|Subject:||Fun abusing grub...|
|Date:||Sat, 15 Oct 2005 12:42:16 -0400 (EDT)|
Greetings, I didn't try to break any records, but I did try to make a good reference machine for each of these operating systems and get real experience about handling real devices. Enclosed, read the touching tale of my attempts at installing 9 different operating systems under Grub. --Chris
I did this, not as an exercise in self abuse, but rather to learn how to install each of the operating systems at a deeper level than is required with a simple install on a naked system. If all I had wanted was 9 different operating systems running on one machine, the easiest, most efficient way would be to install 8 of them as virtual machines on a VMWare platform running on the 9th. Indeed, VMWare would have had many advantages:
|Operating system||Revision||Where to get it|
|Windows||XP Professional||(available at a Walmart near you)|
* Note that I did not end up installing Solaris in the final machine configuration due to conflicts with partitioning and lack of ethernet support.
In all cases, I performed the installations from CDs. Most of the Linuxes provide procedures where you create a small amount of read-only media (i.e. floppies, a single CDROM or a single DVD) and then "bootstrap" up enough to get the rest of the distribution over the Internet. I chose not to do that because I kept making mistakes and it was faster to make mistakes, correct them and start over using CDs then to try to re-download all of the information from the Internet. If you know what you are doing, by all means, install directly from the Internet. However, the second time you find yourself doing the same installation, remember... "I told you so."
I chose to consider a system completely installed if I could:
|Product:||Dell Latitude CPi|
|Processor:||Mobile Pentium II|
|Frame buffer:||Neomagic Corporation NM2360|
|Mouse device:||Synoptics touchpad|
|CardBus:||Xircom CardBus Ethernet 10/100 + Modem 56
SMC 2632W V2 Wireless adapter
Well, not actually.
Since I made errors sizing the software, I ended up installing, re-installing, saving, restoring etc. multiple times. It is possible to recover from partitioning mistakes without backing up and restoring everything though absolutely no vendor would recommend it.
In determining the layout of the disk, I ran into a nomenclature problem with vendor documentation. The term "partition" and "slice" are used, basically, interchangeably, and sometimes a partition within a partition is called a "sub-partition" and sometimes it is just referred to as a "partition".
All of the operating systems try to prevent the administrator from having to care about what is a partition or a subpartition, so their documentation simply refers to the chunk of disk where a file system goes as a "partition" whether it is a partition, a sub-partition or a slice.
The Linuxes all refer to partitions on the laptop's primary disk as "hda" followed by a number. It numbers the partitions as it finds them and it looks for them in the following order:
On the other hand, FreeBSD attempts to denote the partitions and the subpartitions. For instance, the first partition in the BSD system is "ad0s1a". FreeBSD can see the first sub-partition on the extended partition (aka hda5) as "ad0s5".
OpenDarwin understands Windows slicing about as well as Windows does: It needs to boot off a top level partition but can access extended partitions.
Solaris is very like FreeBSD in that it has its own label-within-a-label. Unfortunately, the Solaris and FreeBSD labels are not identical, so it is not possible to have both operating systems reside within a single label as it is possible to have all of the Linuxes within the Microsoft Windows extended partitions.
|01||ad0s1||disk0s1||hda1||FreeBSD 5.4-RC3-i386 label||4000 MB||sysinstall|
|1||ad0s1a||hda13||FreeBSD 5.4-RC3-i386 /||1300 MB|
|2||ad0s1b||hda14||FreeBSD 5.4-RC3-i386 swap||2700 MB|
|02||ad0s2||hda2||Solaris 10**||Suninstall, pkgadd|
|02||ad0s2||disk0s2||hda2||OpenDarwin 7.2.1||916 MB||rpm|
|03||ad0s3||disk0s3||C:||hda3||Windows XP Professional, 2002 w/sp 1||1700 MB||setup|
|04||ad0s4||disk0s4||hda4||Extended partition||17391 MB|
|1||ad0s5||disk0s5||hda5||Fedora Core 4||6800 MB||Anaconda, yum|
|2||ad0s6||disk0s6||hda6||SuSE 9||2000 MB||YaST2|
|3||ad0s7||disk0s7||hda7||Ubuntu 5.04||1200 MB||apt-get|
|4||ad0s8||disk0s8||hda8||Debian 30r5-i386||3000 MB||apt-get, dselect, dpkg|
|5||ad0s9||disk0s9||hda9||Slackware 10.1||1400 MB||setup, pkgtool, installpkg|
|6||ad0s10||disk0s10||hda10||Gentoo 2005.0||1600 MB||emerge|
**I also had installed Solaris version 10 on the second partition during this experiment. However, I discovered that the Solaris, OpenDarwin, FreeBSD and Windows labeling schemes were only compatible at the top level. That is, Solaris, OpenDarwin, FreeBSD and Windows were all going to end up occupying a top level partition. Since you only get four top level partitions and Solaris had no support for any of the CardBus ethernet cards I had, it became the odd-man-out. If Windows had fully supported its own extended partitioning system, then it could have ended up being installed on one of the logical partitions in the extend partition (thereby freeing up a top level partition for Solaris). However, the Windows booter must be in a top level partition.
Generally, each operating system has a boot block which, if you execute it, will understand enough of that particular operating system's filesystem structure to at least track down the next phase of the booting process on the disk. Most of the operating systems will give you the choice of installing that boot block in the master boot record or as the boot record for the partition where that particular operating system is located. I chose to do the latter.
I chose to use the GRand Unified Booter (GRUB) booter for the primary boot and had it get its grub.conf configuration file from my Fedora Core 4 /boot directory. It could have been any one of the Linuxes and perhaps any of the others, but that configuration file allows me to specify where the other boot blocks are located.
Grub not only understands grabbing the boot block from a specified partition, but it also understands several file system types including ext3 and reiserfs (used by default by SuSE), so generally I am able to specify which kernel and which RAM disk to boot from directly in that file for any of the Linuxes.
In the case of the other operating system's, I simply load the first block from the partition associated with that operating system and let it take control.
Since Grub has been around awhile, I'll bet it is able to read FreeBSD style file systems and directly load in the FreeBSD kernel, but I simply have it read the first block in the FreeBSD partition and let it handle the next phase.
|Create & login as user:||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Run graphical interface:||Gnome||X11 & xdm||Windows||Gnome & KDE||Gnome||Gnome||Gnome||Gnome||Gnome|
|Browse Internet:||Mozilla||no||Internet Explorer||Mozilla||Mozilla||Mozilla||Mozilla||Mozilla||Mozilla|
|Compile & run "hello.c":||gcc||gcc||cygwin*****||gcc||gcc||gcc||gcc||gcc||gcc|
|Edit a document:||kword||vi||OpenOffice******||OpenOffice||OpenOffice||OpenOffice||OpenOffice||AbiWord/a>||vi*******|
***Clearly, my lack of ability to get packets to the machine while it was running OpenDarwin caused me to fail many of my goals while running that operating system.
****Wireless was not a requirement, but I like to work on my porch and tried it out when it was easy. Some of the operating systems have nice wireless configuration support, and others leave you on your own with kernel module loading, etc. The fact that I don't list an operating system with wireless doesn't mean it doesn't have it, it just means I didn't try it or it was hard or the mosquitos were getting to me.
*****Yes, you can get a full compiler suite and almost every other standard Unix/Linux utility from http://sources.redhat.com/cygwin.
******Yes, you can run OpenOffice on Windows products. Get it from http://www.openoffice.org.
*******Also, lack of disk space prevented me from installing all kinds of software that would have allowed me to do more graphical text processing than "vi" with Gentoo and Slackware.
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