A21 Booting Linux from Floppy Disk

The only way to store a Linux kernel on a single floppy disk is to compress the kernel image. As we shall see, compression is done at compile time and decompression is done by the loader.

If the Linux kernel is loaded from a floppy disk, the boot loader is quite simple. It is coded in the arch/i386/boot/bootsect.S assembly language file. When a new kernel image is produced by compiling the kernel source, the executable code yielded by this assembly language file is placed at the beginning of the kernel image file. Thus, it is very easy to produce a bootable floppy by copying the Linux kernel image to the floppy disk starting from the first sector of the disk. When the BIOS loads the first sector of the floppy disk into memory, it actually copies the code of the boot loader.

The boot loader, which is invoked by the BIOS by jumping to physical address 0x00007c00, performs the following operations:

1. Moves itself from address 0x00007c00 to address 0x00090000.

2. Sets up the Real Mode stack from address 0x00003ff4. As usual, the stack grows toward lower addresses.

3. Sets up the disk parameter table, used by the BIOS to handle the floppy device

4. Invokes a BIOS procedure to display a "Loading" message.

5. Invokes a BIOS procedure to load the setup( ) code of the kernel image from the floppy disk and puts it in RAM starting from address 0x00090200.

6. Invokes a BIOS procedure to load the rest of the kernel image from the floppy disk and puts the image in RAM starting from either low address 0x00010000 (for small kernel images compiled with make zImage) or high address 0x00100000 (for big kernel images compiled with make bzImage). In the following discussion, we say that the kernel image is "loaded low" or "loaded high" in RAM, respectively. Support for big kernel images uses essentially the same booting scheme as the other one, but it places data in different physical memory addresses to avoid problems with the ISA hole mentioned in Section 2.5.3.

7. Jumps to the setup( ) code. A.2.2 Booting Linux from Hard Disk

In most cases, the Linux kernel is loaded from a hard disk, and a two-stage boot loader is required. The most commonly used Linux boot loader on 80 x 86 systems is named LInux LOader (LILO); corresponding programs exist for other architectures. LILO may be installed either on the MBR (replacing the small program that loads the boot sector of the active partition) or in the boot sector of a (usually active) disk partition. In both cases, the final result is the same: when the loader is executed at boot time, the user may choose which operating system to load.

The LILO boot loader is broken into two parts, since otherwise it is too large to fit into the MBR. The MBR or the partition boot sector includes a small boot loader, which is loaded into RAM starting from address 0x00007c00 by the BIOS. This small program moves itself to the address 0x0009a000, sets up the Real Mode stack (ranging from 0x0009b000 to

0x0009a200), and loads the second part of the LILO boot loader into RAM starting from address 0x000 9b000. In turn, this latter program reads a map of available operating systems from disk and offers the user a prompt so she can choose one of them. Finally, after the user has chosen the kernel to be loaded (or let a time-out elapse so that LILO chooses a default), the boot loader may either copy the boot sector of the corresponding partition into RAM and execute it or directly copy the kernel image into RAM.

Assuming that a Linux kernel image must be booted, the LILO boot loader, which relies on BIOS routines, performs essentially the same operations as the boot loader integrated into the kernel image described in the previous section about floppy disks. The loader displays the "Loading Linux" message; then it copies the integrated boot loader of the kernel image to address 0x00090000, the setup( ) code to address 0x00090200, and the rest of the kernel image to address 0x00010000 or 0x00100000. Then it jumps to the setup( ) code.

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