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Getting a Single Bootable Floppy to work with ZEN Imaging

Novell Cool Solutions: Tip
By Daniel Bray

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Posted: 27 Feb 2004

CALL FOR HELP -- Michael wrote: "I have read this article...this Linux stuff is too complicated for us DOS/Windows/Novell mortals. Can somebody please run the procedure he suggests and post the resultant disk image somewhere so we can download it?"
If someone wants to do this and send it in, we'll post it.

I've developed a method to squeeze all four of the ZfD imaging floppies onto a single bootable floppy disk. It even provides a nice menu system for easier building.


I wish to explain how easy it is to make Linux on a floppy disk. There are MANY ways to do this, but I found the following to be the easiest. Once you get the idea, we will change it around to be specific to a ZEN Imaging floppy, and use some BASH scripts to FTP the needed files into place. It's a little complicated, but once you get the idea, you'll see how easy and customizable it can be. If after this you still have questions, please contact me.


  • Novell's ZEN Imaging CD (actually, just the initrd.gz file that's on it)

  • A firm understanding of Linux, its commands...etc

  • GRUB or LILO, I will explain using GRUB

  • BusyBox

  • An empty directory somewhere on a linux box

  • mkdir /usr/storage/bootdisk 
  • Place the following script in this directory:
  • #!/bin/sh
    # Begin ./
    [ ! -d /mnt/loop1 ] && mkdir -p /mnt/loop1
    # The above variable uses a ~48MB ram disk...change this to
    # bigger or smaller depending on the size of "du -sh ./initrd"
    # is, as this is what will fit in the extracted initrd ram
    # disk space
    dd if=/dev/zero of=$INITRD bs=1k count=$RAM
    losetup $DEVLOOP $INITRD
    mkfs -t ext2 -m 0 $DEVLOOP
    cd initrd
    tar cvf - . | (cd $MNTLOOP ; tar xvf - )
    cd ..
    umount $MNTLOOP
    losetup -d $DEVLOOP
    echo "Gzipping the initrd file"
    gzip -9 -f $INITRD
    # End ./

    NOTE: I do not remember where the above script was from originally, but it has since been altered. You may change however you like; just make sure it serves the purpose.

  • Create a folder called initrd. This will be used to hold the root file system that is extracted to RAM
  • mkdir /usr/storage/bootdisk/initrd 
  • Create a folder called floppy. This will be used to hold the contents that will be placed on the actual floppy disk
  • mkdir /usr/storage/bootdisk/floppy 


FIRST, NON-ZEN related Linux floppy

1. Compiling the kernel that will be placed on the floppy disk

Hopefully you already know how to do this, as I am not going to walk you through this part. You do need to know that when you configure your kernel, I have found that the following settings will keep the kernel small enough to fit on to the floppy with the BusyBox filesystem we will create later. It gives enough drivers to make it bootable on a fair amount of systems, but alter however you need. Keep in mind that at the end of making the kernel, if "make bzImage" comes back and says something about the kernel like

warning: kernel is too big for standalone boot from floppy

...then it probably is, and you need to adjust it.
Here is the kernel .config file I used.
This is for a linux 2.4.x kernel. Again, alter however you need.

Just load that file into your kernel, and then type the common:

make dep && make bzImage 

I've compiled everything commonly needed into the kernel, without using modules.

Finally, copy the kernel into the current ./floppy directory, renaming it along the way:

cp arch/i386/boot/bzImage /usr/storage/bootdisk/linux 

2. The BusyBox root filesystem

After you have downloaded and extracted the BusyBox package, change into that directory and run:

make menuconfig 

You can either go through this configuration, and select the tools you want, or download and load the my busybox config file and use that.

After you have configured busybox run:

make && make install 

This will create a usable root filesystem inside the _install directory. All you have to do is copy the contents of this directory, to the initrd directory you made above:

cp -a ./_install/* /usr/storage/bootdisk/initrd/ 

After you copy the busybox files in place, you'll need to create a few other needed files and directories in the initrd dir. Change into the /usr/storage/bootdisk/initrd/ directory, and make the following directories:

mkdir -p etc/rc.d

And create the following files:


# inittab





PATH=/bin:/sbin:/usr/bin:/usr/sbin;export PATH
mount -t proc none /proc
mount -o remount,rw /


ifconfig eth0 up
ifconfig eth0 >/dev/urandom
udhcpc -q

Finally, just change into the root of the bootdisk directory, and run the ./ script from above, and it will automatically create, compress and place the needed initrd.gz file into the floppy directory for you....I make things easy :-)

cd /usr/storage/bootdisk

You should see it scroll through the initrd directory, and end with:
Gzipping the initrd file

3. Copy the files and GRUB the floppy

Create a directory in the floppy directory for GRUB:

mkdir -p /usr/storage/bootdisk/floppy/boot/grub 

Now, if you are not using grub on your Linux box, then you will have to download the source from

...extract it, ./configure and make GRUB. You do NOT need to do the normal "make install" part, all we need is the stage1 and stage2 files that are created after running make.
Just copy the files to /usr/storage/bootdisk/floppy/boot/grub:

cd /tmp
tar -xvzf grub-0.94.tar.gz
cd grub-0.94
./configure && make
cp stage1/stage1 stage2/stage2 /usr/storage/bootdisk/floppy/boot/grub 

OR, if you have grub on your linux box, then all you have to do is copy them from grub's installed location, something like this:

cp /usr/share/grub/i386-pc/stage1/stage1 /usr/storage/bootdisk/floppy/boot/grub
cp /usr/share/grub/i386-pc/stage2/stage2 /usr/storage/bootdisk/floppy/boot/grub

Next, create GRUB's menu.lst file:

# ./grub.conf


title Novell ZEN Linux Imaging (2.4.24)
root (fd0)
kernel /linux rw root=/dev/ram0 rw init=/sbin/init
initrd /initrd.gz

....and place it in /usr/storage/bootdisk/floppy/boot/grub Change into the ./floppy directory and check the size:

cd ./floppy
ls -la 

By using the -la option, you should get an output like this:

total 1305
drwxr-xr-x    2 root     root         4096 Jan 24 21:58 .
drwxr-xr-x    8 root     root         4096 Jan 24 18:13 ..
drwxr-xr-x    8 root     root         4096 Jan 24 18:13 boot
-rw-r--r--    1 root     root       442205 Jan 24 21:58 initrd.gz
-rw-r--r--    1 root     root       975351 Jan 21 22:46 linux

Look at the total 1305 part of the output; that is what to watch out for. Make sure that doesn't get higher than a normal floppy. Play it safe and keep it lower than 130x.

Once you are sure everything will fit on the floppy, place a floppy in the drive, format it using ext2, copy all the files in place, and then grub it:

mke2fs /dev/fd0
mount /dev/fd0 /mnt/floppy
cp -a /usr/storage/bootdisk/floppy/* /mnt/floppy
umount /mnt/floppy
grub --batch --device-map=/dev/null <<EOGRUB
device (fd0) /dev/fd0
root (fd0)
setup (fd0)

NOTE: If you do not have GRUB installed, then change the above: grub --batch --device-map=/dev/null <<EOGRUB
/tmp/grub-0.94/grub/grub --batch --device-map=/dev/null <<EOGRUB

Test this floppy in all your standard devices and make sure you can boot to a BASH prompt, and that you get an IP. If you get to this point:

BusyBox v1.00-pre5 (2004.01.28-19:24+0000) Built-in shell (ash)
Enter 'help' for a list of built-in commands.

...then you are ready to make it ZEN enabled :-)

ZEN enabled Linux floppy

Once you get the above part working (pretty cool eh?), now let's change things around a bit to make it specific to ZEN Imaging.

4. Change the kernel to ZEN Imaging kernel

We need to alter the kernel a bit in order for it to work with the ZEN Imaging "img" utility. Thankfully, Cool Solutions provided us with the article, "Building a Customized Imaging Driver" which has a link to download the needed file containing the kernel patch: zfd3krnlpatch.tgz. You can follow along Martin Buckley's article, "Building the ZENworks Imaging Kernel", which will tell you how to apply the patch....HOWEVER! you need to alter the patch before it will apply to newer kernels (that's the trick, and the cool solution part :-))

Extract the patch and open it in a file editor. There are a couple of lines that need to be altered. Change:

--- /usr/src/linux/drivers/block/ide.cTue Jan 4 11:12:14 2000
+++ drivers/block/ide.cFri Feb 23 17:03:56 2001


--- /usr/src/linux/drivers/ide/ide.cTue Jan 4 11:12:14 2000
+++ drivers/ide/ide.cFri Feb 23 17:03:56 2001

Now apply the patch to the kernel you used above, recompile the kernel, and copy it in place and to the floppy:

cd /tmp/linux-2.4.24
patch -p0 < /tmp/zfd3krnlpatch/ZENPatch
make dep && make bzImage
cp arch/i386/boot/bzImage /usr/storage/bootdisk/linux
mount /mnt/floppy
cp arch/i386/boot/bzImage /mnt/floppy/linux
umount /mnt/floppy

Again, test it and make sure it works. You will be able to tell if the ZEN components are in the new kernel, because during the boot process you should see:

"Uncompressing and Loading ZENworks Imaging. Please wait... "

...and no other kernel output will happen, because the patch quiets the boot process.

Now onto the file updates.

5. Change the BusyBox filesystem (initrd.gz) for ZEN Imaging

Well, the problem is a single floppy only holds 1.4MB of data, which is nowhere near enough room for us to store all the drivers we will need, plus the ZEN img utility with all of it's libs, or any extra packages or scripts we want. So, the way we get around that is the use of an FTP server.

Create a "ws-build" user in eDir,and give it a home space somewhere. I will use \\zenserver\users\ws-build as an example. This home space is where we will store some needed updates that our floppy will use.

You might be wondering how to get the correct libs that "img" utility needs from the ZEN cd. Well, thanks to Linux and it's amazing ability to mount loopbacks have no fear, this is how you do it. Create a zenstuff folder and mount the ZEN Imaging CD.

mkdir /usr/storage/bootdisk/zenstuff
mount /mnt/cdrom 

"ls" the contents of the CD and you should see a file called initrd.gz, the file with all the ZEN goodies we need. It's just a compressed filesystem, the exact same thing we created above. To get the stuff out of it, first uncompress it and then temporarily mount it somewhere:

cd /usr/storage/bootdisk/zenstuff
cp /mnt/cdrom/initrd.gz ./
gunzip initrd.gz
mkdir /usr/storage/bootdisk/zenstuff/temp
mount -o loop ./initrd ./temp 

If everything worked out, you should be able to "ls" the contents of /usr/storage/bootdisk/zenstuff/temp and see something like this:

bin boot dev etc install lib linuxrc mnt proc sbin tmp update usr var

Now, you don't need everything in there, and I've taken the time to weed out exactly what you do need in order to get the img utility to work.

I need to mention that I saw a little problem with the version of gzip I used to package up the files, compared to the BusyBox version I used to uncompress the files once they were transferred to the ramdisk. To get around that, make some temp folders inside the /usr/storage/bootdisk/initrd/tmp directory, and copy the files there, because that is where we will package them up, using BusyBox's gzip version. Don't will all make sense once you see it being done.

mkdir -p /usr/storage/bootdisk/initrd/tmp/bin
mkdir -p /usr/storage/bootdisk/initrd/tmp/lib
mkdir -p /usr/storage/bootdisk/initrd/tmp/usr/lib

Once the above directories are created, it's time to copy:

cd /usr/storage/bootdisk/zenstuff/temp
cp ./bin/img /usr/storage/bootdisk/initrd/tmp/bin
cp ./lib/lib* /usr/storage/bootdisk/initrd/tmp/lib
cp ./usr/lib/lib* /usr/storage/bootdisk/initrd/tmp/usr/lib

Ok, we are just going to chroot into the initrd area, and compress:

cd /usr/storage/bootdisk/initrd
chroot .

You should see the familiar:

BusyBox v1.00-pre5 (2004.01.28-19:24+0000) Built-in shell (ash)
Enter 'help' for a list of built-in commands.

...screen, so now just cd into tmp and compress the files, and exit:

cd tmp
tar -cvzf ../updates.tar.gz ./*

When you run the "ls -lah" command from the current directory, you should see the shiny new updates.tar.gz file, and it should only be about 2.4MB or so in size....which is nothing to FTP across a LAN. :-) Move it out of the /usr/storage/bootdisk/initrd directory and copy it to "ws-build" home space:

mv updates.tar.gz /usr/storage/bootdisk/zenstuff/
rm -rf /usr/storage/bootdisk/initrd/tmp/*
cd ..

Now just FTP the updates.tar.gz package up to ws-build's home space.
Or, if you have a NCP mount to the volume, copy it manually. Just make sure that the updates.tar.gz file is setting in ws-build's home space.

Next, create some new /usr/storage/bootdisk/initrd/ files:

 cd /usr/storage/bootdisk/initrd/sbin

ftpget -v -u ws-build x.x.x.x /tmp/updates.tar.gz \

tar -xvzf /tmp/updates.tar.gz

...just change x.x.x.x to the IP of your FTP server. You can't use a DNS name just yet, because you need the correct libs ( and stuff in order for DNS resolution to work. And that's what we will be FTPing down shortly.

Now just change /usr/storage/bootdisk/initrd/etc/rc.d/rc.S


PATH=/bin:/sbin:/usr/bin:/usr/sbin;export PATH
mount -t proc none /proc
mount -o remount,rw /

When you extract the contents of the updates.tar.gz file from the root of the ramdisk area, it will place the proper files in /bin /lib...etc

6. Test out the new Single floppy ZEN Imaging disk

You should be able to run the "./" script to update the initrd.gz file, and copy it back to the floppy:

cd /usr/storage/bootdisk
mount /mnt/floppy
cp floppy/initrd.gz /mnt/floppy
umount /mnt/floppy 

Now boot off this new floppy, and test it out. You should see it boot with the new kernel, and then it should run the etc/rc.d/rc.S which should run the sbin/ script. After all that, test it by typing:


at the BusyBox prompt, and it should launch. Tada!

7. Extra boot scripts (

I wanted to make it one step easier to manually rebuild workstations, so I implemented a menu system for our more common workstations and laptops. Since we try to stay with the same hardware manufacturer (IBM) it made it easier since they all pretty much use the eepro100 network driver. Here it is:

call it


##Begin variables section
HDPARM="hdparm -X66 -d1 -u1 -m16 -c3 /dev/hda"
ZENIMG="img restorep $HOST"

##Begin menu selection section
echo ""
echo ""
echo "----------------------------------------------------"
echo " Welcome to the Health First Linux Build Environment"
echo "----------------------------------------------------"
echo " Please EJECT the floppy disk or CD."
echo ""
echo ""
echo ""
echo " a.) Build an IBM 8xxx Series Workstation"
echo " b.) Build an IBM 6792 Workstation"
echo " c.) Build an IBM 6578 Workstation"
echo " d.) Build an IBM 6565 Workstation"
echo " e.) Build an IBM 6862 Workstation"
echo " f.) Build an IBM Rxx Series or A3x Series Laptop"
echo " g.) Build an IBM A2x Series Laptop"
echo ""
echo "exit.) To boot to a bash# prompt"
echo ""
echo ""
echo -n -e "\nMake a selection from the list above: " ; read ANSWER

if [ "$ANSWER" = "a" ]; then
echo "Building an IBM 8xxx Series Workstation"
elif [ "$ANSWER" = "b" ]; then
echo "Building an IBM 6792 Workstation"
elif [ "$ANSWER" = "c" ]; then
echo "Building an IBM 6578 Workstation"
elif [ "$ANSWER" = "d" ]; then
echo "Building an IBM 6565 Workstation"
elif [ "$ANSWER" = "e" ]; then
echo "Building an IBM 6862 Workstation"
elif [ "$ANSWER" = "f" ]; then
echo "Building an IBM Rxx Series or A3x Series Laptop"
elif [ "$ANSWER" = "g" ]; then
echo "Building an IBM A2x Series Laptop"
elif [ "$ANSWER" = "exit" ]; then
##Finally rebuild and reboot
echo ""
echo ""
echo ""
echo ""
sleep 2

And make the following changes to etc/rc.d/rc.S:



PATH=/bin:/sbin:/usr/bin:/usr/sbin;export PATH
mount -t proc none /proc
mount -o remount,rw /

Finally add the sbin/ script:



ftpget -v -u ws-build x.x.x.x /sbin/ \

chmod +x /sbin/

I do this so that I only have one file on the network to update when newer builds come along. I don't have to update a whole bunch of CDs and floppies, just this one file which is on the network. Better, huh?

Generate and copy the initrd.gz file once more:

cd /usr/storage/bootdisk
mount /mnt/floppy
cp floppy/initrd.gz /mnt/floppy
umount /mnt/floppy 

Test out the new menu-enabled disk.


I have successfully used this method on the following devices:

IBM Workstation class devices (ThinkCenter, NetVistas...etc.)
IBM Laptops (Thinkpad)
Fujitsu B Series Laptop (using a USB floppy drive)
Fujitsu Tablet (using a USB floppy drive)
NEC Tablet (using a USB floppy drive) it obviously works. If you find something is not working, then feel free to contact me.

Happy booting!

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