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Bug#45507: Try making a boot floppy with something other than "syslinux"

I had identical problems with the standard-issue slink rescue floppy. The
is a Dell Omniplex 590 (Phoenix BIOS, Pentium 90 Mhz - the one with the
bug). It would boot into the syslinux menu fine, then when I hit <Enter> on
"boot: " prompt, it would start loading "root.bin", give me a few dots, and
then hang
the machine. The monitor light would go from green to yellow, shortly after
indicating the box is no longer seeing the monitor (?).

I suspected a buggy floppy driver in the BIOS, so the first thing I tried
was upgrade
the BIOS to the latest available from Dell. That didn't fix the problem.

I then tried a RedHat 6.0 rescue floppy, which worked just fine. This
confirmed that
there was nothing fundamentally wrong with my box, it just didn't like the
Debian rescue
floppy for some reason.

I looked into the "syslinux" documentation, learned about the "-s" option
(safe, slow and stupid) and figured that might work in case I had buggy BIOS
drivers. So I made my own rescue floppy with "syslinux -s". That didn't
help, either.

At this point I figured I should try something other than "syslinux". There
is a utility
called "mkrboot" which is very handy for making rescue floppies. It's
available as a
debian package. "mkrboot" provides several methods for booting, one of them
being "syslinux". I tried the "kernel" boot method, which produced a floppy
that booted
the Dell just fine, and gave me the welcome screen.

All you need to make a rescue floppy is a Linux kernel and the file
"root.bin" (and 
obviously, another system that is already running Linux on which you make
rescue floppy). Install the "mkrboot" package. Then download the standard
kernel (let's call this "linux")  and the standard "root.bin". You can find
links to these
files in the html version of the slink installation manual. Now stick a
blank floppy in the
floppy drive (/dev/fd0) and type "mkrboot kernel linux root.bin". This will
create a rescue floppy which might work for you, as it did for me. 

Also check the manpage for "mkrboot". I haven't tried all the other boot
methods (such as "loadlin", "lilo" etc) but I think it's worth understanding
and trying all of them. There are many quirky motherboards out there even on
brand-name desktops. It helps to have three or four different kinds of
rescue floppies handy.

- Ganesh.

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