Sunday, 23 July 2017

Reduce the CPU load when using the E2B Menu

You may have noticed that when you boot to the E2B menu, your CPU fan speed may start to increase and get quite noisy. This can also occur when booting to the E2B menu under a Virtual Machine such as with Virtual Box.

The reason is that grub4dos is continually calling the BIOS to detect a menu key press from the user and so the CPU is running at full speed.

Most operating systems use an interrupt-driven approach. The CPU is in an idle state when not required, until the user presses a key and causes a CPU interrupt from the keyboard controller which then wakes up the CPU.

e.g. (in x86 code)...
sti           (enable interrupts)
hlt           (stop CPU until it gets an interrupt)

Grub4dos can also use such an interrupt-driven approach if you patch it...

In the \_ISO\Sample_MyE2B.cfg file you will see the lines:

# Use HLT instruction to reduce CPU cycles whilst waiting for keypress (stops CPU from getting too hot)
### write --bytes=1 0x8205 0x20 > nul

Simply uncomment the 2nd line by removing the three ### symbols and add it to your \_ISO\MyE2B.cfg file:

# Use HLT instruction to reduce CPU cycles whilst waiting for keypress (stops CPU from getting too hot)
write --bytes=1 0x8205 0x20 > nul

As this patch may cause problems on some systems, it is not included by default in E2B. You may find it useful if you use E2B with a VM a lot.

You can remove or comment out the line to go back to the normal grub4dos behaviour if it causes you any problems (let me know if it does!).

Add i-life Windows OS re-installation payloads to E2B

i-life produce a range of laptops including the ZEDNotes.

It is possible to download the full OS re-installation files + firmware update software (e.g. ZEDNOTE 11.6.rar, 4.5GB) from the appropriate Support page for your particular i-life notebook...

The large OS+Firmware download is here.

SOP = Standard Operating Procedure (AFAIK! We are apparently supposed to know that no matter what language you speak).

Instructions for making a Bootable USB Drive can also be downloaded.

The instructions in the .docx download basically say:
  1. Make a Windows-bootable MBR UEFI NTFS USB drive from the Winpe_x86_auto.iso file using Rufus
  2. Extract all the files from the large 'Firmware Download' .rar file onto the root of the USB drive
  3. MBR-boot from the USB drive
The only problem is that i-life do not seem to provide the Winpe_x86_auto.iso file!

After a bit of Googling, I found a 290MB version here.

The \sources\boot.wim file inside their Winpe_x86_auto.iso file contains a startnet.cmd file which will find and run the \scripts\main.cmd file which was originally extracted from the 'Firmware Download' .rar file.

The main.cmd file will then partition and format your notebooks' internal drive (which could be a 32GB eSSD) and then install the files from the Windows .wim file and add the recovery.wim file, etc. If the system came with a Dual OS, it will set that up too. It may also update the firmware too.

Problems when making the USB drive from the ISO

Tip: Try the 290MB ISO first from here which seems 'cleaner'.

I also found a 198MB specimen here which gave me a problem when creating the USB drive. Rufus gave an error:

Extracting: H:\System Volume Information\IndexerVolumeGuid (76 bytes)
  Unable to create file: [0x00000005] Access is denied.

To work around this, I used 7zip to extract all files and folders except the \System Volume Information folder from the ISO onto the USB drive after Rufus aborted. I then checked that the \boot and \sources folders and all other files were present, before extracting the large .rar file contents onto the USB drive.

If you prefer, you can use an ISO editor to delete the \System Volume Information folder from the Winpe_x86_auto.iso file itself, and then you can use Rufus to make the USB drive without getting an error.

Add to E2B

Once you have tested the USB drive to ensure it works, you can convert the USB drive contents to an NTFS .imgPTN file by simply dragging-and-dropping the USB drive letter\icon onto the MPI Tool Kit MPI_NTFS Desktop shortcut. Then add the .imgPTN file to your E2B drive and make it contiguous as usual.

If all files are below 4GB in size (including the \images\*.wim file) you can use the MPI_FAT32 shortcut instead of the MPI_NTFS shortcut (to support UEFI-booting which requires FAT32).

>4GB .wim file?

Note that if the .wim file in the \images folder is larger than 4GB, you must use the MPI_NTFS shortcut rather than the MPI_FAT32 shortcut.

If all files are below 4GB, you can use the MPI_FAT32 shortcut and the resultant .imgPTN may then also support UEFI-booting too if it contains UEFI boot files.

The main.cmd file is usually written to look for a .wim file. This means that if you split the .wim file into .swm (split wim) files so you can use a FAT32 partition image, it will not work because the main.cmd script will not be able to find any *.wim file.

If you need UEFI-booting, you can use one of the Methods 2-5 detailed on this E2B web page.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

E2B v1.94 full release is now available

v1.94 2017-07-21

  • Bugfix for TXT_Maker.exe as iftitle caused a 'no title' in .txt file error. 
  • Change_drive_Letter.cmd added to allow you to change 2nd partition drive letter on Removable Flash drive
  • Sample mnu files for linux ext3 comment added
  • .iso32 and .iso64 allowed in \_ISO\WINDOWS\xxxxx menu folders
  • Latest grub4dos \grldr 2017-06-25
  • Latest ImDisk driver
  • Spanish kbd now addded if Spanish language selected
  • Czech language (Beta) added
Available from Alternate Download Areas (will be added to E2B website in a few days).

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

E2B v1.94c BETA available

The main difference is that I have added a Czech language option.

However, the translations have not been checked by a Czech and so they are probably full of errors!

Monday, 3 July 2017

Czech language for E2B (Beta)

I have used Google Translate to make a very Beta version for the Czech language which you can download from here.  You can test it by simply copying the STRINGS.txt and F1.cfg files to your E2B USB drive's \_ISO folder.

The files are probably a bit of a wreck, so, if any Czech tech can check and make them up to spec (see what I did there?), then please send me a corrected version!

Info: How to make new language files E2B page here.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

E2B v1.94b BETA available

Changes from release version 1.93A are:

  • bugfix - if TXT_Maker.exe is used with iftitle, it caused a 'no title in .txt file' error.
  • Change_drive_letter.cmd added to allow you to change 2nd partition drive letter on Removable Flash drive if using Windows 10 1703
  • Sample mnu files for linux - 'use ext3' comment line added
  • .iso32 and .iso64 now allowed in \_ISO\WINDOWS\xxxxx menu folders (except XP folder)
  • latest grub4dos \grldr 2017-06-25
  • latest ImDisk driver for loading Windows ISOs

Available from alternate download areas as usual.