Manjaro LXQt 2016.03 & Ubuntu 14.04 on UEFI


Since my last experiments with KaOS, I had been looking forward to try another distro. Being a long-time user of LXDE, I picked up Manjaro LXQt. LXDE development has almost stopped and LXQt is indeed the way forward. Having it the Arch way would be exciting, I thought. Continue reading Manjaro LXQt 2016.03 & Ubuntu 14.04 on UEFI

KaOS 2016.01 & Ubuntu 14.04 on UEFI


My earlier adventure with Deepin remained largely disappointing. Now that I have a free 20GB partition to install another OS, I chose KaOS. It’s not a bad idea to have KDE as an alternative desktop environment. I grabbed the latest KaOS version available (2016.01).

Continue reading KaOS 2016.01 & Ubuntu 14.04 on UEFI

Deepin 15 & Ubuntu 14.04 on UEFI


Since I ran a quick test-drive of Linux Deepin 15 on VirtualBox, I had been longing to install it on hardware. I already have a highly customized Ubuntu 14.04 with LXDE running and I didn’t want to disturb it. So I went ahead with a dual boot setup. Here’s a chronicle of my tinkering. Continue reading Deepin 15 & Ubuntu 14.04 on UEFI

Enterprise & Mac Linux USB Loader: boot Linux on Intel Mac

If you own a Mac and want to try out Linux on it, the first resistance you’ll face will be at the bootloader. Loading Linux on a Mac is not straightforward due to Apple’s own EFI tweaks. Enterprise is a tool to create Linux bootable USB without any external tools like rEFIt or rEFInd. Continue reading Enterprise & Mac Linux USB Loader: boot Linux on Intel Mac

fwupd: update UEFI firmware from session software

chipUpdating firmware on a device is, in general, tricky. Most vendors ask to boot into BIOS mode, or a DOS/custom environment and apply the update files which typically come as binary files. In short, there’s no standard procedure. Things change a bit with UEFI where the specification and the stakeholders target standardizing many of the associated processes too. Continue reading fwupd: update UEFI firmware from session software

Boot single UEFI image to shell

tux_compHarald Hoyer from Red Hat has come up with a demonstration of booting the Linux kernel to a command prompt on a UEFI device using a single image. It is the userland proof of concept for the work done by Kay Sievers and David Herrmann in gummiboot. They created a UEFI loader which starts a linux kernel with an initrd and a kernel cmdline, all stuffed-in as the COFF section of the executable.

Hover did this using a shell script which creates a rescue image on Fedora using a rescue kernel and rescue initrd. The kernel cmdline parameter rd.retry is set to 20 seconds to wait for devices. Finally it drops to a shell as the root device is specified as “root=/dev/failme” which does not exist. You can fsck your devices, mount them and repair your system from this shell.

To try it out on Fedora, run:

# yum install gummiboot binutils
# wget
# chmod +x
# bash BOOTX64.EFI

Copy the generated BOOTX64.EFI to a UEFI-formatted bootable FAT32 USB volume under EFI/BOOT/ and point your BIOS to boot from the USB stick. If you are not sure how to create the FAT32 volume, refer to my earlier article on creating a UEFI bootable ArchBang USB.


DSLR: a mini distro with a difference

tux_compDSLR (Damn Small Linux Remake) is an independent distro that gives importance to functional software over the bleeding-edge. Though the name may remind of the Damn Small Linux distro which catered only to very old hardware (to the extent that it never updated its kernel beyond 2.4.x), DSLR is built from the scratch in-house. The distro is available in 4 flavours – both 32 and 64-bit for UEFI and BIOS (which fits it into our earlier article on Linux mini distros with UEFI support).

The sizes of all the flavours are around 100MB and they include many applications by default. After downloading the image of you need (from the home page), you can burn it or write it to a flash media using dd. Then, boot it – the graphical environment will be started automatically within a few seconds. The root password is root.

DSLR relies on older software those are functional and lightweight. For example, Ted is the text processor and Dillo is the browser. This makes it incredibly fast and eligible to run on older hardware. The 32-bit flavours are i686-optimized, but should work on i486 and above. DSLR can also work as a server.

Webpage: DSLR

Linux distros with UEFI support

UEFI laptops are very common nowadays. Popular distros like Ubuntu, Fedora. OpenSUSE etc. come with UEFI support. But how about some relatively lightweight distros which can boot fast, from from USB and are useful for quick browsing sessions without saving anything on the disk? Unfortunately, UEFI support is still not very common across Linux distros. There are hacks to make them work (like I did for Slitaz or ArchBang in the past, introducing rEFInd etc.) but end-users will definitely look for something that works out of the box. While we couldn’t find distros as light as Slitaz, we found some less than 800MB distros which work out of the box on UEFI devices. We have only tested x86_64 ISOs as UEFI is more common on 64-bit hardware. We tested these distros on a UEFI VM and as there was no option to enable Secure Boot we can only claim that these work fine with Secure Boot disabled. Tested versions are recorded because older versions might not have UEFI support.

Evolve OS Alpha4

The distro is under development (Alpha stage) at the time of writing. Flaunts the beautiful Budgie desktop. 655MB ISO size.


Lightweight and provides the Openbox desktop environment. “dd” the ISO to a USB flash drive to make a bootable flash drive. ISO size 248MB.

Manjaro 0.8.10

Based on Arch Linux and provides a familiar look and feel to users migrating from Windows. Comes with many Linux desktop environments through community editions. Find the UEFI live USB creation guide here. ISO size 687MB (Openbox edition).

Semplice 6

Based on Debian Unstable and the desktop environment is Openbox. Installation guide. ISO size 634MB.

Siduction 14.1.0

Once again based on Debian Unstable. Offers several desktop environment options like GNOME, KDE, LXDE, LXQt, Razor-qt, Xfce. Installation guide. ISO size 793MB (LxQt edition).

Slackel Live 6.0

Based on Slackware and Salix distros. Offers KDE and Openbox desktop environments. Couldn’t find a comprehensive guide for this one but the procedure should be similar to the other distros in the list. ISO size 696MB (Openbox edition).

This is a growing list. If you find any other lesser known Linux distro which works out of the box on UEFI devices please leave a comment and we will add it to the list.

Boot-Repair: recover access to your OS

Boot-Repair is a graphical utility that can recover the access to your operating systems and boot them. It is most useful when used in combination with the Boot-Repair-Disk, an advanced rescue disk. Features of Boot-Repair:

  • Easy-to-use (repair in 1 click ! )
  • Free (GPL open-source license)
  • Helpful (Boot-Info summary to get help by email or on your favorite forum)
  • Safe (automatic backups)
  • Popular (300.000 users per year)
  • Can recover access to Windows (XP, Vista, Windows7, Windows8).
  • Can recover access to Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, OpenSuse, ArchLinux…
  • Can recover access to any OS (Windows, MacOS, Linux..) if your PC contains Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, OpenSuse, ArchLinux, or derivative.
  • Can repair MBR-locked OEM computer boot if the original bootsector has been saved by Clean-Ubiquity
  • Can repair the boot when you have the “GRUB Recovery” error message
  • Options to reinstall GRUB2/GRUB1 bootloader easily (OS by default, purge, unhide, kernel options..)
  • and much more ! (UEFI, SecureBoot, RAID, LVM, Wubi, filesystem repair…)

Webpage: Boot-Repair

Boot SliTaz in UEFI mode

slitazI mentioned in an earlier post that SliTaz is going to have a 64-bit kernel in 5.0. I was working on the kernel configuration for SliTaz and now I can see that the rolling versions have the 64-bit kernel. SliTaz doesn’t support UEFI devices officially yet but here’s a hack to try it on UEFI systems.

After the EFI support was enabled in the SliTaz kernel on my request I ran my initial tests on a EFI VMware virtual machine with elilo but was unable to boot into SliTaz. However, I got the idea of booting into SliTaz using the already installed grub-efi by Ubuntu from this thread. Instead of creating a new partition I decided to use the EFI System Partition (ESP) installed by Ubuntu. It’s a 64MB partition but less than an MB is actually used. Here’s the detailed way to do it.

NOTE: This procedure is tested on a x86_64 device with 64-bit EFI firmware and Secure Boot disabled. All console operations are ran as root from an existing Ubuntu installation on the device. Steps should be similar for any other OS as well.

  1. Download the slitaz-rolling-core64.iso. At least this is the way to go till SliTaz 5.0 is released.
  2. Mount the iso to a directory named iso.
    # mkdir iso
    # mount -o loop slitaz-rolling-core64.iso iso
  3. Find out your system’s ESP. It should normally be fat32 with the boot flag set.
    # parted
    GNU Parted 2.3
    Using /dev/sda
    Welcome to GNU Parted! Type 'help' to view a list of commands.
    (parted) p
    Model: ATA Hitachi HTS54755 (scsi)
    Disk /dev/sda: 500GB
    Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
    Partition Table: gpt
    Number Start  End  Size   File system  Name  Flags
     1    1049kB 64.0MB  62.9MB  fat32            boot
     2    64.0MB 30.8GB  30.7GB  ext4           msftdata
     3    30.8GB  500GB   469GB                 msftdata
  4. Mount the ESP to a directory named efi and create the directory structure slitaz/boot on it.
    # mkdir efi
    # mount /dev/sda1 efi
    # mkdir -p efi/slitaz/boot
  5. Copy vmlinuz-x.x.xx-slitaz and rootfs.gz files from the mounted iso to the ESP.
    # cp iso/boot/vmlinuz-3.2.53-slitaz efi/slitaz/boot/
    # cp iso/boot/rootfs.gz efi/slitaz/boot/
  6. Unmount the iso and the ESP.
    # umount iso
    # umount /dev/sda1
  7. Get the UUID of the ESP.
    # grub-probe -t fs_uuid -d /dev/sda1
  8. Add the following entry at the end of /etc/grub.d/40_custom. You can omit the explanatory comments in red but read them to change the settings unique to your system.
    menuentry 'Slitaz' {
    set gfxpayload=keep
    insmod gzio
    insmod part_gpt
    #insert the module for partition used. vfat module not required as efi firmware can read fat32
    # insmod vfat
    #gpt1 is the first partition on my only hard disk (hd0)
    set root='hd0,gpt1'
    #set the UUID from Step 7 below
    search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set 9BFA-E454
    echo 'Loading SliTaz ...'
    #set any device specific options in kernel options
    linux (${root})/slitaz/boot/vmlinuz-3.2.53-slitaz lang=en kmap=en acpi_osi=vendor acpi_backlight=vendor sound=noconf --
    initrd (${root})/slitaz/boot/rootfs.gz
  9. I use the following settings in /etc/default/grub. This way I can press Esc during the GRUB menu countdown and select the entry I want.
  10. Regenerate GRUB.
    # grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

If everything goes fine you should find the entry for SliTaz in GRUB menu on the next reboot and be able to boot into it on your UEFI device! There’s still a problem I’m facing with English fonts but this whole exercise was experimental.