[syslinux] Problems booting from cd

Nazo nazosan at gmail.com
Tue May 2 14:11:33 PDT 2006

On 5/2/06, Ian Leonard <ian at smallworld.cx> wrote:
> Hi,
> I have a cd building system that has worked for ages. I made lots of
> changes before I noticed that it now produces non-bootable cd's. I made
> changes to the files that went on the cd rather than the programs than
> buildings the isos (mainly mkisofs). The cd's don't fail on all
> machines. It seems to be a combination of motherboard and cd drive. At
> boot time, the cd light flashes quickly before it tries to boot from the
> harddisk.
> Looking through this lists archive I see a couple of people have had
> similar problems. Suggestions range from the amount of data on the cd's
> and avoiding the Joliet extensions. I have tried the latter with no
> luck. I am producing a two cd set so the first disk is quite full.
> I have tried to go back to the previous working version but the change
> that did the damage must be quite subtle and I can't fix it.
> As I said, this seem similar to problems experienced by others. I would
> be keen to know if they got the problems solved.
> TIA.
> --
> Ian Leonard
> Please ignore spelling and punctuation - I did.
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I presume you are using mkisofs?  If so, can you tell us your command
line options?  If not, can you tell us what settings and what
software?  In my experience, these things can kind of be a little bit
picky and do like to mess up easily.

I'm doing something similar here where I maintain a directory with
several diagnostic tools and an installer/repair console for Windows
XP SP2.  I make changes very frequently (so frequently that I actually
dedicated one of my few very expensive mini-DVD+RWs for the purpose
even though mini-DVD-Rs are considerably cheaper and easier to waste.)
 I've run into the occasion or two in the past where I tweaked one
tiny option and bam it stopped booting even though the option seemed
unrelated.  In particular, filesystem CAN be somewhat picky.  Just in
case it might be of some use to you, here's the command line I'm using
(with irrelevant stuff like preparer removed):
mkisofs -o ultboot.iso -b isolinux/isolinux-debug.bin -c
isolinux/boot.cat -no-emul-boot -boot-load-size 4 -boot-info-table
-pad -relaxed-filenames -iso-level 1 -N -disable-deep-relocation
-exclude exclude -exclude EXCLUDE -exclude ultboot.iso -J ./

Bear in mind that that's just the basic idea for it.  Don't actually
use that because it has a very crappy filesystem set up there since I
had issues with Windows (then again, that was back when I didn't have
a bootable loader set up properly and had to install from DOS.  It may
no longer be necessary.)  A rock ridge extention probably wouldn't
hurt.  In particular, it's the binary for isolinux and the boot-loader
size that you probably most need to pay special attention to.

By the way, just so we get this question out of the way, have you
tested different media?  This is a problem mainly with DVDs since
today's burners still have considerably less burn quality than seems
reasonable (especially the cheap ones, but, even some of the expensive
ones really aren't as high quality as the price tag implies. 
Videohelp.com has a nice user submitted list of media and drives and
their respective qualities that may help.)  I have seen firsthand with
an older drive and a cheap DVD+RW combined with an old DVD-ROM that
exactly what you described can happen due to media/burn quality.  I
later burned a DVD+R of a higher quality and the same drive suddenly
could boot.  Ok, DVDs have a much higher rate of media quality issues
compared to CDs, but, it seems to me as if it could happen with CDs as

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