon on the Desktop to show it has been mounted as a volume by Kaspersky.

2. Ensure any target system you test does not already have the \Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10.0 folder on HDD - if so delete it and reboot from USB

Always shutdown Kaspersky linux nicely or updates may not be saved!

E2B USB Drive contents when it is all running smoothly are:

\_ISO\MAINMENU\kav_rescue_10.iso
\Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10.0




Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Easy2Boot update for installing XP onto modern systems


The current 'released' DriverPack Mass Storage driver pack included in E2B+DPMS is rather old. If want a more recent driver pack, you can download the most recent one from the last post on the forum here (search for TechDud posts and '7z downloads).

There is a problem with the latest current 'nightly' build DP_MassStorage_wnt5_x86-32_1403071.7z

It would not work when installing XP on a Z87 chipset (Intel Series 8) mainboard.

I have modified the INI file, and you can download the new DPMS version from here.

Just unzip it to the \_ISO\e2b\grub\DPMS folder of your E2B drive (if you already have a \_ISO\e2b\grub\DPMS\DriverPack.ini file then delete it and the whole D folder first).
Note: You need at least E2B v1.31 for the new driver pack to work.

E2B v1.32 will have better DPMS driver selection (thanks to chenall who has modified the chkpci utility for me). If your ISO has '2k' or '2k3' in the filename, it will assume it is a Win2k or Win2k3 driver and look for the correct driver. If not, chkpci will only retrieve XP drivers from the DriverPack.ini file.

For XP installs, this means that whereas previously you may have been presented with a choice of several different mass storage drivers for your system (some of which could be Win2K3 orWin2K drivers), now you should only get one driver (for each different type of controller in your system).

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Using and remembering strong passwords

Do you use a password manager? It seems to me there is no perfect solution, whether cloud-based like LastPass or locally-based like KeePass. See here for a recent review from PC Pro (Jan 2014) of some of the best choices available.

If cloud based, do you trust the security of the central server or for that matter, the source of the WiFi hot-spot that you happen to be connected to whilst in StarBucks or your hotel? Also, the apps tend not to be free.

If you use a local database, you have to store it somewhere in the cloud so you can access it when you are away from your own systems (e.g. at work or in a cyber cafe or at another office). Also, you have to ensure that the database, which may be kept on various 'local disks', are all synchronised. Keeping your entire password database on a mobile phone is not the most secure of scenarios either!

What we need to do is generate a 'long and strong' password, that is not easily subject to a 'dictionary attack', for each site we use - but make it easily 'recall-able/remember-able'. A few years ago I was looking for a 'hash' algorithm which would create a strong password from a master password 'salt' and another unique 'character string', when I found  Nic Wolff at this site had already done it!

The mechanism is simple and secure (as no password data is passed across the web). It is not as convenient as using a proper password manager (no auto-fill, syncing, etc.) but it is free and you are in control and there are no management/sync/security issues. You can also use it on your mobile devices too (or even off-line if you save the html source file somewhere handy).

Do you use the same password for several sites? Well, use this generator and you can still use just the same password (as a 'master password')  but it will generate a unique, strong password for each different site.

As I could never remember the URL for Nic's site, I simply copied and modified his code and added it to a page on my easy2boot site here. Try it out (no data is sent or recorded - honest!).


Feel free to add Nic's code to your own site and modify it, or just use my page to generate your passwords (accessible from the Easy2Boot SiteMap page).

You can make up your own 'rules' on how you use it - for instance, you could precede the Master password with the first letter of the site (e.g. Bmypwd for Barclays and Nmypwd for Nat West, etc.). Or add a letter and a number. Just think of a rule and stick to it for all sites and passwords.

If only there was a nice, easily-remembered URL that everyone could use... If I get enough +ve feedback, maybe I will register one just for this type of password generation with a nice short, easily remembered name.

[Edit 2014-03-30] It seems there is already a Chrome Extension called PassWordChameleon which does pretty much exactly what Nic's code does (not sure which came first!). He also has a website but it's certificate is no longer valid.



An idea for all sites that require a login and password

Wouldn't it be a better idea, if instead of requesting a single weak password which can be dictionary attacked, sites provided a similar 'salt+password' hash technique? For example, the site would ask us for TWO words or phrases and then hash them first before sending the hash to the site's server. That way a strong password is always sent across t'internet even if we only enter in two 'weak' ones. Or, the website could just prompt for a password as normal but then hash it with the site's name to make a strong password which is the password that is actually sent to the website server and recorded. That way we can use the same password for all sites, but the 'actual' password is a strong password which is different for all sites (and each site could encode it in a different way too).

- o -

P.S. Many years ago, when Phishing sites were just starting to spring up, I wrote a letter which was published in the UK publication Computer Weekly, suggesting that Phishing could be prevented if we told the site during registration, of a preferred phrase or picture etc. that we would recognise when we accessed the same site at a later date. That way, after we provided a user name, but before we entered the password, we could check that the site was the correct one because we would recognise the phrase or picture that it would display to us. Roll on a few years and now a great many sites use this anti-Phishing security feature which I believe I was (at least, one of) the first to suggest. I wish I had patented it now!



Thursday, 27 March 2014

My shiny (well, black actually) new Windows 8.1 system!


If you are thinking of buying or building a new PC in the near future, here is a breakdown of my system that I built last week to replace my old 2007 Dell Inspiron 530. These components were bought from eBuyer, though other retailers are available...  ;-)

Click on the QuickFind numbers to view them on the eBuyer website (I don't get commission - honest!)

QtyProduct DescriptionQuickFind
Cost (ex VAT)Line Cost
1 xAsus Z87-A C2 Socket 1150 VGA DVI HDMI DisplayPort 7.1 Channel Audio ATX Motherboard569395£85.80£85.80
1 xIntel Core i5 4670K 3.40GHz Socket 1150 6MB Cache Retail Boxed Processor467647

£142.28£142.28
1 xCooler Master N-Series N600 - USB 3.0 ATX Case512240
£54.15£54.15
1 xG-Skill 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600Mhz RipjawsX Memory Kit CL9 (9-9-9-24) 1.5V264750

£58.17£58.17
1 xCorsair 500W CX Builder 80 Plus Bronze PSU 3 Year Warranty278634£39.15£39.15
1 xSeagate Desktop SSHD 2TB 64MB Cache SATA 6 Gb/s 8GB SSD Cache hybrid HDD544878

£75.89£75.89


Including VAT this came to  £546 + another £73 for Windows 8.1 OEM.
An equivalent ready-made system would have been well over £700 and I would not have got the front 2xUSB 2.0 + 2xUSB 3.0 ports which was a major requirement for me (and possibly not a good UEFI BIOS and decent mainboard either).

I added to this a 120GB SSD drive and a DVD-RW drive which I already had. The 120GB SSD drive is for quickly installing and removing OS's and general experimentation. I intend to add more drives later.

The Asus Z87-A has a versatile UEFI firmware interface (UEFI BIOS) which was one of my main requirements as well as being a reliable mainboard with decent (Japanese) low-ESD capacitors and VRMs that would last a few years! Less expensive Asus Z87 boards are available if you want to save a few £££s with less PCIe slots, no overclocking and without Display Port. You have to pay for quality.

The Cooler Master N600 case is pretty quiet and doesn't look like the 'General Lee' whilst sitting on my desk! It does have a 'go-faster stripes' blue LED inside the front fan, but it also has a front-panel switch to switch the LED off! Pretty much the whole case is made of nicely perforated metal sheeting (it is rather like it is dressed in a filmy black negligee.. OK, I must wake up now and carry on writing this blog, uhhh... where was I? Oh, yes...). The case has two front USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports situated half-way down the front panel on the right. This means I can conveniently use both types of USB ports. Many systems with USB 3.0 ports had the ports situated at the top of the case or did not have both front USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports. With the ports on the top of the case, I would have to stand up every time I needed to view the ports and insert a USB drive - not exactly convenient!

The more observant amongst you may notice that I have not added an extra graphics card to the system. The integrated Intel 4600 is pretty good for non-gamer, 2D work, and unless I fork out another £100 or so, I won't see much improvement. So, for now at least, I am not going to add an expensive graphics card as I am not currently into gaming (though I may regress one day - do they still sell Duke Nukem 3D?).

The only thing I might change, in hindsight, would be the power supply due to the cables that came with it. The Corsair 500W CX had 5 SATA hard drive power connectors, but they were configured on two power leads, one with 2 connectors and one with 3 connectors. The spacing between each connector however was far too short. As the Cooler Master had a 5.25" bay, a 3.5" bay and a 3.5/2.5" bay and I had one drive in each bay, I had trouble reaching all three drives using just the two cables! A 4-pin-Molex-to-SATA power converter cable proved handy at this point!
Note that if you want to add two high-performance SLI graphics cards (which I won't be doing), you may need a slightly higher-rated PSU to cope with the increased Amperage!

The CPU is overclocked (though I have just used the BIOS 'default' overclock 'Auto' settings for now) and the stock Intel cooler seems both adequate and quiet. It boots from the SSD or the Seagate hybrid drive to the Desktop in under 10 seconds and is very responsive. The overall PassMark PC Benchmark score running from the Seagate HDD was 2133. If I had run from the SSD it would have been even higher, only let down by the 3D graphics scores. Performance is equivalent to many i7 systems with CPU-Z showing it runs at 4.2GHz on occasion during some of the benchmarks. The memory benchmark score was particularly impressive.
Click the screenshot to enlarge it

I still have plenty of room for expansion (2 free PCIe graphics slots, 2 free DIMM slots and loads of drive bays) so this system should last me for years.

The Dell Inspiron 530 has performed well over the years and never let me down (though I had upgraded it's CPU, graphics, hard drives and memory over time). It now looks rather sad sitting in the corner, all by itself...



Adding KonBoot to Easy2Boot (with UEFI support)

KonBoot is no longer free, but for only $15 it is well worth adding to your Easy2Boot multiboot USB drive.

The latest version (v2.4 at the time of writing) will work on all Windows systems from XP to Win 8.1 as long as the user uses a local or online account to login (i.e. you do not log onto a network Domain). The KonBoot manual is here.

The KonBoot floppy disk image can easily be added to E2B. Just copy the kon-bootFLOPPY\kon-bootFLOPPY.img file to the (say) \_ISO\MAINMENU\MNU folder of your Easy2Boot USB drive and also the FD0-konboot-v2.1.mnu file from the \_ISO\docs\Sample mnu files folder. Then change the title in the .mnu file to suit your version of KonBoot.

You should find that v2.4 will work for all versions of Windows except if the system uses UEFI instead of the BIOS. Most new Windows 8 systems will use UEFI booting and contain GPT partitions instead of 'Simple' partitions.

You can use Windows Disk Manager to see if there is an EFI System Partition on your boot disk - if so then your system probably uses UEFI to boot to Windows.


Alternatively, just run MSINFO32 and look for the BIOS Mode  UEFI (or Legacy) entry.

To use KonBoot on a UEFI Windows system, you need to add the KonBoot EFI files to the Easy2Boot USB drive.

1. The E2B USB drive MUST be formatted as FAT32 and should be the first partition on the drive (first entry in the partition table in the MBR).
2. Copy the EFI folder from the kon-bootUSB folder to the root of your E2B drive so you will have a \EFI folder on your E2B drive.
Note: Some BIOSes will not recognise the disk as UEFI-bootable unless the FAT32 partition is the only partition on the USB drive.

To run KonBoot on a UEFI Windows system:
1. Connect the E2B USB drive to the target system
2. Enter the BIOS configuration menu and ensure that Secure Boot is set to Disable
3. Select the E2B USB drive as the boot device but ensure it is listed as a UEFI Boot device
4. KonBoot should load via EFI and then boot to Windows (if the E2B menu loads then you have not booted via UEFI!)
5. If the system reboots before you get to the User login, use the BIOS menu to boot from the E2B USB UEFI drive again - this is sometimes necessary when more than one Windows installation is present on the system.

Using KonBoot UEFI with an Easy2Boot NTFS drive

If you want to have an NTFS EasyBoot USB drive and still be able to boot the UEFI version of KonBoot, you need to modify your E2B USB drive so that the first partition is a small (any size) FAT32 partition which holds the EFI KonBoot files.

Note: this may not work for many UEFI systems. Most UEFI systems will only recognise a Simple Volume (MBR) drive if there is only one partition on it which must be FAT32.

This can easily be done with a 3rd-party utility such as Easeus Partition Master.

Partition 1: FAT32 Primary
    \EFI\boot\  (4 KonBoot .efi files)

Partition 2: NTFS Primary
    \_ISO        (easy2boot files)

Once you have made the FAT32 Primary partition, just copy the KonBoot EFI folder into it. Do NOT copy the KonBoot grldr, menu.lst or any other files to the FAT32 partition.

If the USB drive does not boot to E2B, re-install grub4dos using RMPrepUSB (it is best not to copy the grldr to the FAT32 partition so that the grldr file on the E2B NTFS partition is used instead).

If you are using a USB Removable Flash drive, the 2nd NTFS partition will no longer be accessible to Windows. You can gain access by using CTRL+O in RMPrepUSB to re-order the partitions.

Many UEFI systems may boot from the FAT32 partitition even if the FAT32 partition is the 2nd partition, but you will have more success if you ensure that the FAT32 partition is the first partition on the USB drive. Always use RMPrepUSB CTRL+O to ensure that the FAT32 partition is the first partition before you use it for UEFI KonBoot testing.

Tip: Add the E2B_PTN_SWAP.mnu menu file to your E2B MAINMENU folder and then you can swap over the two partitions from within E2B.

Note: New .imgEFI support in v1.32 allows KonBoot UEFI to work on all (?) systems.



Tuesday, 25 March 2014

UAC and editing files with NotePad++

I recently built a new Windows 8.1 system. Previously I used a Windows 7 system and logged in as Administrator with UAC disabled, but on my new system I thought I would try to use it as 'Bill' intended!

After installing NotePad++, I found that I could not save any files that were in a 'protected' folder location such as C:\ or C:\Program Files\xxxx. Futhermore, if I simply changed the Properties of the NotePad++.exe file to run as Administrator, then right-clicking on a file and selecting 'Open with NotePad++' no longer worked and I always got this error mesage:


This is what to do to solve the problem:

1. Make a copy of the NotePad++.exe file in the same "C:\Program Files (x86)\Notepad++" folder and rename it as "notepad++ Admin.exe" (or as you wish)

2. Right-click on it - Properties - Compatibility - 'Run this program as an Administrator'

3. Download and install Context Edit from http://www.softpedia.com/progDownload/ContextEdit-Download-78704.html

4. Run Context Editor as Administrator (right-click on the Desktop icon it creates - choose 'Run as administrator')

5. Click on New and create a new entry (under 'All files, regardless of extension'):


 My command line for box 4 was:
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Notepad++\notepad++ Admin.exe" "%1"



Now, when I right-click on a file, I choose the new NotePad++_Admin entry and it works correctly:



I do still get a UAC prompt however, but at least it works!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

RMPrepUSB v2.1.717 for Windows 8

If you are having problems formatting USB drives as FAT32 with RMPrepUSB (especially on Windows 8.1), try the new v2.1.717 version here. This has a modified version of RMPartUSB which I hope will fix the problem. Please let me know if you find any problems with it.

The RMPrepUSB - CTRL+M 'Make ISO from USB drive' has been modified to use  ISO level 3 instead of ISO level 4 (ISO9660:1998 enhancements). This is so that the ISOs will work better with grub4dos 0.4.6a which does not currently understand Joliet 'iso level 4' ISOs  (though grub4dos 0.4.5c does work with these ISOs as 0.4.5c does not support Joliet and so uses the RockRidge portion of the ISO instead).

cheers
Steve

Easy2Boot and DOS-based ISOs

I was recently asked to get a DOS-based ISO to work with Easy2Boot. This ISO contained a DOS version of Ghost and an XP .gho image (amongst other things). It was also in Chinese which didn't help!

This was not easy to get working as an ISO because the DOS Autoexec.bat file was written to load a CD-ROM driver and map the 'CD-ROM' to a drive letter. If we boot from an ISO file however, there is no 'CD-ROM' drive with files on it and so the autoexec.bat file will fail.

The ISO file in question had a \boot folder that contained a DOS.IMA floppy image file. It was this file that was run when the ISO (or CD) was booted. To make it work, I extracted the DOS.IMA file and then edited the \boot\autoexec.bat file inside the DOS.IMA file to make the corrections show in green with yellow highlights below:

@ECHO OFF
SET DIRCMD=/O:N
set LglDrv=27 * 26 Z 25 Y 24 X 23 W 22 V 21 U 20 T 19 S 18 R 17 Q 16 P 15
set LglDrv=%LglDrv% O 14 N 13 M 12 L 11 K 10 J 9 I 8 H 7 G 6 F 5 E 4 D 3 C
call setramd.bat %LglDrv%
::LH SHSUCDX /D:?MSCD001
copy command.com %RAMD%:\>nul
set comspec=%RAMD%:\command.com
path=%RAMD%:\;A:\;A:\HD
SET TEMP=%RAMD%:
SET TMP=%RAMD%:
lh doskey>nul
lh mouse>nul
cls
::bcdw FindBootableCDLetter
::if errorlevel 1 goto END
set bcdw_cdrom=B
prompt CD=%bcdw_cdrom%:_RAM=%RAMD%:_$p$g
path=%PATH%;%bcdw_cdrom%:\
%bcdw_cdrom%:
bcdw GetBootImageCommandLine
if errorlevel 1 goto END
call %bcdw_cl%
r
goto END
:END
m

This simply sets the CD-ROM drive letter to B:.  I then overwrote the DOS.IMA file into the original ISO file and copied the ISO file to \_ISO\MAINMENU and ensured the file extension was .isoDOS01.

Here is how I did it in detail (of course your ISO will not be the same, but this will give you a flavour of what to do!):
  1. Download and install WinImage 30-day trial version ( £20 full version is here). If you work with disk images I highly recommend WinImage.
  2. Download and install UltraISO (there is a trial version here) - this is one of the few ISO editing packages that allowed me to save the 600MB ISO using the trial version. When the trial period expires, you will need to register it for $30 - or use this link to download the full version.
  3. Load the ISO using UltraISO and extract the DOS.IMA file to a temporary folder on your hard disk
  4. Load the DOS.IMA file in WinImage and extract the autoexec.bat file from the \boot folder
  5. Edit the autoexec.bat file using Notepad so that drive B: is the CD-ROM drive letter and save the file.
  6. Drag and drop the new autoexec.bat into the WinImage root folder and save the file as DOS.IMA
  7. Drag and drop the new DOS.IMA file into the UltraISO \boot folder to replace the existing DOS.IMA
  8. Save as a new ISO file
  9. Copy the ISO file to the E2B drive as \_ISO\MAINMENU\mynewiso.isoDOS01  (note: the last two characters are the numbers 'zero' and 'one')
You should now find that the new ISO file will create a virtual B: drive in memory and copy the contents of the whole ISO into the new virtual drive (this may take several minutes!). After that it should boot as normal.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Easy2Boot 1.31 released

There are still a few issues with grub4dos 0.4.6a but I have decided to release E2B v1.30 (called 1.30A) due to the enhancements I have added in other areas.

v1.30A/1.31
  • Support E2B if on a logical partition of boot device
  • grub4dos 0.4.6a USB driver option in Main menu
  • .isoPUP file extension supported
  • .isoWB file extension supported
  • Better error recovery if bad ISO selected in menu
  • Allow longer XP ISO filenames (caused error in Setup if ISO filename was very long)
  • Allow for new format of latest 'Nightly builds' of XP dpms (the INI file format has been changed in the latest driverpack builds!) - in v1.31
  • Convert $HOME$ keyword in .txt files to the folder path 
  • Improve Make_E2B_USB_Drive.cmd script
  • Some more sample .mnu files added to docs folder (e.g. proxmox.mnu, Puppy_Slacko64_no_partnew.mnu, linuxmint-16-cinnamon-dvd-32bit_Persistent.mnu)
If you switch to grub4dos 0.4.6a, some ISOs may not boot. Grub4dos 0.4.6a supports the Joliet ISO 9660 format, but it has problems with 9660:1999 Joliet format. Also the USB controller detection in 0.4.6a is not fully working and some USB drives may not be detected by the usb --init command on some systems.

To remove the ' Switch to Grub4dos v0.4.6 (for USB Driver)' menu entry, delete the \_ISO\MAINMENU\ZGRUB_USB_046.mnu file.

Please let me know if you find any issues.
Note: One user found an issue with 'Looking for WINHELPER.USB' being very slow, so I have restored the older code for this and re-released it as v1.31.


Thursday, 20 March 2014

Add ProxMox ISOs to Easy2Boot

The ProxMox install ISOs don't 'just work' with Easy2Boot. The ISO shows a 'PROXMOX INSTALLER' splash screen and then seems to hang. However, if you press F2 or ESC to get to the linux command prompt, you can easily start the installer as follows:
1. Type
    fdisk -l
to find the USB 4th partition. This will usually be /dev/sdb4 on a single disk system.
2. Next type
    mount /dev/sdb4 /mnt
to mount the 4th partition (this will already contain the ISO file set up by E2B).
3. Finally type
    chroot /mnt sbin/unconfigured.sh
to start the installer (it takes a minute or two to load - be patient).

If you prefer, you can copy the ISO file to the \_ISO\MAINMENU\MNU folder and make a small .mnu file in the same folder to remind you of the commands that are required:

title ProxMox Installer ISO \n Use fdisk -l to find 4th partition\n mount /dev/sdb4 /mnt\n chroot /mnt sbin/unconfigured.sh
set ISO=proxmox-ve_3.2-1933730b-2.iso
/%grub%/qrun.g4b $HOME$/%ISO%
boot



Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Easy2Boot 'discovered' by LinuxVoice magazine

Listen to the podcast  (E2B mentioned at approx. 31:40).
Tip: Turn off AdBlock if you have trouble playing via the audio control.

Friday, 14 March 2014

.isoWB file extension in E2B

I have added .isoWB file extension support to Easy2Boot_v1.30b_TESTONLY.zip.

So there is no need to create and edit a .mnu file for each ISO.

1. Copy the .INI file used by your WinBuilder ISO to the root of the E2B USB drive - this file is found in the same folder as the ISO when made by WinBuilder. e.g. \Win7PESE.ini. The contents of the file are not important, but the file name is critical.

2. Add extra characters to the .ini file to make it over 1000 bytes (1KB) in size (1KB is only required if your E2B USB drive is formatted as NTFS). Any extra characters will do (the contents are erased and re-written by E2B)

3. Copy your WinBuilder PE .ISO file to the desired menu payload folder (2nd level deep)  (e.g. \_ISO\MAINMENU or \_ISO\WINPE)

4. Rename it as .isoWB (e.g. \_ISO\MAINMENU\WBPE.isoWB)

5. Make a subfolder called WB (e.g. \_ISO\MAINMENU\WB)

6. Create a text file in the WB folder with the same name as the .isoWB file but with a .WB file extension - e.g. \_ISO\MAINMENU\WB\WBPE.WB)

The contents of the .WB file should contain two lines (the text in red should be changed to match the name of the .INI file used by your WinBuilder ISO):

!BAT
set IniName=Win7PESE.ini


7. (optional) Create a .txt file for the .isoWB file so that the menu entry is not just displayed as the filename, e.g. \_ISO\MAINMENU\WBPE.txt:

title My WinPE ISO\n Boot the ISO using Easy2Boot