[syslinux] syslinux vs grub

Marc Haisenko haisenko at webport.de
Fri Jan 7 03:39:54 PST 2005

On Friday 07 January 2005 10:50, H. Peter Anvin wrote:
> Okay, I'm going to ask the gajillion-dollar question...
> [...]
> Is it worth bothering with going forward, or am I wasting my time?  If
> so, what should I be focusing on?
> 	-hpa

I personally dislike grub because it's difficult to set up (IMHO)... I've 
tried to set up GRUB half a dozen times and always failed, only recently I've 
managed to get it working...

The things I like about SYSLINUX is:
- it's easy to set up
- the configuration (file) can easily be changed without the need to re-run
   the installer (unlike LILO, for example)
- the configuration is easy to write in the first place (unlike GRUB)
- It Just Works (tm), never had any problems with it
- it's extensible through COM32 programs (although we've never needed that)

Let me explain why and how our company uses SYSLINUX (note that I'm actually 
working for a company called Be OK/Comdasys, I only use the POP account of 
our partner Webport for mailing lists ;-)

We're using SYSLINUX to boot our products (VPN gateways with VoIP proxy). One 
thing we're doing is having a four partition layout: one boot partition 
(FAT16, SYSLINUX), two main partitions and one /etc paritition (all basic 
packages like sysvinit have been patched to not use /etc but another 
directory which lives on the main partition so the system can boot without 
an /etc directory). Now one main partition is in use and the second one is 
where updates are installed into. Once an update was installed successfully 
into the unused main partition my installer mounts the FAT16 partition, sed's 
the syslinux.cfg and reboots. This way we ensure that the system is always 
bootable, even when the update failed (in that case the syslinux.cfg won't be 
touched and the old main partition is booted). The only critical point is 
when the syslinux.cfg is rewritten, the system may crash at any other point 
in the update process and it is guaranteed to boot up fine.

I don't know a way to do something like this with any other boot loader.


Marc Haisenko
Webport IT-Services GmbH
mailto: haisenko at webport.de

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