USB  boot fails due to syslinux.cfg errors

Forum: USB booting
Topic: USB  boot fails due to syslinux.cfg errors
started by: Z038

Posted by Z038 on Dec. 30 2004,04:29
Hi.  I downloaded and burned current version 0.9.1 to a CD, and got DSL up almost right away.  I had to compile the source for my NIC driver and load it via expert mode from a floppy, but that was my only issue.  But for the past several days I've been trying to get a USB pen drive to boot with DSL, and I'm getting nowhere fast.  

First I tried the desktop right click --> Apps --> Tools --> Install to USB pendrive method, and that didn't work.  It opens a window, downloads stuff, runs a script, prompts me to format my drive, and then the window just disappears when I tell it to go ahead and do it.  I don't get a chance to see the error messages, but I looked at the shell script, and I think the problem is that it is expecting a 0.8.x version of the CD, and I'm running 0.9.1.  So I gave up on that approach.

Then I tried to manually configure my pen drive.  Basically I was trying to follow the instructions, more or less, in the howto doc supplied on the DSL disc at  file:/usr/share/doc/dsl/DSL_on_USB.html  

First I downloaded the current 2.13 version of syslinux from  I created the ldlinux.sys file using the linux version of syslinux from bash, then copied the knoppix directory the pen drive.  It got to the boot: prompt, but then failed saying it couldn't find the linux kernel.  So I manually created a syslinux.cfg and tried to give it knoppix as the name of the kernel.   syslinux complained at boot up that my syslinux.cfg file had unknown keywords.  So that didn't work.

Next I downloaded mkdosfs and reformatted my USB drive a couple of different ways using mkdosfs at bash, repeating the steps I've described above.  That didn't work.  

So I booted Windows and reformatted the USB pen drive again, and used the Windows version of syslinux.exe to put ldlinux.sys on it, and rebuilt everything as described above.  That didn't work.

So I downloaded the new triple boot zip file and followed the instructions in it to create my USB pen drive, and that didn't work either.  And that is where I am right now.  

Here is what I see when I boot.

SYSLINUX 2.13  2004-12-14 Copyright ... etc.
Unknown keyword in syslinux.cfg
Unknown keyword in syslinux.cfg
Unknown keyword in syslinux.cfg
Unknown keyword in syslinux.cfg
Unknown keyword in syslinux.cfg
Unknown keyword in syslinux.cfg
Unknown keyword in syslinux.cfg
Unknown keyword in syslinux.cfg
Unknown keyword in syslinux.cfg
Unknown keyword in syslinux.cfg
Unknown keyword in syslinux.cfg
Could not find kernel image:  linux

I've tried following the instructions exactly, and I've tried my own probably dumb variations that I thought would work, but all to no avail.  I can't seem to get it.  

My drive is a Lexar 256M Jumpdrive Pro.  It boots, but syslinux just doesn't seem to like the sysconfig file.  Can somebody help me with this?

Posted by Z038 on Dec. 31 2004,01:49
So no one else has had these syslinux.cfg errors before?  I'm using the syslinux configuration file from the triple boot zip that John Roberts posted a few days ago.  I haven't modified it at all, and I'm sure it must be working for most people who have tried it.  

Well, how about a couple of other questions then?  

1) Has anyone else used syslinux version 2.13 from that was current as of 14 December 2004, and if so, did it work with the syslinux config file that's on the triple boot zip?  

2) What versions of syslinux are known to work with DSL 0.9 for booting from a USB pen drive?  

3) Has anyone gotten the latest 0.9 DSL to work on a USB pen drive newly formatted with syslinux also newly installed on it (ldlinux.sys)?  If so, what version of syslinux did you use?  

I just noticed that there's a new syslinux version 3.0 on that has today's date, 30 December 2004.  I'll give that one a try later tonight after I eat supper.  Still, I'd love to hear if anyone else has had this problem, and how they got past it.  

I'm thinking of downloading the 0.8.x version of DSL and see if I can install to USB with that version.  I hate going backwards, though.

Posted by ke4nt1 on Dec. 31 2004,03:03
I have a lexar jumpdrive 256MB pendrive..
I have had no issues..

Currently running the 0.9.1 , with many extensions ..
I use the "install to USB Pendrive" option from menu,
which uses the boot image found in the repository..
( it has been the same since DSL 0.8 )

One thing I DID have to do is change the geometry of the key,
with sfdisk, and make a fat16 partition on the pendrive BEFORE
I ran the "Install to USB Pendrive" choice from menu ..

See this thread for details on using sfdisk on the Lexar..
Look for my post describing the steps I used for THIS key.
<;st=10 >
It's on page 2 of this thread..

This works on my computer, because it's bios offers
a boot from USB-ZIP option, and has USB Keyboard ENABLED.

Other mobo's may behave differently..

cbagger01 has had good success with OTHER motherboard options by using
the HP USBkey Formatting utility , and then running the install script ,
or using a dos boot (loadlin) , then booting to linux from there.

Let us know.
The syslinux version should not be an issue for you..
And I've no idea how the "triple-boot" behaves,
or if your NIC modules you built are an issue..
Have you tried building only a regular stock DSL 0.9.1 that boots ?


Posted by Z038 on Dec. 31 2004,19:30
ke4ntl, thank you for pointing out that thread to me.  It was very helpful.  As a result of the information in that thread, I've made some progress, but it's of the "two steps forward, one step back" variety.  ???

I'm going to get this figured out eventually, but I thought I'd give an update on where I am right now.  

I was finally able to get the "Install to pen drive" option of DSL to write to my Lexar 256M Jumpdrive Pro.  I can mount it and browse it, but I can no longer boot it.  Might be a BIOS thing, I'm not sure yet.  When I boot Fedora off my HDD with the USB key in the slot, Fedora tells me my BIOS appears not to have the fix for K8 errata #93 and suggests disabling Legacy USB support.  So I've got to go research that.  It didn't used to tell me that with my original factory formatting of my USB drive.  

I didn't find sfdisk to be all that intuitive to use.  I tried to use it like you suggested, but because I ultimately plan to use the triple boot install with the 60M QEMU shared drive, I was aiming for 128M for each of two partitions.  

sfdisk interprets the partition size you specify as cylinders, by default, if it is able to interpret the drive geometry.  So it would take 75 or 128 to be cylinders, not mebibytes.  I couldn't figure out how many cylinders to specify to get two drives of 128M, especially since I wasn't sure whether that should be based on the old or new cylinder size, but after googling a bit, I discovered that I could change the units to mebibytes.  Much nicer that way.    

Here's what I entered that worked, after numerous attempts that either failed altogether or worked but didn't give me what I wanted:

[root@localhost /]# sfdisk /dev/sda -uM << EOF
> ,127
> ;

And here is the output:

Checking that no-one is using this disk right now ...

Disk /dev/sda: 1980 cylinders, 8 heads, 32 sectors/track
Old situation:
Units = mebibytes of 1048576 bytes, blocks of 1024 bytes, counting from 0

  Device Boot Start   End    MiB    #blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1         0+   247-   248-    253439+  83  Linux
/dev/sda2         0      -      0          0    0  Empty
/dev/sda3         0      -      0          0    0  Empty
/dev/sda4         0      -      0          0    0  Empty
New situation:
Units = mebibytes of 1048576 bytes, blocks of 1024 bytes, counting from 0

  Device Boot Start   End    MiB    #blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1         0+   126    127-    130047+  83  Linux
/dev/sda2       127    247-   121-    123392   83  Linux
/dev/sda3         0      -      0          0    0  Empty
/dev/sda4         0      -      0          0    0  Empty
Warning: no primary partition is marked bootable (active)
This does not matter for LILO, but the DOS MBR will not boot this disk.
Successfully wrote the new partition table

Re-reading the partition table ...

If you created or changed a DOS partition, /dev/foo7, say, then use dd(1)
to zero the first 512 bytes:  dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/foo7 bs=512 count=1
(See fdisk(8).)

Then I tried to use the script again to build the system, and it failed due to an odd number of sectors, or something like that.  The script suggests setting mtools_skip_check=1 in the .mtoolsrc file.  I just exported it instead, as in export mtools_skip_check=1, then ran the frugal shell script again, and this time it built the system on my USB drive.  

TA DUM!  I could smell success...   but it was not to be...  not just yet...

My system used to recognize the original jumpdrive and try to boot from it, and then I would get the syslinux.cfg error, but like I said before, now the BIOS skips over it and boots Fedora from my HDD and gives me that  K8 errata #93 error.  

Anyway, I've got enough other things to try that I don't need any more immediate help right now.  I'll post back later with more results, as the saga continues...  Alas, first I have to go paint my bedroom.  Whatadrag!  I really hate it when real life intrudes too much into my play time.   :p

Posted by Caspar_s on Dec. 31 2004,22:21
Hmmm, I had the same info on my 256mb flash.  Is there any reason it has 4 partitions, one of which takes all the available memory?

I deleted them all and then made a new one with all the space, made it bootable, and then ran the install script.  It was nice and easy - although I am thinking I might need to do something about the booting - so I don't have to keep changing the bios to boot from cd, USb or hdd... :-)

Posted by Z038 on Jan. 02 2005,15:42
Caspar_s, there are four partitions, called primary partitions, on any bootable disk because the structure of the master boot record, aka MBR, has remained basically unchanged since the IBM DOS 2.0 design from 1983, and it was designed to accommodate four partitions.  The structure of the MBR has become an  OS-independent de facto standard that allows for booting any operating system on x86 PC hardware.  

You'll always be using the first partition.  You can subdivide your space and allocate some to one or more of the other partitions if you want.  

This page < Simple Guide to Hard Disk Partitions > gives a very good basic explanation of partitions and the MBR.  

An extensive compilation of historical information about the MBR, drive geometries, changes introduced at different versions of DOS and Windows, and even original FDISK assembler code, can be found at < The Starman's Realm >.

Also, see this thread < Pendrive geometry > started by JohnS on this forum for an explanation of how to calculate the partition sizes you want if you decide to use more than one partition, and a simple procedure for creating them using sfdisk and mkdosfs.  I carved my pendrive up into two partitions, sda1 for 125MB, and sda2 with the remainder of the space.  I didn't allocate any space to partitions 3 or 4.

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