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Re: my thoughts about grub 2

From: Brendan Trotter
Subject: Re: my thoughts about grub 2
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2010 16:42:20 +0930


On Wed, Aug 18, 2010 at 12:35 PM, BVK Chaitanya <address@hidden> wrote:
> If you could list out specific instances of what you felt is
> difficult, then it would be a lot helpful.  A general comment like,
> "its not good or difficult" does not give any chance for improvements.

If the English language was radically changed, almost everyone that
became accustomed to the current/old version of English would become
confused and frustrated when they're confronted with the new English.
This is relatively easy to understand - radical change means
confusion, relearning/retraining and lost productivity.

The syntax used for GRUB's configuration (and the structure and
location of GRUB's configuration files) isn't really any different -
it's like a special language people use to tell GRUB what they want.
Not only was it radically changed, it became a lot more complex too.

Here's some selected excerpts from the "Configuration" section of the
(draft?) GRUB2 documentation (from

- "Before you edit some file/entry in /boot/grub that mysteriously disappears"
- "Configuration for GRUB 2 is much different than the original GRUB."
- "A multistep configuration creation process (i.e. a configuration
for creating the configuration) might seem convoluted."
- "Certain items embed configuration information in a non-obvious way"
- "Users must depend on the configurations fed to the utilities that
generate these images to infer what they will try to do on reboot."

Of course this is an intentionally biased and misleading selection of
excerpts intended to illustrate a point of view; but can you imagine
what normal users are thinking when they try to understand GRUB2
configuration for the first time?

To make thing even worse, (if Ubuntu is a reasonable indication)
different OS distributions will add their own non-standard extras to
GRUB2 configuration (and probably add their own non-standard patches
to GRUB2's code too). This will mean that if someone learn to
configure GRUB2 on one OS distribution (with one set of extra
features) then they'll be confused if/when they shift to a different
OS distribution (with a different set of extra features); and if
anyone is silly enough to attempt to install 2 different OS
distributions on the same computer (e.g. dual boot) they'll need to be
extremely careful that the distributions don't fight over the GRUB
configuration (and screw each other up).

In my honest opinion, the design of GRUB2 should have began with the
question "What do normal users expect?". As far as I can tell, most
users expect a boot manager to be self contained (e.g. doesn't depend
on any OS for installation or configuration) and includes built-in
configuration tools that are easy to use (e.g. menu driven).

To confirm my suspicions I spent an hour or 2 doing a survey. I
started with a Google search for "boot manager", and selected each
entry in the search results for the first page and a half (before
deciding I'd spent enough time) and tried to find out about the
installation and configuration of each different boot manager.

For the following list of boot managers they all have 2 things in
common - they don't require any OS for installation, and all
configuration is done inside the boot manager itself (typically with a
simple menu driven interface):
- SyMon (
- GAG (,
- Plop (
- Master Booter (
- Smart Boot Manager (
- System Selector/BootManager
- BootIt (
- Multiple Boot Manager (
- MATTsoft Boot Manager (

I only found 3 exceptions. The first is Acronis OS Selector
which is part of a much larger toolkit (backup/recovery, partition
management, etc). It requires a version of Windows for Installation
and configuration. OSL2000 ( and boot-us
( also require an OS (windows) for
installation and configuration.

The other thing I noticed is that when you it comes to
"user-friendliness" all of the boot managers (even the ones that
require an OS for installation/configuration) make GRUB2 look like an
extremely overcomplicated mess.



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