Saturday, 29 June 2019

UEFI-boot from Windows Install ISOs using E2B grub2 menu system and wimboot

A1ive has modified the standard grub2 sources and has added a wimboot module for UEFI.

This mean we can now UEFI-boot to grub2 and then install Windows directly from ISO files.

You will need to replace the standard (signed) .EFI grub2 files that are using in the E2B grub2 menu system with unsigned versions however, so UEFI Secure Boot is not possible (although you may be able to use MokManager to load a certificate).

I have added instructions RMPrepUSB Tutorial 145. These use the E2B GRUB2 menu system and you will need to partition and prepare your E2B USB drive first as detailed here.

Once it is set up, you can just add or delete your Windows ISOs to the 2nd partition (\_ISO\MAINMENU\WINDOWS folder) and either *MBR-boot or UEFI-boot (in non-secure mode).

*The drivemap line may prevent it from booting to Setup in a VM - test using a real system.

A1ive also has made a grub2 file manager which allows you to navigate any drive\folder using a menu system and then boot from ISOs, WIM files, etc. just be selecting them. There is also a menu system which is similar to E2B that enumerates any files that you add by aguslr which may be of interest to you.

Common grub2 issues

I have found grub2 to be unreliable when used on a wide variety of systems, here are a few issues I have found with it:
  1. When booting linux, grub2 needs to specify the correct kernel parameters which are very specific to each linux distro - these change often and so you constantly find that a new version of a linux ISO no longer works and you have to find out how to modify the grub2 menu.
  2. Grub2 does not support the extremely useful partnew command (as found in grub4dos) which solves Problem 1.
  3. The grub2 graphical menu system has problems on some systems and updates the screen very slowly.
  4. The Secure boot signed versions of grub2 (e.g. Ubuntu) do not contain some modules (such as wimboot or regexp) which means you cannot UEFI Secure Boot and use regular expressions for scripting.
  5. If you use an unsigned non-secure grub2 version, when you Secure Boot you need to use MokManager to certify the grub boot file in order to load it. MokManager modifies the BIOS non-volatile RAM and so alters the system (and makes it insecure to some extent). It is often tricky to undo this change.
  6. Unfortunately MokManager hangs/crashes on many systems which means you cannot use it to Secure Boot.
  7. With a few exceptions, grub2 does not allow writes to the drive (e.g. no dd command in EFI mode). This means we cannot modify sectors or files on a USB boot drive. 
  8. The main grub2 developers are very slow/reluctant to add functionality or respond to bug reports.
  9. Keyboard does not work after booting to grub2 (MBR or UEFI) on some real systems.
  10. grub2 is poorly documented (documentation is very out-of-date). I have not found any good documentation on scripting or regular expression support for instance.
Note: If you use E2B and convert each Windows ISO into Windows .imgPTN files, you can directly Secure-boot from them (but you do not get a UEFI menu containing a list of all ISOs). No additional intermediate loader such as grub2 or syslinux is used.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Raspberry Pi 3 multiboot E2B USB drive (untested!)

I notice that the Raspberry Pi 3 can be made to boot from a USB storage device by setting a one-time programmable bit (see video here and blog article here).

The Raspberry Pi 4 does not yet have this capability, but it should be possible in the future.

I don't own a Pi 3, but looking at the Raspbian download .img file, it contains two MBR-partitions, a FAT32 boot partition and a ext partition. This means it should be possible to boot a Raspberry Pi 3 (and later on, a Pi 4) from any .imgPTN file on an Easy2Boot drive. So you could have multiple Pi .imgPTN files all on one E2B USB drive.

I am unsure if it also makes a swap partition and if it does, how it makes the swap partition, so this process may totally corrupt your E2B drive. For this reason I suggest that you test it on a spare E2B USB drive first. Please let me know if you feel like experimenting but don't use your E2B drive if it contains any wanted files! It would be cool to have multiple Pi images on one E2B USB drive.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

How to find any file in seconds (no Indexing needed)!

How many times a day do you spend ages looking for a file that you know is on a drive in your system somewhere, but you just can't remember where you put it?

Well, SwiftSearch (use latest version which is currently v7.5) is a portable, standalone Windows program on SourceForge that will find your file(s) in seconds as long as it is on an NTFS volume. It does this by directly accessing the $MFT (directory) on each NTFS volume in your system and it's really quick!



I use this utility about 20 times every day and have it pinned to my taskbar!

Monday, 17 June 2019

How to extract the hidden contents in 'special' ISOs and images using 7Zip

7Zip is pretty good at opening ISOs and other files. However, sometimes you may find that it does not expand the contents correctly.

I learned recently of a way to use 7Zip to reveal these 'secret' files.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Easy2Boot v1.B2 and MPI Tool Kit v0.096 now released

E2B v1.B2 and MPI Tool Kit v0.096 are now available from the 1Drive and Box download areas.

I will update the main web site and the FossHub site in a few days.

Changes for E2B are as detailed in previous blog.

Read eBook #1 for details on how to remove the blue E2B startup banner screen (or contact me for details if you have already made a donation).

Changes from MPI Tool Kit v0.095 to 0.096 are:
  • Add Czech language for CSM menu
  • Add latest E2B_Editor.exe to MPI folder
  • KBD variable can now be used to set KBD type
  • Update grub4dos (\grldr file)
  • Add all KBD translation files.
The MPI CSM Legacy menu now supports English, German, Hungarian and Czech. To use a non-English menu, create a MyCSM.cfg file in the .\CUSTOM folder and set the LANG and KBD variables.

Please update your E2B drives and let me know if you spot any problem. You can easily downgrade to a previous version of E2B very quickly if required.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Latest E2B v1.B2e Beta with bugfix for some Acronis ISOs hanging


Some bugs have been found and fixed in grub4dos.

The most serious for users is that a few Acronis ISOs seem to hang when using the previous version of grub4dos.

Changes from released version v1.B1 are (v1.B2e changes in red):
  • Bugfix: grub4dos hangs when booting some Acronis ISOs.
  • Bugfix: grub4dos blue\black color setting causes green background
  • New feature: %MEMSIZE% and %BITNESS% variables can now be used in HEADING and HELPTEXT or anywhere inside MyE2B.cfg (e.g. 2028 64)
  • Add Slovenian language files and Croat\Slov kbd file added (thanks to Peter K).
  • Add Turkish language and kbd (thanks to Tayfun)
  • Add improved Czech language files (thanks to Pepa) and new Czech kbd files
  • Bugfix for switching to .imgPTN after ptn2/ptn1 switched over using RMPrepUSB-Ctrl-O-2.
  • Improve ISO's VOL and UUID which are displayed below menu area
  • Improve E2B_Editor.exe for MyCSM.cfg editing (will add language and kbd from a .imgPTN USB drive)
  • Improve change kbd and change wallpaper .mnu menu files
  • Change QEMU to use standard VGA graphics ROM instead of cirrus logic graphics ROM
  • Tweaks to \_ISO\e2b\grub\menu.lst
  • Updated Make_E2B.exe

v1.B2e1 - bugfix in countfiles.g4b now works even if user has deleted any of the Windows sub-folders.

I hope to release this version soon, so let me know if you spot a problem.

Adding UEFI-bootable Lenovo BIOS updates to E2B (maybe?)

The Lenovo BIOS updates are typically either in .iso form or you can download their executable Windows BIOS Update (Flash from operating system version) utility and run it under Windows or WinPE (not all WinPEs will work, choose one with WoW64 such as Strelec or Bob Omb's WinPE).

If a UEFI .ISO update file (not a BIOS update ISO) is provided, you can convert this to a FAT32 .imgPTN file in the usual way.

Sometimes a .zip file is provided. This can be drag-and-dropped onto the MPI_FAT32 Desktop shortcut to make a FAT32 .imgPTN file.

After making a .imgPTN file, always check that it contains a \EFI\BOOT\BOOTX64.EFI file - if not, then it is not going to UEFI64 boot (check by opening the .imgPTN file using 7Zip).

Method 1 uses the ISO, Method 2 uses the utility which makes a bootable flash drive (but we use it to make a .imgPTN file instead)...

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

New 'superspeed' download site for E2B and RMPrepUSB

FossHub now (today!) are hosting the stable release versions of E2B and RMPrepUSB.

Their servers are superfast too, so I hope to use them as the Primary source for downloads if all goes well.

Please try them out and let me know if you have any issues...

FossHub - Easy2Boot and MPI Tool Pack (superfast download for main releases only)
FossHub - RMPrepUSB (superfast download for main releases only)




Adding UEFI-booting of pfSense 2.4 to E2B

I have updated the blog article here (see end of the article) on how to convert the pfSense 2.4 version so that you can UEFI-boot from it to install it pfSense.

You do however need to MBR-boot to switch in the imgPTN file first (you cannot just use Switch_E2B.exe and then UEFI-boot).



Saturday, 8 June 2019

E2B v1.B2d Beta available

Changes from released version v1.B1 are:
  • Add Slovenian language files and Croat\Slov kbd file added (thanks to Peter K).
  • Add Turkish language and kbd (thanks to Tayfun)
  • Add improved Czech language files (thanks to Pepa) and new Czech kbd files
  • Bugfix for switching to .imgPTN after ptn2/ptn1 switched over using RMPrepUSB-Ctrl-O-2.
  • Improve ISO's VOL and UUID which are displayed below menu area
  • Improve E2B_Editor.exe for MyCSM.cfg editing (will add language and kbd from a .imgPTN USB drive)
  • Improve change kbd and change wallpaper .mnu menu files
  • Change QEMU to use standard VGA graphics ROM instead of cirrus logic graphics ROM
  • Tweaks to \_ISO\e2b\grub\menu.lst
  • Updated Make_E2B.exe

Monday, 3 June 2019

Easy2Boot eBook #1 now only $5!

http://www.easy2boot.com/download/ebook/

The first eBook is now reduced to just $5.
You can get 10% of all eBooks if you buy more than one.

Read eBook #1 for details on how to remove the blue E2B startup banner screen (or contact me for details if you have already made a donation).