back to article Plop. That's the sound of a boot manager booting PCs off media they can't start from

Elmar Hanlhofer's Plop Boot Managers are a small family of tiny tools to enable booting from media that a computer can't usually boot from. Before you point out that all modern computers can boot from USB – the boot managers also work well in virtual machines, where USB boot support is still a lot rarer. Yes, of course, you …

  1. karlkarl Silver badge

    Weirdly I just took it for granted that if you attach a bootable image (i.e .img files of the FreeBSD or OpenBSD boot media) as a hard disk image, it boots.

    Is this not the case on things like Qemu, Bhyve, VirtualBox? They are just disk images right?

    1. Tom Chiverton 1

      And if not, just use a live CD. Strange little project...

      1. Blackjack Silver badge

        A lot of mschines no longer include a CD ROM or DVD drive.

        1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

          Elderly machines

          may not boot properly from recent USB drives written with an ISO image. For example, my T440p won't work with all USB keys for some reason, and it's otherwise an excellent host for Linux.

          1. Jamesit

            Re: Elderly machines

            Have you tried Ventoy? https://www.ventoy.net/en/index.html I booted a T410 with it. I used a Lexar 64G stick.

            1. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

              Re: Elderly machines

              Ventoy is brilliant.

          2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

            Re: Elderly machines

            Probably can only use FAT32 like non Pro Microsoft Surface 3's

            I used a tool called Rufus to change change exFat to Fat32 on some larger USB sticks

    2. david 12 Silver badge

      The versions of VMWare I have won't boot from USB. That is, it won't boot from any 'removable' drive. And generally, drives do correctly report if they are 'removable' or not.

      You might think that it would be good to have your hypervisor boot from a removable drive, so that you could move it if the power supply or motherboard failed, but VM has sometimes disagreed with you: they have a commercial product for handling that situation,

    3. Inkey
      Holmes

      My experience of qemu is with vert manager and kvm......in linux os ....

      And yes you can boot straight fron a usb ....

      You define a machine that has usb (shared from host)... there are a few distros included ..and you can also save vm's after they have been installed and removed if you have them saved.

      The setup has a slightly wierd flow by which you are promted to point to install medium which it returns "cant find medium" you then select generic and then select the guest resources, if usb is checked you can then boot from there in the next step ...

      My gues is plop is used for instaling quake on electronic pregnency devices and "smart" fridges, and the like..

      1. Cederic Silver badge

        I didn't know there were electronic pregnancy devices.

        Although that may be due to my occasional experience deploying the legacy organic technology.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this an advert for something?

    I'm pretty sure GRUB can do this too, completely Open Source. Also, if your hypervisor supports physical USB connection, you can boot from it. If it doesn't, this won't help you much.

    1. VoiceOfTruth Silver badge

      Re: Is this an advert for something?

      I don't doubt that GRUB could probably do this, but GRUB is not easy to use. You would still need to install GRUB on something to make it boot.

    2. JoeCool Bronze badge

      Re: Is this an advert for something?

      I think the key phrase is "doesn't rely on the bios", which GRUB does.

      Additionally, GRUB is one of the most user-unfriendly programs I have ever tried to use.

  3. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I can see this being useful for retro machines where the BIOS doesn't support USB booting, boot Plop from a floppy or CD and then you can reinstall the OS or boot up from a USB device such as memory stick or external HDD which will be faster and more reliable than CDs or old IDE hard drives.

    I used a similar tool to make a bootable USB stick which has different Window ISOs on it as well as a few Linux ones, and it comes up with a boot menu allowing you to select which ISO you want to boot from, Its called www.winsetupfromusb.com

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      I've used this before...

      Very helpful for getting win 98 working for a light spot of retro gaming (I've got a few games that just do not work or look good on my main pc but look/works like crap. Older laptop and it's fine.

  4. rcxb

    Tried it... No help

    Heard about PLOP years ago, and kept it around to try out on a lot of assorted hardware over a long time. I never found one case where PLOP helped me. It usually just froze the system on boot-up instead of actually booting from the selected media.

    In the old days, projects like PLOP were useful. I think it was VMWare v1.x that wouldn't boot from some bootable OS installation CDs, while one floppy disk image "boot manager" with its own El Torito stack was able to help boot them. But that's ancient history.

  5. Binraider Silver badge

    A terrible Dell dual pentium4 workstation I acquired some time ago for nothing could not boot from USB from BIOS. Despite significant numbers of much cheaper systems of its era being able to do so. Plop made that system a lot easier to use.

    The main novelty of that system was it had a nice SCSI controller on it and some legacy pci 64 bit slots which opened up options for dealing with various legacy media.

    How well does Plop coexist with UEFI? I’ve not tried it on anything recent to notice. The Amiga cracktro style boot screen is a silly nice to have!

  6. Citizen99

    Interesting. Long retired,with ancient hardware,I used GAG boot manager for a couple of decades to give nice big buttons to choose system to boot. Got in a tangle on the laptop recently with an extra installation,so slung it out and used Grub, with a stick-on label with menu written in biro.

  7. Fursty Ferret

    this could be a handy way round time limits on the library PCs.

    That would be brave, given that to get access to library computers you have to be a member, meaning they have your photograph and address on record. If I can point out this particular line from the Computer Misuse Act:

    Unlawful access is committed if the individual intentionally gains access; knowing he is not entitled to do so; and aware he does not have consent to gain access.

    Personally I think it's perfectly reasonable, but the tech-illiterate plod who turns up when the librarian says that someone's been fiddling with the computers that other people potentially use for financial transactions etc may not see it that way.

    1. BenDwire Silver badge

      You wouldn't need to write anything to the computer's disk, just run an OS from the USB stick. Reboot when finished and no traces would be left, and no harm done to anyone else.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prefect for when you need it

    Yes, there was a time when a computer might have USB ports but the firmware would not provide an option to boot from them. For that situation I found plop was a perfect solution. In effect, it provides and uses its own USB driver - that a BIOS might lack. While I'd usually install on the internal hard drive of such machines I also keep a copy of the ISO as a CD in my visit-and-boot toolkit.

    For the UEFI era machines I consider rEFInd to be the equivalent.

    I hadn't thought about the VM situation being similar. That might solve some conundrums that I've seen, but I'll have to ponder that - and perhaps look into whether it can cope with UEFI..

  9. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

    Could have a use-case for this..

    I use Sophos UTM as my home firewall (used to be Astaro Linux then it got borged by Sophos - fortunately they didn't hack it around much and honoured existing home, free licenses..).

    The issue is that they don't support UEFI booting. My old firewall is an elderly HP Microserver - Intel Celeron processor... Which was OK in the old DSL/VDSL days - or even the FTTC dats since it was capable enough to keep up with the bandwidth available. Then I got FTTP (900Mb) and it's struggling..

    So I bought myself a refurbished Dell Poweredge T40 - nice little server with many multiples of CPU uplift over the old HP.

    I soon discovered it wasn't going to work - Sophos UTM will not boot from UEFI and the T40 *only* allows booting from UEFI (or so it seems - I couldn't find a BIOS boot made in the usual places in the BIOS).

    But I could stick in a small USB stick, tell the Dell to boot from that and have it chain-boot from /dev/hda thus booting into Sophos UTM.

  10. Not Yb

    New column? Where are the other "Friday Freeware Fest"s?

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