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Documentation of SyMon R3

ATTENTION! In addition to the documentation there is also a PDF-Version of "Examples of SyMon Usage" available. Look up the Download Page

  1. License
  2. Introduction
  3. The goal of this work
  4. Installation of SyMon
  5. General description
  6. Partition Editor
  7. Setup dialog
  8. Main Menu
  9. Partition Autosearch
  10. Examples
  11. Plugins
  12. Standard Plugin
  13. Appendix A. Codes of file systems


License agreement for SyMon Release 3

Copyright © 1998-2017 by Vladimir Dashevsky

Copyright © 1999-2000 by Daniel Smelov


Unless you have a different license agreement signed by authors your use, distribution, or installation of this copy of SyMon indicates your acceptance of this License.


If you do not agree to any of the terms of this License, then do not install, distribute or use this copy of SyMon. If you require a special license you should contact authors.


This software is free. Still, the Release 3 has to be registered. Subject to the terms below, you are hereby licensed by authors to use this software for evaluation purposes without registering for a period of 40 days. When the evaluation period has expired you'll get a warning message and the boot procedure of OSes will be delayed by 15 seconds. SyMon does not stop to function so you can boot your OSes and finish registration process. The registration of Release 3 has to be made according to the Register section on SyMon Web site at http://www.symon.ru.


Unregistered use of SyMon Release 3 after the 40 day evaluation period is in violation of U.S. and international copyright laws.


You may, without making the registration for the Release 3:

  • give exact copies of installation package of SyMon personally to anyone, except for the purpose of extending their 40 days evaluation period;
  • distribute exact copies of this installation package of SyMon, if done exclusively through electronic channels; and
  • make as many exact copies of this installation package of SyMon as you wish, for purposes of distribution as described in two pints above

You are specifically prohibited from charging, or requesting donations, for any copies, however made, and from distributing such copies with other products of any kind, commercial or otherwise, without prior written permission from authors. Authors reserve the right to revoke the above distribution rights at any time, for any or no reason. In any case you are prohibited from distributing SyMon together (on the same medium) with any illegal information or software including, but not limited to, cracks, collections of serial numbers, or unlicensed copies of commercial software.


Each SyMon installation has an open Plugin API. Plugins are not shipped with SyMon (excepting the standard plugin), and, being separate products, may fall under separate licenses as applied by Plugin author.


THIS SOFTWARE, AND ALL ACCOMPANYING FILES, DATA AND MATERIALS, ARE DISTRIBUTED "AS IS" AND WITH NO WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, WHETHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED. THE USER MUST ASSUME THE ENTIRE RISK OF USING THE PROGRAM. THIS DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTY CONSTITUTES AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE AGREEMENT.


Any liability of authors will be limited exclusively to refund of purchase price. In addition, in no event shall authors, or its principals, shareholders, officers, employees, affiliates, contractors, subsidiaries, or parent organizations, be liable for any incidental, consequential, or punitive damages whatsoever relating to the use of SyMon, or your relationship with authors.


IN ADDITION, IN NO EVENT DO AUTHORS AUTHORIZE YOU TO USE SYMON IN APPLICATIONS OR SYSTEMS WHERE SYMON'S FAILURE TO PERFORM CAN REASONABLY BE EXPECTED TO RESULT IN A SIGNIFICANT PHYSICAL INJURY, OR IN LOSS OF LIFE. ANY SUCH USE BY YOU IS ENTIRELY AT YOUR OWN RISK, AND YOU AGREE TO HOLD AUTHORS HARMLESS FROM ANY CLAIMS OR LOSSES RELATING TO SUCH UNAUTHORIZED USE.


All rights of any kind in SyMon which are not expressly granted in this License are entirely and exclusively reserved to and by authors. You may not rent, lease, modify, translate, reverse engineer, decompile, disassemble or create derivative works based on SyMon.




Introduction.

Let's talk about some concepts that are basic for the understanding of the problems that lead to the development of this program. We begin by explaining hard drive geometry parameters.

Hard disk drives are block devices that store information in little blocks of magnetic medium that are called sectors. A sector is the smallest piece of magnetic medium on a hard drive that has its own address. The data interchange between the host computer and the hard drive is based on the former providing to the latter this address and a hard disk drive command (read or write).

The size of a sector can vary, but has been increasingly taken as a fixed value of 512 bytes, which is now almost a standard for all hard disk drives. A number of sectors around the circumference of the drive is said to make up a track, and since both sides of a hard disk plate can have tracks the geometrical similarity is elevated to speak of a cylinder as the sum of the tracks at the same radius on a hard disk drive. Since most modern drives also have multiple plates, the geometrical analogy is even greater: a disk is composed of a number of cylinders of increasingly smaller diameter, as measured from the outer side to the inner side of the mechanical assembly. To each face of a plate is mounted a read-write head assembly, and so we have the final model of data unit addressing within a hard disk drive: a cylinder (C), a head (H) and a sector (S) address, or CHS for short.

Such was the addressing scheme originally implemented in the system BIOS of early PC-compatible machines. This implementation, however, had some limitations. The maximum value for the parameters were 63 for sectors, 255 for heads and 1024 for cylinders. For manufacturing reasons, the number of heads was at first limited to 16. So, the maximum size an early hard disk drive could have was:

   1024 cylinders, with
   16 heads each, with
   63 sectors of 512 bytes each,

for a total of 528,482,304 bytes, also referred to as 504 megabytes (where a megabyte = 1024 X 1024 = 1,048,576 bytes).

The capacity of disk drives steadily increased. The number of cylinders soon got past the 1024 limit supported by the original BIOS, but the additional space of the newer disk drives could not be used by the operating system, if the BIOS were used. So, a new addressing scheme was needed.

The industry adopted a simpler method, which does not take into account the actual geometry of the disk drive in terms of cylinders, heads or sectors. A linear addressing scheme was introduced, called Logical Block Addressing (LBA), by which the linear address of a sector can be calculated from its CHS address by the formula:

   lba = (cyl*DRIVE_HEADS + head)*DRIVE_SECTORS + (sector-1);

Embedding LBA support into the hard disk drive controllers simplified the disk I/O software. Disk sector addressing became much easier. New versions of the BIOS began to translate CHS addresses (used in the physical actions within the drive) into LBA addresses for the user applications transparently.

This translation allows for some tricky features. If the number of HEADS in the above formula is increased artificially, fewer CYLINDERS will be needed to accommodate the same sector addressing space. However, there still were only 16 physical heads built into the drives, so the new BIOSes began to "forge" the CHS configuration for the drives. This allowed the accessible space to be augmented up to 8 gigabytes (where 1 gigabyte = 1024 X 1024 X 1024 = 1,073,741,824 bytes).

The further increasing capacity of newer disk drives finally met fundamental difficulties with the BIOS limitations. New extended services were introduced for the support of bigger drivers. However, this new logical interface is not compatible with the old one, so the old operating systems like MS-DOS cannot cross the 8 Gbytes boundary. The more modern OSes do not use the BIOS, but rather their own drivers, to access data on the new disks, thus overcoming the limitation. Nevertheless, it must be understood that every operating system has to load the driver itself before it can be used. The initial program load (IPL) of an operating system still must use the BIOS, if it is to run on a PC-compatible system. Here we find the first important limitation, even with modern Oses: the bootable partition must reside under the 8 Gbytes frontier.

Now, let's have a look at an operating system's placement in a hard drive. Operating systems, just like every other type of data, are stored in logical sections of a physical hard drive called partitions. A partition is just a smaller representation of the same structure of the whole disk. They consist of adjacent sector, and thus every partition can be fully described by just two parameters: a starting sector and its length in sectors.

Partitions are totally self-contained. Usually, a partition will be organized according to one of many file systems. A file system is just a mechanism for the description of which sectors are used to store which files. After a file system has been established in a partition (a process known as "formatting") and an operating system's files are stored in it, then it can be made bootable. A bootable partition always has the initial program loader for the operating system stored in its first sector. To boot the operating system, this loader must be itself loaded in memory and run, a process that will be described later.

Two different partitions with file systems in them must not intersect nor interfere with each other in any way. The reason for this is that each partition, after formatted, has a complete map of the distribution of its files over its sectors, or layout. If two different layouts point to the same physical space on the disk, a conflict arises. This conflict is not apparent at the moment of the partitions creation of formatting, but will dramatically make itself evident, generally with catastrophic results, as files are stored to or read from the disk. Thus, extreme care must be taken when partitioning your hard disk drives.

The intersection of partitions is not dangerous in itself. The problem is the intersection of file systems. The simple act of partitioning does not create any file systems on a disk. However, the formatting (or establishment of a file system) of a partition that is intersected with another will surely damage the eventually existing file system in the other. This problem affects all types of file systems and operating systems, and not just the more popular ones.

You should note that two partitions with file systems may overlap without any damage to files or other data so you should not be afraid of that fact. For example, when you decide to install new OS on the logical drive in extended DOS partition but that OS does not support starting from logical drive and needs its own primary partition you can simply create new one for that purpose which will lay exactly over that logical drive, allocated for the OS. This technique is unique for the SyMon and will be described later in Partition Editor chapter.

A hard disk drive can be partitioned many times over, partitioning being just a software operation, not related to anything physical on the disk. Thus, any set or combination of partitions can be created at any time. This information is stored in the first physical sector of the hard disk drive, which is called the Master Boot Record (MBR).

The MBR is the main source of information for booting from a hard drive that is supported by the BIOS of PC-compatible computers. It has three important parts:

  • The Initial Program Loader (IPL) code. This program is started by the BIOS after a successful loading of the MBR into memory. It is always shorter than one sector, i.e. 512 bytes. Usually, this is just enough for the loading of the rest of the operating system loader from the bootable partition, and then control is passed to it.
  • The Partition Table. It is located at an offset of 0x1BE in the MBR. This table describes 4 possible partitions on the disk. Only one of them can be marked as bootable (or active).
  • The signature of the MBR. The last two bytes of the MBR must contain the value 0xAA55. The BIOS checks the presence of this signature to ensure that the MBR was correctly loaded.

The standard IPL examines the partition table, determines the bootable partition and loads the rest of the OS loader from the first sector of that partition.

MS-DOS was the system which founded the style of popular hard drive partitioning. This style defines two types of partitions: a primary DOS partition and an extended DOS partition. The first is usually labelled as drive C:. The second one can be used as a special container for the definition of additional logical drives. This enables the encapsulating of multiple logical partitions (logical drives) within one single physical partition, to overcome the fact that the partition table can only hold up to 4 partitions.

When you have one single operating system installed in your machine, even the very simple standard IPL is more than enough, as you don't have any other choices to boot from. However, when you decide to have more than one system on the same machine, this simple loader becomes uncomfortable and limited.

One first solution is the use of the OS/2 Boot Manager. However, it uses one of the 4 partitions (however small) for itself, thus wasting valuable resources. A more progressive program is the System Commander. This program is too big, though, and (what is more critical) can only reside on FAT file systems, thus limiting you to only DOS or Windows, besides being too prone to be damaged in case of a serious operating system error.



The goal of this work.

The objective of this work was to solve all the aforementioned problems and limitations.

It must be emphasized that, in order to maintain absolute compatibility, it is impossible to go over the limitation of only four partitions in the partition table of the MBR. Many of the older utilities only understand the partition table as defined in the MBR. The main problem with using programs such as fdisk is that they will only see four partitions on a disk at any time; they cannot recognize the presence of any other partitions, and thus will consider any disk space that is not claimed by the maximum four defined partitions as free spade. Because of this, they can easily destroy another partition that is defined beyond the limit of four, and thus hidden from their view. To help you with this problem, SyMon has a built-in Partition Editor that can safely create and change all partitions on a disk. The limitation may be overcome, but the warning still remains:

Always use the built-in Partition Editor if you do not understand how a program as fdisk works. Deleting or shortening a partition will not damage data in other partitions, but moving or enlarging a partition may cause damage, if the partition overlaps with a hidden, existing one.


Installation of SyMon.

Installation of SyMon R3 is safe and easy because of new technique. We provide you with a two stage install process. First, you should prepare an installation floppy. To do this you have to download from the Internet a special "bootdisk" utility in order to create a bootable floppy for DOS or Windows 95/98/ME. You can find this utility here. If you insert a new floppy into the drive and run this utility, it will automatically create a bootable floppy. This floppy should not contain bad blocks for your successful results further. Then you have to copy to this floppy all files from the SyMon distribution and the license file "LICENSE.TXT" if you have received it.

In case your computer is not equipped with a floppy disk drive you can create a bootable USB Flash Drive. Then you may boot using this flash drive as if it was a simple floppy. In this case you will need a quite another utility, of course. You can find it here.

IMPORTANT: You should keep the floppy disk or the flash drive in a safe place. That will guarantee you ability to maintain or uninstall SyMon properly.

Second, you have to boot your computer from that floppy. It will bring you into SyMon R3 installation and setup system that has flexible tools for your work.

Using the floppy installation has some important advantages. It enables you to be fully protected against possible failure of SyMon or incompatibility between it and some of your previous configurations of operating systems. If you notice that SyMon does not match your needs as you might have expected, or you don't like its appearance, then you can boot from the floppy again and remove SyMon. All changes made to your hard drive will be removed as well.

All the following discussion in this topic relates to the second stage installer which is loaded from the bootable floppy. Since there is no complex logic in its operation we will briefly describe items of the menu system. Here is an unrolled menu tree:

     License Info
     Documentation
     Operations
       Install
       Uninstall
       Run SyMon
       Backup System
       Fix Boot Sector
       Partition Manager
     Settings
       SyMon font
       SyMon variants
       Installer settings
     Registration
     Exit
  • License info. This will show you license agreement of SyMon R3.
  • Documentation. This item will open viewer of manuals. You can choose and read manual topics using this viewer. Special help index makes it easy to navigate through the topics.
  • Operations. This item contains 6 subitems. You can install and uninstall SyMon or have it run directly from the floppy. You can also backup its configuration and restore it back. Then, here you can fix the boot sectors of some OSes and manage your partitions on the hard drive.
  • Run SyMon. You can Run SyMon just from floppy as if it was started by BIOS. This capabitily is an unique solution for persons who work on repairing hard drives and do not wish to make any change to their contents before they find the reason of the failure. SyMon can be run from floppy in that mode so you can try to autodetect partitions and try to repair MBR structure for each of previously installed OSes.
    NOTE: This feature is only available if you start SyMon installer using "shell.exe" instead of "setup.exe".
  • Fix Boot Sector. A special patch which is included into SyMon installer is able to fix the boot sector of DOS, Windows 95 or Windows NT 4.0. It is only necessary if this sector is located on a FAT16 partition beyond the 2GByte limit. In all other cases there is no need in patching boot sectors.
  • Registration. Please don't use this form. In order to register your copy of SyMon please visit the Register section on SyMon Web site at http://www.symon.ru
    Typically, the registration takes no longer than 4 working days. When it is complete we will e-mail you back sending a message which contains a license file attached to it. To make your SyMon copy registered please continue with the following steps:
    1. Copy the license file "LICENSE.TXT" file into the directory where the SyMon setup system lies.
    2. Re-install SyMon on the track you used before ("Track 0" or "Track 1"). The previous SyMon configuration will be taken without changes.
    3. The next time you'll start SyMon you can check if it has become registered by pressing F1
  • Exit. Exit back to DOS.

Some words in conclusion. The most common situation when you need SyMon Setup floppy again is the case of installation of a new OS. Many operating systems do overwrite the Master Boot Record of the hard drive during their own installation so SyMon will not start after that. But its configuration is still present on your hard drive! You may use two methods to make SyMon start again. First, you can simply run the installation from the floppy. It will find the previous SyMon configuration and use it without changes. That's the usual procedure.

Another method you will need if something (probably a virus) has damaged the whole track 0 of your hard drive. In this case it is necessary to restore SyMon from the backup file on the floppy. Of course, the backup file should be previously saved using the floppy backup system. Since the SyMon configuration is saved on floppy this method is fully protected from any damage caused to track 0.



General description of the program.

SyMon is a partition and boot manager that allows you to maintain up to 36 partitions on one hard drive and arrange up to 20 operating systems in these partitions. As already mentioned, the main problem is the preservation of compatibility with existing software. The first aspect is the provision for only four partitions per operating system. This limitation is removed by organizing an internal partition table for SyMon. All PC operating systems are compatible with the MBR partition table, so they won't use more than four partitions. According to this, you can install several operating systems by choosing up to any 4 partitions from among the 36 possible for each. Thus, the description of an operating system consists of the four partitions that it should use, plus the bootable partition that should be used to start that particular OS.

SyMon has powerful built-in aids for the maintenance of the 36 partitions. They are always available and do not depend on which OSes you prefer to use. The tools are a partition editor and a partition autosearch feature.

SyMon is located on track 0 of your disk. The size of this track is about 32 Kbytes. It is usually left unused because of alignment problems. The first sector of this track is used by the MBR, which hinders the use of the rest of the track for a first partition, as it won't be aligned to a cylinder boundary. So the beginning of a first partition is usually taken to be at track 1 of cylinder 0, leaving the unused portion of track 0 as a sort of spare. This disk space is used for SyMon.

Exactly because of these compatibility reasons, the MBR partition table is compiled and checked every time you boot a new OS; at the same time, SyMon rewrites a correct version of the MBR. If you have the virus warning feature enable in your BIOS setup, it will ask you to confirm or deny that action. This is rather annoying, and it is better to disable this feature, above all because it would not significantly decrease your system's immunity to a virus, as you wouldn't be able to boot any OS if your machine were hit by a boot sector virus.

Upon launching, SyMon presents you with a main menu where you can choose the operating system you want to boot. You may also choose to boot from floppy or another hard drive, or even to turn off power to the machine, if it's equipped with an ATX power supply. In addition, any of the available SyMon tools can be used. The tools are:

  • Partition Editor
  • Disk editor (version Prof only)
  • Partition autosearch
  • Security service

All these tools are described later in greater detail. The supplied information is enough if all you want is to boot a single OS. The next sections are dedicated to those users who want to control multiple operating systems.



Partition Editor.

Every operating system is located in one or more partitions; therefore, before creating a new system you must learn how to prepare the partition(s) for it.

A partition is defined by its starting LBA address, its length in sectors and its file system code (FSC). File system codes help the OS to mount the file systems during the boot process. SyMon itself does not use these codes; it just copies them to the MBR partition table for compatibility. You may press SPACE in the FSC field to choose the code from the list of codes known to SyMon. You need to select appropriate line in the list and press ENTER to apply the FSC to the current partition. SyMon leaves blinking cursor enabled to indicate you current partition during selecting FSC from list.

The Partition Editor is a tool for the creation, deletion and manipulation of partitions. You can prepare any kind of partition with it. Partitions are organized in a table where they are numbered by digits 0-9 and letters A-Z, so that there can be 36 possible partitions in the table. These numbers and letters are referenced from the operating system descriptors from the setup dialog. Here is a list of the function keys and their actions for use with the Partition Editor:

  • Left, Right, Up, Down - cursor movement in the table
  • 0-9, A-F - digits are used for modifying partition parameters
  • BACKSPACE - delete last digit of a number under cursor
  • Shift+DEL - zap the partition (fill with zeroes)
  • PgUp, PgDn - change current sheet of table
  • Alt+M - open partition map
  • Alt+S - sort partitions by start LBA
  • Alt+L - sort partitions by length
  • Alt+F - sort partitions by FSC
  • SPACE - select FSC from list of known codes
  • ENTER - Accept changes.
  • ESCAPE - Cancel changes.

Beginning with release 2, sectors are numbered not from 1 to 63 as in BIOS but from 0 to 62. This may be confusing at first, but it doesn't really matter. It was much easier to implement the CHS address space translation without holes (which would happen in the case where sector=0, track=any, cylinder=any).

The Partition editor always checks that the partition start address is not greater than its end. Should this be the case, the length of the partition is shown in red as zero to call your attention. While you edit the partition, the zero value in red color just informs you that the partition is not correctly defined yet. If you quit the process without correcting this, it will be zapped.

Do not forget that partitions that begin in cylinder 0 must begin at least with track 1 (not zero), i.e., they should not be cylinder aligned.

The Partition Editor is useful for the low level correction of partitions. It allows for many modifications, but is not much obvious from the point of view of free space and relative placement of partitions. Besides, most often you need to create new partitions, rather than edit already existing ones. All these reasons lead to one more powerful tool, the Partition Map.

This tool is especially useful for an overall look at the disk and the creation of new partitions.


Partition map.

To get into the partition map you must either press Alt+M or move the cursor to the respective button and press it. Here is a list of its functional keys:

  • Left, Right, Up, Down - cursor movement.
  • SPACE - begin and end editing of partition.
  • Shift+DEL - zap all partitions under cursor.
  • PgUp, PgDn - moving through the pages of map.
  • ENTER - Accept changes.
  • ESCAPE - Cancel changes.
  • To help in their identification, partitions are shown with four different colors. This helps to better see the boundary between the partitions. Each character of the map corresponds to exactly one cylinder. Each cylinder can belong to one partition, in which case the cylinder is marked with the partition's number in the SyMon partition table. If the cylinder belongs to several partitions at the same time it is marked with an asterisk "*", which signals a possible partition conflict.

    The partition map allows you to create new partitions. It aligns their start and end positions at the cylinder boundary automatically, as it is usually the case in most standard software. However, you cannot enter file system codes (FSC) in the partition map. For that purpose you should return to the partition editor and enter the FSC for recently the created partition(s).

    The partition creation technique is very simple. You set the cursor to the start position of the future partition and press SPACE. Then you move the cursor to the end position of this partition and press SPACE again. That's it. As you adjust it, the partition size is reported in the bottom of the partition map so you can easily check it. The first available number is selected for the newly created partition. Do not forget to choose the proper file system code (FSC) for the partition you've just created, after you return to the partition editor.


    General hints for partition editing.

    All of the editing you perform applies only to SyMon's internal partition table. User data on the disk is not touched. The value chosen for the FSC has only an indicative value; remember that the actual installation of the file system (formatting) is performed by other programs. If you deliberately change the value of FSC for a partition, at most that partition will stop being recognized by a given operating system, but will "reappear" if you just change the FSC value back to the proper value. For example, if you change a DOS extended partition with FSC=#05 to #15, DOS will loose the logical drives contained in that partition; however, they will return as soon as you change the FSC value back to #05.

    When you boot an operating system, the MBR partition table is compiled according to the internal partition table. The MBR will "see" only the partitions you want to show. The contents of each partition should be initialized with the proper tools of the corresponding operating system. For example, DOS primary partitions must be formatted using the format utility before they can be used. Extended partitions must first be divided into logical drives using the fdisk.exe utility, and then each logical drive must be formatted with format.exe, etc.

    There are circumstances when you will need to change the sizes of partitions on your disk (e.g., to free space for the creation of new partitions). There are special programs for this purpose. The main concern is that the file system be defragmented and compacted. After the compacting has been performed, the partition can be reduced. SyMon is able to detect automatically such changes, provided the starting points of existing partitions are not changed. In any case, this should be done with utmost care. Always check the partition table visually after such operations. If you notice that any information is not updated correctly, then there are two things you can do. First, you can change everything manually, if you know where things should be. Second, you can delete the newly created partition and start an autosearch. If the partition is recognizable by SyMon, it will be detected and its size computed automatically.

    When creating a new partition, take note of its number, which can be either a digit 0-9 or a letter A-Z. This is the partition's number in the internal partition table of SyMon. You will need this number later in the SETUP dialog.

    As it was mentioned earlier, the old BIOS interface is unable to operate with disks larger than 8Gbytes. This problem limits the end position of many partitions for compatibility reasons. Since DOS cannot read beyond 8Gbytes, it makes sense to make it ignore altogether. This can be done by changing the FSC of those partitions that are situated beyond 8Gbytes:

         #06 (FAT16)     ->  #0E (FAT16x)
         #05 (EXTENDED)  ->  #0F (EXTENDEDx)
         #0B (FAT32)     ->  #0C (FAT32x)
    

    Due to these new FSC codes, these partitions become invisible for plain DOS, where they might cause errors with data allocation.

    Since the SyMon extends the partitions capacity of your disk it enables you to perform some new tricks concerned with hiding and intercrossing of the partitions. For example, if you want to install a new operating system but you have free space for this only within the DOS logical drive than it can be impossible if the system demands separate primary partition. From your point of view it can be very inconvenient to rearrange all the drive's partition structure to provide a separate partition for that OS because it will probably need to move or even reinstall file systems or just rearrange the extended partition. SyMon provides you with a simple capability of mapping primary partitions on the logical drives. This will be fully transparent to OS being installed if you will not show the extended partition to it thus protecting it to have its own partition specified twice, firstly as primary partition and secondly as a part of extended partition. This is an example of useful application of partition conflict when the crossing of two partitions is not damage source but solves the problem instead.



    Setup dialog.

    The Setup dialog enables you to organize the operating systems on your disk. Descriptor of operating system is a keyword object for this dialog. Initially constructed from several parameters it has grown up to bigger one. It has now more parameters which can be set in more combinations. The sense of descriptor is to link the name of OS printed in main menu with MBR contents of boot drive (and probably other drives) and method of booting. The possibility of varying boot method is a new feature that comes with invention of plugins. Go to the plugins chapter to read more about boot methods.

    The description of each OS consists of the following items:

    • name of the OS. This name is then rendered in menu thus helping you to make a right choice.
    • four partitions that should be imaged into MBR partition table
    • active partition of MBR which has active flag set.
    • Bootable partition. In simple case bootable partition is the same as one marked active. In more complex cases the may differ.
    • disk the system should be booted from.
    • password that preserves illegal access to the OS.

    Parameters of OS descriptor are arranged in colored groups for better reading and understanding their meaning. Thus, in standard palette OS name and password flag are shown in white color, parameters used to construct MBR are shown in light cyan color, and parameters of boot sector location are shown in yellow color.

    The only relatively involved parameters of the OS descriptor are the numerical data. First of, there are the four partitions that are to be included in the MBR partition table. They are in columns labelled 0-3. Each column corresponds to the record in MBR partition table. In each of these columns you should enter a reference to the internal partition table of SyMon, i.e. any of the 36 possible partitions (0-9, A-Z). SyMon allows you to put the references in any order, but in the case of DOS primary partitions this will also change the order of DOS' logical drives. If you want to make less than four options accessible to the system, you may enter a dash (by typing a minus, "-") so that the respective record of MBR partition table will be zeroed.

    By the rules of the BIOS, only one of the partitions must be active. The loader in the MBR passes control to the OS loader located exactly in the first sector of the active partition. Since the system may have to read the MBR again to find the partition with an active flag, you should provide this information. This can be set in the fifth column of the Setup menu, labelled with 'AP' (Active Partition), as a number between 0 and 3.

    Beginning with Release 2, SyMon actually does not use the active partition parameter at all. It uses the boot partition indicator instead. The active partition and the boot partition are usually the same, but sometimes it can be useful to have them being different. You can specify the boot partition in the column labelled 'BP'. The boot partition is that whose first block is loaded to start an OS. You may set any of the 36 partitions as a boot partition. Since the boot partition is most often the same as the active one, it is always changed to make it the same as the active partition.

    To set it to be different you should change it after you have set the active partition.

    Also beginning with Release 2, SyMon supports boot management for multiple hard drives. With this, you may create in the setup menu of disk 1 descriptors that reference OSes located in other disks. For SyMon to continue operating over hard drives other than the first (0), you should install SyMon on every other hard drive you plan to use; otherwise, after passing control to the MBR of the next referenced drive, MBR code in that drive will take over, and eventually boot the active OS in that MBR. To use this feature, you should use the seventh column, labelled 'D' (drive), and the BP column. You should set the number of the referenced drive in column D, and in column BP you should specify the number of the OS descriptor on the destination drive. If any errors are detected during this operation, SyMon will not boot the chosen OS.

    SyMon supports up to 8 physical drives. If you enter a '0' in column D, then the current disk is used. For disks 1-7, their numbers are not changed. These rules are useful for cases when you temporarily add a second hard drive. Since all the systems on that drive are set up for drive 0 because this drive was most often the main drive of another computer. Thus you need not create a reference to this drive. You may choose to boot from it from the menu.

    Beginning from release 3 SyMon supports plugins which extend its functionality. You should create a special OS descriptor to describe a plugin. Field D of the descriptor should contain "+" (plus) that means descriptor of plugin. Plugins are always located on the current drive. As soon as you have changed field D to "+" field of password becomes special button to open plugin setup dialog. In this case standard contents of the field (yes/no) is replaced with the word "PLUG" to indicate ability to open plugin setup dialog. When you place SPACE button in this field the dialog is opened if only plugin has been correctly installed before. Read more about plugin descriptors and plugin setup in the respective chapter.

    The name of OS entered in OS descriptor may contain special first character: "_" or "@". It controls the behaviour of SyMon for that descriptor but is not printed in menu.

    • the "_" char means that OS name should not be rendered in the menu. In other words, it is an analogue to the comment char. The need of such char is to help the "@" char.
    • the "@" char indicates that OS descriptor is a macro which defines sets of partitions on all drives. The numbers in columns 0-3 become not the partitions links but links to OS descriptors on drives 0-3 respectively. This enables you to configure MBRs of all drives by simply choosing only one menu item. After configuring MBRs SyMon begins to load a system in the same way as it does in case of external OS link. ie, it loads system boot sector form drive D and partition BP of that drive SyMon's internal partition table (one of 36). Going this way SyMon checks password of a macro and/or password of target OS whichever is defined. You can define both but it won't be very convenient to type two passwords one by one.

    Besides the OS descriptors you may enter some other data:

    • Default system. This presets one of the operating system descriptors in the table of systems as the one to be started after the timer expiration. If you put a dash here, the most recently used OS will be started. If you put the number of plugin descriptor here, the default system of the respective plugin will be started. If the plugin cannot be started then nothing will occur after timeout, you will need to manually choose OS to boot. Please, refer plugin chapter to learn more about plugin setup.
    • Default cursor position. This defines the system on which the cursor will appear on startup. In some cases, it is useful to make the default system and default cursor position to be different. For example, if you plan to start a Linux WEB server by default but want to use a Microsoft OS for playing or working with Office, it would be convenient to set the cursor to be on Windows (so that you can just press Enter to start it), but leave the Linux system with your Web server to start automatically after timeout. You may also set this parameter point to plugin descriptor. In this case plugin's default cursor position will be used so the cursor will be set to one of items acquired from plugin. Please, refer plugin chapter to learn more about plugin setup.
    • Timeout. This lets you set the timer expiration period in seconds. If you enter 0 the timeout will be turned off; in this case, any system can only be booted using the keyboard.
    • Floppy password. This helps to protect a computer from undesirable booting from floppy, as this can be used to bypass SyMon and boot other OSes protected by SyMon passwords. For the best possible protection, you should disable booting from the floppy at the BIOS level.

    The following keys can be used in the SETUP dialog:

  • TAB, Shift+TAB - to move horizontally through the OS descriptors
  • UP, DOWN - to move vertically in the dialog box
  • PgUP, PgDN - to list the table of operating systems
  • 0-9, A-Z - to indicate the partition in columns 0-3 and BP
  • "-" - to indicate the empty partition, or absence of default system
  • SPACE - to set/remove of passwords
  • BACKSPACE - to delete last digit in timeout number
  • Shift+UP, Shift+DOWN - to swap two descriptors to arrange the menu
  • Shift+DEL - to fill the descriptor with zeroes.


  • Main menu.

    The Main menu is the first aid level provided by SyMon. You can use the arrow keys to select one of the operating systems, as previously prepared in the setup dialog. Press ENTER to start the chosen OS. In addition to the systems, the following can be chosen:

    • Boot from floppy
    • Boot from another hard drive
    • Turn off the computer

    In some cases you will need to boot from floppy or another hard drive (other than the current) so that the operating system can "see" the necessary partitions. The problem here is to make those partitions appear in the MBR, as it always contains the most recently used ones, which may not be the same as the ones you want to use with the new system. To overcome this, SyMon has a special feature. Before booting the computer, you must mark the system that will provide partitions for the MBR. To do this, you must select the system with the cursor and press SPACE on it. An asterisk will appear to the left of that system's name. This means that this system's partitions will be copied to the MBR partition table whenever you choose to boot from floppy or a second hard drive.

    Booting from a different hard drive has some tricks. If the other drive does not have SyMon installed on it, the code written on its MBR will be executed. If SyMon is installed, however, then you will just change SyMon's menu to the other drive. The Main menu will be reopened with the systems present on the new drive. Moreover, all SyMon's tools will be available for use with the new drive, as they are always available for use with the drive that is current.

    Booting from a different drive is very delicate thing. Many operating systems cannot boot properly from a drive other than the first. SyMon has some cures for these cases. These cures do not change any sector of the OS, but change the memory after loading the OS loader. These patches will not work if you boot from a different drive which has no SyMon installed. This may cause errors when trying to boot an operating system that has not been installed with SyMon, as is the case with many Microsoft OSes.

    If your computer has an ATX power supply then you can turn the power off directly from the Main menu. Unfortunately, it is not easy to detect whether a power supply is ATX-compliant or not. In these cases, the option will appear but will not function.

    Additional information about using the main menu can be found in the examples section.



    Partition autosearch.

    Autosearch is a most unusual tool among the previously described ones. It helps you to restore a damaged partition structure on your disk. We must emphasize that there is no guarantee that a full reparation of the information will be achieved. It is better to think of it as the best approximation to the real information that was lost. You should always visually check the search results delivered by this tool. Correcting them is absolutely normal and gives very little problems. Experienced users will waste much less time to correcting the results of autosearch comparing to the effort of manually repairing of the whole damaged partition table. Therefore, this is a very useful tool. In the simplest cases, its results do not need any correction at all.

    A great many deal of partitions are actually just containers of some file system. In these cases, there is a so-called super block near the start of the partition. This block is most often located in the first block of the partition. The super block contains some parameters of the file system. One of them is the length of the file system in blocks. That is why by finding the super block you can restore a whole partition.

    Autosearch is just a sequential scan of the whole disk to look for any super blocks. SyMon has a small database of most the popular super blocks and their signatures. Once a super block is found, the length of the corresponding partition is calculated. Thereafter, all of the information about the partition is collected: beginning, length and FSC. The FSC is determined by the type of the super block. After this, the found partition is added to the list of detected partitions and the scanning continues from the first block following the last found partition. This procedure repeats until the end of the disk is reached.

    After this scan is finished, SyMon analyzes the list of found partitions. It discards those which are already known, i.e. are present in the internal partition table, so only new-found partitions are added to the table.

    SyMon tries to associate the new partitions with operating system descriptors. For this purpose SyMon has a small database of compatible partitions and a database of bootable partitions. SyMon chooses one bootable partition from the list and then adds up to three compatible partitions from the internal partition table. For example, if a DOS Primary Partition (FSC=#06) is found, compatible partitions with it are another DOS Primary Partition and a DOS Extended Partition (FSC=#05). Thus, the OS descriptors will have as many compatible partitions as possible. The names for the OSes are taken according to the type of super block of bootable partitions. After registering all new systems, autosearch completes.

    Autosearch can eventually make the following mistakes due to different reasons:

    • Wrong name of OS. This can happen most often with Microsoft systems. This problem is caused by the common file system (FAT) for all these systems. The corresponding name which is given by the signatures in the superblock can become wrong very fast. It happens because of a certain predilection by users to reinstall Microsoft systems :-)
    • Wrong order of partitions. This could happen when SyMon internal partition table has a lot of compatible partitions, so the number of combinations is very high.
    • Extra bootable systems. They can appear when it is difficult to detect that a partition is non-bootable. For example, all Primary FAT partitions are potentially bootable. To detect them as non- bootable, they would have to be guaranteed not to have any system files in the file system. Since SyMon does not work with file systems it cannot exclude non-bootable partitions.

    All of these problems can be manually corrected by using the setup dialog. If some partitions are wrong you can just delete them using the partition editor.

    Several file systems (e.g. many "inode file systems") have many copies of the super block that are stored uniformly in the partition space. This could cause a false detection of a partition's beginning. Due to the autosearch's skipping of the partition after finding the beginning block, it skips all other copies of the super block as well.

    For greatest reliability, autosearch checks only the first sectors of every cylinder and also the first sector of track 1 of every cylinder. This makes scanning faster and skips all suspicious blocks. All standard versions of the fdisk utility always align partitions to the cylinder boundary, so all of them would be found with autosearch.

    If a partition's signature does not exist in SyMon's database, then the partition is missed. However, if the partition is located between two known partitions it will be easy for the user to determine its boundaries. The FSC of that partition can then be restored manually. As an example, let's take a Linux swap partition. This is a raw partition without any signatures. It is missed by autosearch. But you may easily spot it as a "hole" in the partition map. The FSC of Linux swap partition is #82. Therefore, despite the inability for full automatic detection, manual corrections are minimal.

    In conclusion, we can say that autosearch is not a tool for every day usage. You will find it useful when you loose information about your partitions or when there are be no backup copies of the partition table.



    Examples

    EXAMPLE 1. Classic method of installing new OS.

    Suppose you have free space on the disk for a new operating system. Then you need the following steps to install it:

    • Using the partition map, create one or more new partitions.
    • Getting back to the partition editor, specify the right FSC for these partitions. Some popular FSCs are described in the technical note 2.
    • Enter the SETUP dialog and fill the new OS descriptor using the references to the newly created partitions in columns 0-3 & BP.
    • Now this new OS shows in the Main menu. You just need to install it. To do so, move the cursor to the new system and press SPACE. You will see the asterisk to the left of the OS name. Then choose to boot from floppy A:
    • Insert bootable floppy disk in floppy drive and boot the OS to install. To install Microsoft Oses, you can boot the usual MS-DOS with CD-ROM drivers so that you can install the OS from CD.

    Further installation steps depend on the OS you're installing. In the case of Microsoft Oses, you can run setup.exe from CD, for example. But do not forget to format the partitions you have created.

    Sometimes it is necessary to boot directly from CD-ROM to install the system. To setup the right MBR partition table, you need the following trick. After pressing SPACE with the cursor on the new system, you should choose to boot from A:, but do not insert any diskette in the drive. In this case SyMon, upon noticing the asterisk, will compile the MBR partition table according to new OS descriptor. However, then it will find no diskette in the drive and cancel booting. If you now press Ctrl-Alt-Del and enter the machine BIOS setup and choose to boot from CD-ROM first, then you will get the correct MBR for the new OS installer.

    Beginning with Release 3 SyMon supports plugins so you can boot from CD-ROM by selecting the respective item in the main menu of SyMon. In these case you should proceed as if it was booting from floppy: you need to mark the system being installed with asterisk (pressing SPACE) and than choose to boot from CD via the plugin.


    EXAMPLE 2. Changing the order of logical drives for DOS.

    While starting, DOS scans the partition table of the MBR and mounts all FAT logical drives (primary or extended) in the order they are stored in the MBR. By changing the order of partition references in the setup dialog, you can change the contents of logical drives. Unfortunately, drives defined in extended partitions have a predefined order, and so you cannot change their order.

    Suppose you have 3 primary FAT16 DOS partitions with FSC=#06. Let's further suppose they are stored in the internal table records with numbers 0, 1, 2. Also suppose the following layout in SyMon's Setup dialog:

         Name of OS       0  1  2  3  AP BP D   passwd
      0  MS DOS           0  1  2  -  0  0  0     no
         ---------------> C: D: E: <-- original layout of drives
    

    Now suppose we want to make drive D: bootable, renaming it as C:. Drives C: E: must become E: and D:, respectively. Thus, the net effect we want is that of shifting the drive names cyclically by one to the left. To do so we should change the OS descriptor in the following way:

         Name of OS       0  1  2  3  AP BP D   passwd
      0  MS DOS           1  2  0  -  0  0  0     no
         ---------------> C: D: E: <-- new layout of drives
                          D: E: C: <-- contents of drives
                                       in old layout names
    

    Unfortunately, a weirdness of the DOS mounting algorithm does not allow to the system to boot from logical drive D:. That is why a bootable drive must always be pointed to as C:, i.e. it must be placed in column 0 of the descriptor. Because of this, you are somewhat limited in the reordering of drives.


    EXAMPLE 3. Preparing a reference to the system from the second hard drive.

    Suppose you have two hard drives and there is a bootable system on the second hard drive. If the second drive is plugged permanently (that is, not easily removable), it is preferable to make a reference to its OSes from the main hard drive menu. This simplifies the choice of systems, as all of them will be presented in one menu. Suppose you have the following settings for the second hard drive:

         Name of OS       0  1  2  3  AP BP D   passwd
         ............................................. doesn't matter
      3  Linux            2  3  1  -  0  2  0    yes
         ............................................. doesn't matter
    

    Therefore, the second hard drive has a Linux installation that shows itself (partition 2), a swap partition (partition 3), and, say, a FAT partition for data exchange with DOS (partition 1). Then the settings of the first hard drive should be as follows:

         Name of OS       0  1  2  3  AP BP D   passwd
         ............................................. doesn't matter
      5  Linux from hd1   a  b  c  d  0  3  1     no
         ............................................. doesn't matter
    

    By reading this record we see the following. The fifth operating system descriptor of drive 0 (first hard drive) has a reference to drive 1 (second hard drive). When you start Linux from the second drive, the MBR partition table of the first drive must be compiled so as to use partitions a, b, c and d of the internal list. Partition (a) must be marked active. The boot sector should be loaded from drive 1 (D=1). The boot system is described by the third (BP=3) descriptor of the second drive settings. Since this descriptor also has a password, the user will be asked for that password before attempting to boot Linux. The password of the reference location in descriptor 5 of drive 0 is ignored.

    After entering all of this, you will see the item "Linux from hd1" appear in the main menu, which will activate booting from second hard drive.


    EXAMPLE 4. Booting from the first hard drive an OS that is specified on the second one.

    Since SyMon allows for 36 partitions the contents of the MBR partition table is not permanent. You need to arrange a specific OS layout for each OS. In the case of single drive, this is done automatically before starting the OS, but in the case of several drives some extra action is required to guarantee the set of partitions on the second to fourth drives. Suppose you have two systems on the second drive:

         Name of OS       0  1  2  3  AP BP D   passwd
      0  MS DOS           0  1  -  -  0  0  0     no
      1  Linux            2  3  -  -  0  2  0     no
    

    You can see that the partitions of these OSes are absolutely different. If you want to start Linux from the first drive and allow it to "see" Linux partitions on the second drive, you must guarantee the contents of the MBR for the second drive. For that, you must do the following:

    • Choose "Booting from HD1" in the Main menu. You will see the new menu with MS DOS and Linux.
    • Move the cursor to the Linux entry and press SPACE. You will see the asterisk to the left of Linux.
    • Choose "Booting from HD0". MBR of second drive will be compiled according to the Linux partitions and you will see the Main menu of the first drive again.
    • Choose to boot Linux in the first drive's menu.


    EXAMPLE 5. Boot OS with compiling MBRs on all drives.

    If you have several operating systems and their partitions are located on several hard drives but they are different for each system then you have a problem how to switch these partitions by selecting the single item in just one menu. You need to synchronize MBRs on all drives with your choice when you launch any of your systems. Theoretically, you could use changing hard drive technique with marking needed OS with asterisk to compile drive's MBR but practically this is rather awkward. This solution would become very annoying one.

    Specially for this case SyMon supports macros. Macros allow you to get rid of manual assembling of MBRs and to compile them on up to 4 drives automatically.

    So, suppose you have two drives every of which has, say, FAT partitions and Linux partitions. Suppose also, that drive hd0 has two bootable OSes, Windows 98 and Linux, and you want make FAT partitions on hd1 visible for Windows 98 and Linux partitions on hd1 visible for Linux in case of their booting.

    You should make the following settings for drive hd0:

           Partition Editor:
        0  ....................   Linux
        1  ....................   Linux swap
        2  ....................   FAT16
        3  ....................   Extended
    
           Setup:
          OS name          0  1  2  3  AP  BP D   passwd
        0  _Linux          0  1  -  -  0   0  0    no
        1  _Windows        2  3  -  -  0   2  0    no
        2  @Linux          0  0  -  -  0   0  0    no
        3  @Windows        1  3  -  -  0   1  0    no
    

    You should make the following settings for drive hd1:

           Partition Editor:
           ....................
        4  ....................   Linux
        5  ....................   FAT16
        6  ....................   Extended
    
           Setup:
           OS Name         0  1  2  3  AP  BP D   passwd
        0  _Linux          4  -  -  -  0   0  0    no
            ...................................
        3  _Windows        5  6  -  -  0   0  0    no
    

    Therefore, you need to create OS descriptors with OS names beginning with underscores which will not be rendered in main menu. They just describe MBR their OS, MBR contents etc. The real Main menu will only contain macro names, @Linux, @Windows. Sign @ is omitted in that case.

    Macros reference the hidden OS descriptors in configuration of both drives. So they reference MBR contents and boot partition. Macro descriptor parameters D and BP reference respectively drive and OS descriptor in configuration of that drive which describe the boot partition. For example, in case of macro @Linux we need to boot system 0 from drive 0 ie _Linux from hd0, in case of @Windows we need to boot system 2 from drive 0 ie _Windows from hd0.



    Plugins.

    Since SyMon is located on track 0 of hard drive it cannot be longer than approximately 30Kb. This leads to limited functionality of SyMon. This limitation disables some useful tools to be included in SyMon. As a result, not all the users can discard some old programs, such as old boot managers, fdisks and formatters. In several cases, despite the SyMon is better choice for partitioning disk from the very beginning it is impossible to install it after the older software. These problems will become obsolete in future but nowadays they have helped to enhance SyMon strong points.

    Third generation of SyMon support plugins, or additional tools. SyMon does not limit the functionality of plugins. Moreover, it provides them with its kernel calls as dynamic linked library so plugins can use many standard functions such as number-to-string converters, disk i/o, drawing etc.

    Plugin should be described in SETUP dialog using an OS descriptor. Such plugin descriptor is treated by SyMon in a special way. Plugins are defined by setting their drive parameter "D" as "+" (plus) which means that descriptor belongs to an additional aid. Since all the plugins may be located on the current drive only plugin flag does not interfere with actual drive number parameter.

    Since the plugin descriptor is appointed by its flag its place should be discovered. SyMon supports two ways of locating the plugins:
    (a) as a file in the root directory of FAT12, FAT16, FAT32 or NTFS partition
    (b) in the special SyMon plugin holding partition (before Release R3.17)
    Therefore, to describe a plugin you need to set partition and plugin file name on it. Partition is set in field BP of OS descriptor and the name in "OS name" field. All other columns (they are cyan in standard palette) are used in their primary meaning.

    Every plugin has a header which contains up to 15 items for additional tools. Each of these items is added to the main menu or to the additional menu depending on the flag provided by the developer of plugin. Thus, plugin can be not only additional tools but also macros which start several non-standard OSes. For example, they can help to organize several OSes on single file system.

    Plugin setup technique for FAT12, FAT16, FAT32 or NTFS partitions is very simple. You just need to copy the plugin file to the root directory and create a descriptor for this plugin in SETUP dialog (F2). This plugin descriptor is not much more complex than a normal OS descriptor. Instead of OS name you should enter the plugin name with its extension. Then please put into the "BP" field the number of partition where the plugin is copied. The "D" field should contain a "+". This will make SyMon to recognize the descriptor as a plugin and not to show it among other OSes. The contents of other parameters of the descriptor can be various and can affect plugin depending on what it was written for.

    Installation of plugins in a special SyMon plugin partition is more complex but it has some advantages:

    • More reliability is achieved. You can format any partition without a danger for plugins to have been lost.
    • There is no need to use FAT or NTFS partitions at all if you do not really need them.

    Partition for plugins should not be large. One cylinder is quite enough for that purpose. The capacity of is about 63*255*512=~8Mb on modern drive. Such capacity will enclose more than 130 plugins. Partition should have FSC=0xE5. To install the plugin into the partition you need to copy it to SyMon installation disk, boot from it and run plugin setup manager. Then you will need to copy plugin to its partition.

    Plugins are scanned every time you change SyMon setup settings in the SETUP dialog so you can always repair plugin that has been lost on the fly. You can also take them one after another and use only one OS descriptor slot for plugins.

    You can set up plugin directly from SyMon. Every plugin consists of up to 15 extension methods. Each method can be of one of three types: OS, Device or Tool. Descriptors of these methods are numbered from 1 to F. Each descriptor has the following fields:

    • NAME. The extension method name is put into menus. So the purpose of it is just cosmetic. You may also use some special characters at the very begin of name string: "_" is treated as a comment. First "~" is treated as empty character and not shown in the menu. These rules simplify writing plugins with autohide feature when the initialization method of plugin can disable plugin if it cannot be used. For example, CD-ROM plugin can detect no CD-ROM drives and remove the item form menu by just replacing sign "~" to "_" at the beginning of the extension method descriptor. However, you can easily define or change the appearance of the menu item.
    • PASSWORD. This is almost the most useful parameter of method descriptor. It enables you to protect the methods from accidental use of undesired users.
    • Parameters X0 and X1. These are two numeric parameters for internal use of plugins. Their meanings depends on plugin implementation. For example, standard plugin utilizes X0 for referencing actual dialog to use.
    • TYPE of method. This parameter describes where to put menu item. Type TOOL is for items being located in Additional Tools Menu (activated by Alt+G). Type OS is for methods which boot operating systems form the current hard drive. They are located in the top of boot menu. Type DEVICE is for methods which boot operating systems from external devices. They are put in the bottom of boot menu.

    Additionally, you may define default boot method and default cursor method of plugin. They have absolutely the same meanings as for main SyMon settings. They have sense only for methods of type OS or DEVICE as they are put in boot menu. To enable this settings to work you must enter the number of the plugin descriptor as the default system in main SyMon settings. For example, if some plugin is defined in record A of SyMon setup settings and you want to boot some OS using the OS method of this plugin than you should enter A as default SyMon OS then open setup dialog for this plugin and set its default system to appropriate OS method. The same rules are used for default cursor position.

    You can use not only assembler but also C language to develop plugins. They are available for developers.



    Standard plugin.

    SyMon 3 is equipped with a standard plugin. It consists of the color editor, the feature editor and the time table editor which enable you to extend SyMon capabilities. Since there is no need to describe color editing process in details it is more interesting to pay more attention to other features.

    You can extend capabilities of SyMon by setting several flags which are used by the program to determine its behaviour in certain situations. Here they are:

    • Never offer booting from floppy. This flag controls menu item that offers you to boot from floppy drive. This prevents anybody from trying to crack the floppy password for there will be nothing to crack.
    • Never offer changing hard drive. This flag controls menu item that offers you to boot or change hard drive if it is useful for someone.
    • Never offer boot using device plugins. This flag controls menu items that offer you to boot from external media, such as CD-ROM, ZIP etc.
    • Never offer turning power off. This flags controls menu item that offers you to turn power off. If your BIOS or power supply do not support programmable turning power off this item may become useless so you can rid of it if you want.
    • Start default OS invisibly to user. This flag is especially useful for those who likes hidden movements. It directs SyMon to boot Default OS without any interface to the user. It will look as if you had only one OS on your machine but it will continue to compile MBR etc before booting OS. The only limitation is that booting default OS should not cause using any interface such as, for example, password checking dialog box. If the default OS has a password it will not be checked. To boot another system you just need to press and hold [Ctrl] key during SyMon brings up. In that case SyMon will activate its interface as usual. However, if your default OS is not defined or missing or any error occurs while trying to start that OS SyMon will appear itself.
    • Never hide FAT partitions on drive C. This item is valuable for booting Microsoft systems from second hard drive. They need booting partition to be drive C: But since they begin MBR scanning from hd0 the presence of any FAT partition there will cause OS to crash. That is why SyMon hides such partitions by default and guarantees that booting drive will become drive C:. However, we have no base to consider all future OSes will work incorrectly in similar situations but presence of some FAT partitions may be required on drive C:. That is why you can disable this feature. You can obviously hide partitions manually by entering respective OS descriptors in setup dialog. Nevertheless, since most of users will try to boot OS before they have reached these lines SyMon tries to be clever.
    • Never limit cylinders in partition editor. This item serves for old machines which have BIOSes that do not support drives larger than 8Gb. If you had such drive it would be impossible to partition it beyond 8Gb limit because SyMon limits cylinder numbers you enter in partition editor and partition map by values reported by BIOS. To overcome this stupid limitation you can set this feature, then you will be able to enter up to 65536 cylinders. However, you should manually calculate actual number of cylinders of your drive and not enter values grater than that number. Since the old BIOS refuses to work with more than 1024 cylinders SyMon is unable to determine actual cylinder limit to automatically protect you from addressing the drive beyond of its address space. In that case you may disable any limitations to get free.

    The Time Table Editor enables you to set time dependency of default OS that is booted up after timeout. Originally, default system is taken from SyMon setup settings. Then this value is corrected depending on current time. SyMon looks through the time table and chooses an OS which has the shortest time interval that contains the current time. So shorter intervals may preempt longer priorities. It the conditions are met SyMon reassigns that OS as new default OS.

    You may set any time intervals which are aligned to 10 minutes value. Note, that intervals 06:00-18:00 and 18:00-06:00 are different and complement. If start time of interval is equal to end time of interval than it is considered empty and turned off. To define 24 hours interval enter 00:00-24:00 value.


    Appendix A. Codes of file systems.

     FSC    File System Name
    
     #00    empty
     #01    DOS 12-bit FAT
     #02    XENIX root file system
     #03    XENIX /usr file system (obsolete)
     #04    DOS 16-bit FAT (up to 32M)
     #05    DOS 3.3+ extended partition                        | EXTENDED   |
     #06    DOS 3.31+ Large File System (16-bit FAT, over 32M) | FAT16      |
     #07    OS/2 HPFS                                          | NTFS, NPFS |
     #08    AIX bootable partition, SplitDrive
     #09    AIX data partition
     #0A    OS/2 Boot Manager
     #0B    Windows95 with 32-bit FAT                          | FAT32      |
     #0C    Windows95 with 32-bit FAT (INT 13 extensions)      | FAT32x     |
     #0E    LBA FAT16 (INT 13 extensions)                      | FAT16x     |
     #0F    LBA EXTENDED (INT 13 extensions)                   | EXTENDEDx  |
     #11    OS/2 Boot Manager hidden 12-bit FAT partition
     #14    OS/2 Boot Manager hidden sub-32M 16-bit FAT partition
     #16    OS/2 Boot Manager hidden over-32M 16-bit FAT partition
     #17    OS/2 Boot Manager hidden HPFS partition
     #17    hidden NTFS partition
     #18    AST special Windows swap file ("Zero-Volt Suspend" partition)
     #19    Willowtech Photon coS
     #1B    hidden Windows95 FAT32 partition
     #1C    hidden Windows95 FAT32 partition (INT 13 extensions)
     #1E    hidden LBA VFAT partition
     #24    NEC MS-DOS 3.x
     #38    Theos
     #3C    PowerQuest PartitionMagic recovery partition
     #40    VENIX 80286
     #41    Personal RISC Boot
     #42    SFS (Secure File System) by Peter Gutmann
     #4D    QNX                                                | QNX        |
     #4E    QNY                                                | QNX        |
     #4F    QNZ                                                | QNX        |
     #50    OnTrack Disk Manager, read-only partition
     #51    OnTrack Disk Manager, read/write partition
     #51    NOVEL
     #52    CP/M
     #52    Microport System V/386
     #53    OnTrack Disk Manager, write-only partition???
     #54    OnTrack Disk Manager (DDO)
     #56    GoldenBow VFeature
     #61    SpeedStor
     #63    Unix SysV/386 SCO, 386/ix
     #63    Mach, MtXinu BSD 4.3 on Mach
     #63    GNU HURD
     #64    Novell NetWare 286
     #65    Novell NetWare (3.11)
     #67    Novell
     #68    Novell
     #69    Novell
     #70    DiskSecure Multi-Boot
     #75    PC/IX
     #7E    F.I.X.
     #80    Minix v1.1 - 1.4a
     #81    Minix v1.4b+
     #81    Linux
     #81    Mitac Advanced Disk Manager
     #82    Linux Swap partition                               | Linux SWAP |
     #82    Prime
     #83    Linux native file system (ext2fs/xiafs)            | Linux      |
     #84    OS/2-renumbered type 04h partition (related to hiding DOS C:)
     #86    FAT16 volume/stripe set (Windows NT)
     #87    HPFS Fault-Tolerant mirrored partition
     #87    NTFS volume/stripe set
     #93    Amoeba file system
     #94    Amoeba bad block table
     #A0    Phoenix NoteBIOS Power Management "Save-to-Disk" partition
     #A5    FreeBSD, BSD/386                                   | FreeBSD    |
     #A6    OpenBSD                                            | OpenBSD    |
     #A9    NetBSD (http://www.netbsd.org/)
     #B7    BSDI file system (secondarily swap)
     #B8    BSDI swap partition (secondarily file system)
     #C1    DR DOS 6.0 LOGIN.EXE-secured 12-bit FAT partition
     #C4    DR DOS 6.0 LOGIN.EXE-secured 16-bit FAT partition
     #C6    DR DOS 6.0 LOGIN.EXE-secured Huge partition
     #C6    corrupted FAT16 volume/stripe set (Windows NT)
     #C7    Syrinx Boot
     #C7    corrupted NTFS volume/stripe set
     #D8    CP/M-86
     #DB    CP/M, Concurrent CP/M, Concurrent DOS
     #DB    CTOS (Convergent Technologies OS)
     #E1    SpeedStor 12-bit FAT extended partition
     #E3    DOS read-only
     #E3    Storage Dimensions
     #E4    SpeedStor 16-bit FAT extended partition
     #E5    SyMon Plugins partition
     #F1    Storage Dimensions
     #F2    DOS 3.3+ secondary partition
     #F4    SpeedStor
     #F4    Storage Dimensions
     #FE    LANstep
     #FE    IBM PS/2 IML
     #FF    Xenix bad block table
    
    
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