pool7
Posts: 6
Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2018 11:13 pm

Booting img files

Fri Jan 05, 2018 11:29 pm

@Mods - feel free to move this to any other (sub)forum if applicable.

So, I got a Raspberry Pi 3 for Christmas and started reading about the various OS available for it.
Got a 32GB microSD card and downloaded a bunch of OS images to test.

The first thing I wanted to do was fill the microSD card with various OS and start testing their features so I can finally choose which ones to keep. I don't like the idea of keeping lots of microSD cards at hand, one for each OS, nor the idea of re-imaging the card every time I want to try a new OS.
A lot of reading later, the options I found for this (ie. bootloaders) are:
NOOBS
Berryboot
PINN

Each has its pros and cons, but after trying them I feel like they don't suit my needs (don't get me wrong, they're great, each on its own).

For instance, I depend on OS images created specifically for each bootloader. This usually means out-of-date OS.
Additionally, in NOOBS case, I can't really modify the list of installed OS without reinstalling everything. This is fixed (or is it?) by using PINN which also provides additional OS to the ones already included with NOOBS.
Berryboot seems to be the best; however I read some OS have issues with it, as it keeps its own kernel running in the background.

So, my questions to the community are:
1-Are there any other bootloaders I'm missing?
2-Is there any boot loader that can directly boot .img files? This would be great so one can easily switch between various OS and always test the latest versions more easily.
2-a) If there aren't (which I think is the case): is it that no one thought of it / developed it? Or is it a HW/FW limitation on the pi?
3-For those of you that have a microSD with various OS, what are you using and what tips do you have to overcome the limitations above mentioned?

Thanks in advance.

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DougieLawson
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Re: Booting img files

Sat Jan 06, 2018 10:10 am

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mattmiller
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Re: Booting img files

Sat Jan 06, 2018 10:17 am

Use PINN.
+1

ghans
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Re: Booting img files

Sat Jan 06, 2018 11:09 am

You may want to look into the work done by OpenSUSE. They ported a combination of GRUB2 and u-boot to the Pi3. Properly configured (copying SuSE work) that should give you a familiar and superior multiboot experience. Might only work in AARCH64 mode though.

Last but not least Microsoft (and SuSE ?) have ported UEFI (Tianocore) to the Pi3. Perhaps that work could be used with GRUB2 too ?

ghans
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pool7
Posts: 6
Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2018 11:13 pm

Re: Booting img files

Sat Jan 06, 2018 6:22 pm

Thank you ghans, will look into those.

DougieLawson and mattmiller:
If you were suggesting that I use PINN, I already am, but I'm looking for a better way to install/boot various OS.
if you were stating that you use PINN, would you guys mind providing tips (if any) to overcome/workaround the issues I mentioned, such as:
-boot directly an img file, instead of the custom format required by PINN (is this even possible? limitation of PINN/NOOBS? limitation of the pi itself?)
-install OS not listed in PINN (preferrably without having to do so many conversions steps), such as RISCOS, RaspEx, etc.
Last edited by pool7 on Sat Jan 06, 2018 6:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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DougieLawson
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Re: Booting img files

Sat Jan 06, 2018 6:25 pm

I don't use PINN. I just know it's a) better than NOOBS b) easier than Berryboot.
Microprocessor, Raspberry Pi & Arduino Hacker
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Since 2012: 1B*5, 2B*2, B+, A+, Zero*2, 3B*3

Please post ALL technical questions on the forum. Do not send private messages.

mattmiller
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Re: Booting img files

Sat Jan 06, 2018 7:28 pm

+ 1 again

I think you seem to have some very specialised requirements that go beyond the standard option of just having a multi-boot Pi to try out different OSes

I'll drop out of this thread now and wish you luck :)

procount
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Re: Booting img files

Sat Jan 06, 2018 8:39 pm

Hi @pool7. My recommendation is to use PINN , but then I'm biased! ;) It's not perfect, but I'm working on new features all the time.

One of the aims of NOOBS was to be able to easily restore an OS image when it became messed up, allowing a beginner to experiment in relative safety. This is not so useful in a multi-boot scenario though because in order to restore one OS, it is necessary to restore ALL OSes at the same time.
I have just managed to remove this limitation in PINN so it is now possible to restore a single OS to its "factory default" without affecting the other installed OSes. This does not mean you can replace an installed OS with a different one though (yet...!)

All 3 of those bootloaders uses specific OS image formats. In the case of Berryboot, it uses squashfs images, but there are quite a few of them to choose from. NOOBS/PINN concentrate on .tar.xz images since another aim was to make the OS image as small as possible. They will both install img files, but they need one img file per partition and some support meta-files to customise them for the multi-boot environment. So they cannot multi-boot a traditional img file directly (there are some technical adaptions that are needed), but I'm thinking about increased support for it in PINN. Full instructions on how to create NOOBS/PINN images is provided in my readme and wiki pages on my github.

The main difference between the operation of Berryboot and the other 2 is that Berryboot uses it's own kernel for all the OSes, whereas NOOBS/PINN allow each OS to use their own kernel. Normally this does not make a difference unless you need a specific kernel, for one or more OSes, such as a kernel with Xenomai extensions for real time support, for example. IIRC, Berryboot does not require dedicated partitions for each OS either.

I hope that clarifies some of your points.
PINN - NOOBS with the extras... https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=63&t=142574

pool7
Posts: 6
Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2018 11:13 pm

Re: Booting img files

Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:41 am

Excellent and detailed response procount, thanks a ton!!! :)

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