Foresight Linux: 'Bad IPL' error message

Q I have a cheapo Time AMD 64 laptop with Windows XP and usually Mandriva dual-booted. I occasionally try other distros on it, sometimes alongside with Mandriva and sometimes replacing it for a while. This week I tried to load Foresight Linux, using the existing linux partitions and choosing the default option for the bootloader. On restarting the machine, however, I just get the error message 'Bad IPL' 'Press any key to reboot' Then nothing happens. Google tells me that IPL means 'Initial Program Load' which doesn't mean much to me. I did try reloading Mandriva but still no result - same error. I'd like to try to salvage my Docs/ Pics/ and music, but more important for me is my email and news, which is in a RISC OS partition on Win XP. I'm tempted to try Insert but I'm not sure this would do what I need.

A The Initial Program Loader is the first stage of the bootloader. This is the code that loads the rest of the bootloader, which then presents you with the boot menu. The IPL has to fit in the Master Boot Record (MBR) of the hard disk, where it has all of 446 bytes available - that's less than half the space it took you to describe the problem, so you must forgive it for not including more descriptive error messages. It would appear that your bootloader code is corrupt and the error you are seeing in fact comes from the BIOS. You can reinstall the bootloader by booting the disc in rescue mode. Type linux rescue at the boot prompt. This will mount your Foresight installation at /mnt/sysimage, from where you can reinstall the bootloader to the Master Boot Record with the following command

cat /mnt/sysimage/boot/extlinux/mbr.bin >/dev/sda

This assumes you have it installed on the first (or only) hard disk. Now exit the rescue shell by typing exit or, if you are lazy like me, pressing Ctrl+D, and it should reboot correctly. You other option is to switch from using Extlinux to Grub. Foresight installs both but only configures the bootloader you choose, so Grub has only a template menu file. If you are familiar with the syntax of the Grub menu, or you want to read up on it at www.gnu.org/software/grub/manual, you can edit the file and install it by booting the rescue disc and entering the installation with chroot, like this

chroot /mnt/sysimage
nano /boot/grub/grub.conf
# edit the file and press Ctrl-X to save and exit
grub-install /dev/sda

Press Ctrl+D twice, once to exit the chroot and again to exit the shell, and the computer will reboot, this time to a Grub menu. If you are not comfortable editing the Grub menu, you could simply reinstall Foresight but this time select Grub instead of the default bootloader of Extlinux. I don't normally advocate reinstalling a system as a means of addressing particular problems, but in this case you haven't used the system (because you are unable to start it) so you have nothing to lose. Most Live CD/DVD distributions will let you mount your Windows partition in order to back up your data.

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