Linux Containers Authors: Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Zakia Bouachraoui

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

The best multiple-boot utility

Finding the best tool for multiple operating systems on one machine

(LinuxWorld) -- My sister asked me for the easiest way to install and boot multiple operating systems on the same machine. There are dozens of alternatives for the ambitious Linux guru, but the operative word here was "easiest." While she's perfectly capable of learning the gory details about boot records, BIOS limitations, or which operating systems refuse to boot unless they're convinced they are installed on the first partition of the first drive, she was in a hurry and wanted the quickest, easiest way to install Windows 98, Windows NT, and Linux and then boot between them.

This is an easy question, because I've installed and booted just about every combination of operating systems imaginable. My favorite solution has always been System Commander by V Communications. System Commander has always performed so well for me that I don't recall the last time I ever worried about which operating systems were finicky about how I partitioned the drives. System Commander usually managed those gory details for me automatically.

In the interest of saving her time and money, however, I browsed the Web to see if there was a decent open source alternative.

Candidate 1: The geeky GRUB

The first one I came across is one of the best known, called GRUB, the GRand Unified Boot-loader. The problem with GRUB is that it is about as geekified a boot loader as one can possibly imagine. If, like me, you're at least 77 percent geek and love to tweak every little customization option, that's a good thing. However, it wasn't what I was after in this case.

Candidate 2: The sexy XOSL

As I sifted through the rest of the better-known alternatives, I stumbled upon a GPL open source boot loader I'd never heard of before. It's called the Extended Operating System Loader, or XOSL. I was put off by the documentation at first, because the instructions made it seem like setting up XOSL would be a complicated, tedious procedure. Upon closer inspection, I could see that most of the warnings revolved around obsolete BIOS limitations (not a consideration here), and the stupid mistakes you can make that can render an OS unbootable.

By the way, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you add another OS to your system and in so doing made Windows NT/2000/XP unbootable, have a look at BootPart, a handy dandy utility for exactly this situation.

Anyway, I downloaded the XOSL zip file that includes the binary installation files and unzipped them into a directory on my Windows 98SE C: drive partition. I was running Linux at the time, so I used System Commander to boot to MS-DOS mode in order to run the XOSL install.exe file.

I answered a few installation questions, and bada-boom, bada-bing, I had replaced System Commander with a fancy new boot loader that worked great. XOSL makes it easy to hide drives and partitions, which is often necessary to make operating systems like Windows NT boot properly from anything but the first partition of the first drive. In addition, its use of graphics mode rather than character mode makes it one of the more attractive boot loaders out there.

The one thing that even my aging copy of System Commander (version 4.01) still does better than XOSL is that it allows me to boot multiple DOS-related operating systems and different Window 98 configurations from the same partition. If XOSL can do this, I haven't discovered how yet.

Candidate 3: The stalwart System Commander

As it turns out, my sister bought System Commander 7.0 anyway. I installed it to have a look at how far it has come along in three versions, and it has progressed quite a bit. It now includes Partition Commander 6, which means you can create, resize, move, and copy partitions without purchasing another product.

Partition Commander can resize Linux ext2 partitions, but I'm happy with my Linux partitions the way they are, so I tested its partition resizing against my Windows installation in order to kick the tires. When I ran the performance wizard, it recommended that I could get better performance if I shrink the Windows 98SE partition and create a separate partition for the Windows swap file. I let it proceed to do exactly that. Everything ended up in perfect condition, but the process took a lot longer than I expected. I could have rented and watched Aliens, the director's cut, while I waited.

The bottom line is that if you don't mind shrinking the cash partition in your wallet, I'd still recommend System Commander as the easiest way to boot multiple operating systems. However, if you don't need all of the extras in System Commander and still want an incredibly easy way to boot between Linux and other operating systems, look at XOSL.


Thanks to all of you who sent corrections and details about the PDP-11s and the various operating systems. There's only one teensy problem. Some corrections that readers submitted conflict with corrections other readers submitted. I'd sort out which were right and wrong for you, but if I could remember those details you wouldn't be sending me corrections in the first place. Although I cannot vouch for their accuracy, here are some of the top corrections readers offered, along with my comments:

It's not RSX-11/M, it's RSX-11M.
This may be true, but just about everywhere I find the name on the Web it includes the slash. I hope nobody was confused by the error and thought I was referring to some other operating system.

You must have been using RT-11, not RSX-11M.
Not likely. RT-11 is a single-user system. I distinctly recall that when we got bored, we engaged in all sorts of juvenile pranks, some of which involved getting into someone else's account while they were using it. A fellow named Randy did this to me all the time, but eventually taught me what I needed to know in order to do it unto others. Most of the other pranks involved call forwarding, hanging items from the ceiling with scotch tape (the specialty of a fellow named Eric), or removing the shoe from the foot of a height-challenged co-worker named Carol and putting it somewhere out of her reach. Like the top of her desk.

Anyway, some of our antics clearly required a multi-user system, albeit a very poorly secured one. I suppose we could have been using RT-11 along with TSX-11, the multi-user enhancements to RT-11. If you want to hire an archaeologist to do a dig on the site in order to find out, be my guest.

RSX-11M did not require executable files to be stored in contiguous blocks.


RSX-11M did require executable files to be stored in contiguous blocks.
Well, one of these has to be right.

At that same time, even Unix on the PDP-11 required executables to be stored in contiguous blocks.
Entirely possible. We weren't using Unix, so I can't say.

Microsoft's bio is right. Dave Cutler really was responsible for RSX-11M as well as VMS.
Cool. I guess this means I can make RSX-11M jokes about Windows NT after all.

How dare you poke fun at the PDP-11, which was the most brilliant technological marvel in its day?
It has been my life long dream to peeve fans of the PDP-11 by making outrageously inaccurate and unfair statements about it. I finally saw my chance and went for it, and not without a good deal of gusto.

More Stories By Nicholas Petreley

Nicholas Petreley is a computer consultant and author in Asheville, NC.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
A valuable conference experience generates new contacts, sales leads, potential strategic partners and potential investors; helps gather competitive intelligence and even provides inspiration for new products and services. Conference Guru works with conference organizers to pass great deals to great conferences, helping you discover new conferences and increase your return on investment.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICOHOLDER named "Media Sponsor" of Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO. ICOHOLDER gives detailed information and help the community to invest in the trusty projects. Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO has opened its Call for Papers. The two-day event will present 20 top Blockchain experts. All speaking inquiries which covers the following information can be submitted by email to [email protected] Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPOalso offers sp...
Headquartered in Plainsboro, NJ, Synametrics Technologies has provided IT professionals and computer systems developers since 1997. Based on the success of their initial product offerings (WinSQL and DeltaCopy), the company continues to create and hone innovative products that help its customers get more from their computer applications, databases and infrastructure. To date, over one million users around the world have chosen Synametrics solutions to help power their accelerated business or per...
Poor data quality and analytics drive down business value. In fact, Gartner estimated that the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year. But bad data is much more than a cost center. By eroding trust in information, analytics and the business decisions based on these, it is a serious impediment to digital transformation.
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place November 12-13 in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd international CloudEXPO | first international DXWorldEXPO and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time t...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IoT Global Network has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The IoT Global Network is a platform where you can connect with industry experts and network across the IoT community to build the successful IoT business of the future.
IoT is rapidly becoming mainstream as more and more investments are made into the platforms and technology. As this movement continues to expand and gain momentum it creates a massive wall of noise that can be difficult to sift through. Unfortunately, this inevitably makes IoT less approachable for people to get started with and can hamper efforts to integrate this key technology into your own portfolio. There are so many connected products already in place today with many hundreds more on the h...
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
CloudEXPO New York 2018, colocated with DXWorldEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City and will bring together Cloud Computing, FinTech and Blockchain, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, AI, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location.