[syslinux] syslinux vs grub

H. Peter Anvin hpa at zytor.com
Sat Jan 8 18:33:58 PST 2005

Patrick J. LoPresti wrote:
>>What I really mean is I'm still debating whether or not to develop
>>syslinux further, whether or not I should develop it further but in
>>a different direction, or take the project to maintenance-only mode.
> You asked what it would take to replace GRUB.  For that, I do think
> handling file systems other than FAT and ext2 is a requirement.  Last
> I checked, SUSE still defaulted to reiserfs.  And I have seriously
> considered moving my own systems to XFS.  If you do not want to code
> support for each file system yourself (and I don't blame you), then I
> would suggest providing some kind of framework where other motivated
> hackers can add support for their favorite file systems.
> File system "modules" was just an idea, as was the command-line stuff.
> They would be useful for floppy boot disks, which I myself have found
> handy once or twice.  But I could still use GRUB for that if my system
> were normally booted by EXTLINUX (or XFSLINUX or whatever).

More filesystems isn't a problem; the framework for that is already 
there, and with the EXTLINUX work I did a lot of (necessary) cleanup 
that allows disk-based filesystems to share code.  So supporting XFS and 
Reiser is probably not that hard, although I need to make symlinks work 
in EXTLINUX first.

It's supporting multiple filesystems *at the same time* that really and 
thoroughly breaks the syslinux model.  This could mean it's the wrong 
model, and that's what I'm trying to assess.

>>In particular, I'm starting to seriously questioning the value of
>>some of the advanced features I have on the drawing board (and in
>>some cases, partially implemented) when built on top of the syslinux
>>framework.  I don't want to spend a lot of time building those new
>>features if they are ultimately useless.
> Well, I guess it depends on what your goals are.  GRUB is certainly
> ripe for replacement in a lot of ways, IMO.  It is bloated, the
> maintainers are largely non-responsive, and the whole project is
> pretty much stalled.  If you want to try to supplant it, I think you
> will find lots of people rooting for you and wanting to help where we
> can.

Part of what I'm trying to do is to figure out what the goals should be. 
  Building on the syslinux platform, I think I can do a lot of things 
*except* support multiple filesystems.

For one thing, I'm well on the way to have a graphics subsystem for 
com32.  It doesn't take that long to port standard libraries to libcom32.


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