2013/4/21 Kenneth J. Davis <jere...@fdos.org>

> There are two different issues here.
> 1) The hard drive's master boot record (MBR - 1st sector where the
> partition table resides) must have bootable code installed.  If you later
> intend to boot an OS from the 1st partition then installing a boot manager
> is a good idea, otherwise you can use the default boot code.  You may need
> to add that code, as depending on how you partitioned the drive it may or
> may not have been installed.  Fdisk /MBR (check the help before blindly
> doing it though) can do this in FreeDOS or MSDOS.  Alternately installing
> GRUB or SYSLINUX or whatever to the MBR will place its specific boot code
> there.  For the standard boot code you will also need to ensure the 2nd
> partition (the one with FreeDOS) is marked active (other boot managers may
> call it make bootable or startable).  From FDISK there is an option to
> indicate the active partition.
> 2) The default MBR will then load the boot code from the active partition
> [aka the volume boot code].  This is where the choices 1-5 come into play.
> You want to choose option 1 to install the FreeDOS boot code to the 2nd
> partition.  Before running sys (here option 5 may be the better choice)
> make sure that you are running sys to correct partition.  The kernel will
> treat the boot drive as C:
> Since you are familiar with GRUB, the simplest is to use it and have it
> chainload the kernel.sys.
> If you still have problems then I can setup a test computer and send you
> better instructions for running fdisk and sys, but the combination of those
> two should get you booting.
> Jeremy

Thanks Jeremy and thanks to Felix too. I think at this point I should paint
the whole picture, so you guys get a better idea.

I bought a 2.5" drive enclosure from Zalman, the VE-300, that acts as two
devices in one: it shows itself to the system as two devices: a hard disk
drive AND an optical disk drive. The optical drive has in it what
corresponds to an ISO that resides in a special directory of the FIRST
partition in the hard disk. You choose which ISO with a clickwheel and an
LCD menu on the Zalman enclosure. The fact that the Zalman VE-300 won't
understand but the first partition for its optical drive emulation is the
reason I can't use the first partition for FreeDOS. This setup will be my
"repairman companion" and I want FreeDOS for those utilities that would
otherwise need a floppy drive or are distributed only as DOS utilities.

FreeDOS doesn't seem to understand very well USB, so for installation
purposes I'm not using the Zalman enclosure, just the bare SATA drive and
an ordinary SATA optical drive loaded with a FreeDOS CD. The HD is 40GB in
size and it's been always the only disk in the system.

I created two PRIMARY partitions: a 39GB one and a 1GB one. I marked the
second partition as Active. I did all this using the tools provided in the
FreeDOS CD. After partitioning and rebooting, I proceeded with the
installation of FreeDOS to the second partition. I must say the installer
didn't like the partition I created, showed lots of errors and offered to
recreate the partition (this happened every single time I did the
installation, and that's at least 10 times...). I agreed with the
installer's suggestion, the partition was recreated and the process
continued. At some point I could read "Syntax error" (white letters at the
top left on an empty blue screen) during the installation. That happened,
again, every single time I tried installing, but it didn't seem to affect
the whole procedure. Another little issue is that the installer would hang
if I didn't choose everything instead of "base" and "util", but what the
heck, it's just a few megabytes. After finishing, the system won't boot if
the installation wasn't made on the first or only partition (I tried both),
no matter what I chose in the final screen.

Now it's quite possible that there's no MBR sector. The disk was completely
wiped before its first use for this. However in my many tries, I confirmed
the installation could be done to a single partition or to a first of two
partitions. Wouldn't that have created an MBR sector?

In my last try, I installed Ubuntu on the first partition and grub
recognized FreeDOS on the second. Both would boot perfectly well from grub.
After some thoughts, I decided that having Ubuntu on my "repairman
companion" wouldn't hurt (Ubuntu is what I use daily and I know it well),
so I'll be installing it again tomorrow, using three partitions: the first
one for the ISOs the Zalman enclosure needs for acting as an optical drive,
the second one for a minimal Ubuntu install and the third one for FreeDOS.
That should take care of all my issues with booting, I guess. But after
this experience I'd say there's definitely some room for improvement to be
made to the FreeDOS installer, IMHO.

BTW: the installation procedure tells me I'm installing FreeDOS 1.0 all the
time, not FreeDOS 1.1. I swear I burned the only image I downloaded from
the FreeDOS website, and that's fd11src.iso.

Thanks again to both of you.

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