New in libguestfs: Use SYSLINUX or EXTLINUX to make bootable guests

Although grub support in libguestfs is currently on hold because of an unfortunate situation, the latest libguestfs now supports SYSLINUX and EXTLINUX, which is (let’s be frank about this) a much simpler and more sane bootloader than grub/grub2.

In fact, you can make a bootable Linux guest real easily now. Here’s a script:

# Copyright (C) 2013 Red Hat Inc.
# This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify
# it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
# the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or
# (at your option) any later version.
# This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
# but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
# GNU General Public License for more details.
# You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
# along with this program; if not, write to the Free Software
# Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin Street, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301 USA.

# This ambitious script creates a complete, bootable guest.

use strict;
use warnings;

use Sys::Guestfs;

my $disk = "syslinux-guest.img";

# Find prerequisites.
my $mbr = "/usr/share/syslinux/mbr.bin";
unless (-f $mbr) {
    $mbr = "/usr/lib/syslinux/mbr.bin";
    unless (-f $mbr) {
        die "$0: mbr.bin (from SYSLINUX) not found\n";
print "mbr: $mbr\n";

my $mbr_data;
    local $/ = undef;
    open MBR, "$mbr" or die "$mbr: $!";
    $mbr_data = <MBR>;
die "invalid mbr.bin" unless length ($mbr_data) == 440;

my $kernel = `ls -1rv /boot/vmlinuz* | head -1`;
chomp $kernel;
unless ($kernel) {
    die "$0: kernel could not be found\n";
print "kernel: $kernel\n";

print "writing to: $disk ...\n";

# Create the disk.
unlink "$disk";
open DISK, ">$disk" or die "$disk: $!";
truncate DISK, 100*1024*1024;
close DISK;

my $g = Sys::Guestfs->new ();
$g->add_drive ($disk, format => "raw");
$g->launch ();

unless ($g->feature_available (["syslinux"])) {
    die "$0: 'syslinux' feature not available in this version of libguestfs\n";

# Format the disk.
$g->part_disk ("/dev/sda", "mbr");
$g->mkfs ("msdos", "/dev/sda1");
$g->mount ("/dev/sda1", "/");

# Install the kernel.
$g->upload ($kernel, "/vmlinuz");

# Install the SYSLINUX configuration file.
$g->write ("/syslinux.cfg", <<_END);
LABEL linux
  SAY Booting the kernel from /vmlinuz
  KERNEL vmlinuz
  APPEND ro root=/dev/sda1

$g->umount_all ();

# Install the bootloader.
$g->pwrite_device ("/dev/sda", $mbr_data, 0);
$g->syslinux ("/dev/sda1");
$g->part_set_bootable ("/dev/sda", 1, 1);

# Finish off.
$g->shutdown ();

After running the script, you can try booting the minimal “guest” (note it only contains a kernel, not any userspace):

$ qemu-kvm -hda syslinux-guest.img

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

One response to “New in libguestfs: Use SYSLINUX or EXTLINUX to make bootable guests

  1. Ah interesting, we were literally just working on dropping the dependency on libguestfs’ grub-install command:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.