[syslinux] 10 year old question

Ady ady-sf at hotmail.com
Wed May 13 10:24:30 PDT 2020

> Syslinux is used to boot many distributions of linux however on this hardware
> the most recent version of syslinux that I have seen work is version 3.82 or
> version 3.83. If I try a distribution on v4 or newer of syslinux I see the boot
> hang on the first line indicating what version of syslinux is being used. 
Are you saying that official Syslinux 3.86 (the last in the 3.xx) fails to boot 
this system while 3.82 succeeds?

How _exactly_ do you install the bootloader to the destination media? Which 
_exact_ version of v4.xx have you tried? Is it from some package or from 
built-in binaries from upstream Syslinux?

> webdt.org has been read only for years now and mostly due to the fact that
> owners of the hardware are limited to old versions of puppy linux, the last to
> support the aging hardware in the world. This is largely due to the fact that
> syslinux has updated to the point of no longer supporting the hardware.
> Grub-0.97 is also the last version of grub that supports the hardware so this is
> not singular. 
> The irony of the packaging timelines with regard to this hardware are humorous.
> At the point in time that linux console tools, and namely inputattach, started
> to support this hardware (penmount serial touchscreen being able to attach to
> evdev) was about one version behind the point that syslinux started to not
> support the hardware. Accidental I am sure however it is very hard to make a
> version fo linux to support this hardware due to these timelines. 
You could install whichever version of SYSLINUX as bootloader, independently of 
which Linux OS you are booting. IOW, you don't really have to use the package 
from the OS you are installing. Some binaries of some upstream versions might 
fail under some circumstances (e.g. some library / dependency incompatibility 
or so), but, generally speaking, it is worth trying them.

> My questions are:
> Was this by design? I well understand dropping legacy to advance code but with
> so many of these in the wild.....   ebay dt research or webdt. I see over a
> thousand of them today in lot quantities.
Is it possible that the only real problem here is that you need to specify a 
number of sectors and/or a number of heads when executing the SYSLINUX 
installer, for the resulting code to be able to boot this hardware in this 

Have you tried using the "-s" slow, stupid, safe option of the SYSLINUX 

In the Syslinux wiki, I would suggest searching for the "Install" wiki page.

> Is there anything I can do to get more modern versions of syslinux to boot on
> the hardware in question?  IE workarounds or modifications to boot lines being
> used?
Read my prior questions / hints/ suggestions.

> We are supported by linux kernel up to version 5 on the hardware. It would be
> nice if other areas of linux followed suit. I have leaned on distribution
> maintainers to possibly make an iso with older syslinux on it so that owners of
> the hardware would be supported however many indicate they would not be sure
> they could support it. 
I'm confused; please clarify. Are you looking for an ISO image, or for a way to 
install SYSLINUX (whichever version you would need) as bootloader to/of the 
storage media?

If you are looking for an ISO image, do you mean that you need for it to use 
SYSLINUX as bootloader (either as floppy emulation or as HDD emulation), 
instead of using ISOLINUX (no emulation)?

Since, of course :), you already tried with Slitaz (and Puppy), I am wondering 
whether the problem is in Slitaz itself, or rather in the bootloader package. 
The Syslinux-related tools in Slitaz are great (and in fact, I wish they were 
in upstream too), but it is worth noting that they are made in-house, and thus, 
upstream Syslinux binaries might behave differently (i.e. the results might 

FWIW, older Puppy variants used to use SYSLINUX 3.xx for a very long time. You 
might be able to use a SYSLINUX installer from one of those older versions in 
order to install SYSLINUX 3.xx, just to be able to boot with it, and from it 
you should be able to start a newer Linux kernel by editing syslinux.cfg.


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