Jeremy's Thoughts - Boot tales, woo ooh!
Cycling, Fedora, MIT SDM and Miscellany

Jeremy Katz
Date: 2009-06-17 14:18
Subject: Boot tales, woo ooh!
Security: Public
Tags:grub2

(Take the title in the context of the theme from Duck Tales and maybe it makes sense?)

There was a long and rambling discussion last week about the version of GRUB that’s shipped in Fedora and specifically the fact that the support for ext4 did not land in the version we shipped in Fedora 11. Now, as was said on the thread, this is because the patches weren’t reviewed and ready in time for beta (there are a couple of different ones… so which one is right?) and so we didn’t feel comfortable putting them in after beta, especially as with the way GRUB works, the same filesystem code gets used for ext2, ext3 and ext4 with the patches. A little unfortunate? Yes. Would it have been better if we had gotten them in so that you could do an install of Fedora 11 onto a single partition? Sure. But that’s one of the costs of a time-based release schedule.

In any case, one of the things that came out of the thread was that I gave a history of the version of GRUB in Fedora. For posterity, I’ll repeat that here, with some edits.

So, the gory history for those who might be interested. Eight years ago (!), we decided that the advantage of not having to rerun lilo after changing the config file as you can just read the config file off the filesystem with grub was worthwhile. We had, at that point, been patching lilo for quite a while to have a graphical menu. Therefore, keeping a graphical menu was a branding requirement. Connectiva at the time had a patch to grub that worked. We picked it up, shipped it, and it (mostly) worked. Efforts were made to integrate upstream, but they were largely uninterested. Along the way, significant changes to the graphics patch had to be made as grub evolved and a few other efforts were made to push it upstream. Eventually, the answer was “no, we’ll do something in the next big version of grub after grub 1.0″. Then the main developers went away and we were basically left maintaining a (large at this point) fork. As there is no upstream for grub 0.9x left, we’ve been left in a position of maintaining it and we’ve added some real features that have been needed along the way as grub 2’s progress has been slow at best and we were initially unhappy with some of the direction taken

So, that’s where we are today. We essentially ship a fork of GRUB 0.9x with graphics support, support for a lilo -R type functionality (so you can reboot once into a single kernel), EFI, and some more little things that I’m not thinking of right now.

With that in mind, I sat down and spent some time with a current snapshot of grub2. Overall, it’s made a lot of progress in the time since I last looked at it (a year ago? maybe a little more?). It was actually able to successfully boot for me in KVM and there’s equivalent graphics support to what we’re carrying in our grub 0.9x package. That said, there’s still quite a bit of things to verify exist before we can switch. And just in my look, there are a number of small things that would need work, especially around the way the config file gets created and updated. And with the very short runway for Fedora 12, I don’t think there’s really time to get it into shape in time. But I do think that it makes sense to look at for Fedora 13. So I’ve started a feature page to track as some of the things get tested and worked on. Then hopefully we can make the switch pretty painlessly early in the Fedora 13 cycle.

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