Turns out there is a windows version of syslinux, to be found HERE.
If I'd kept reading for about 2 more minutes I would have found that out and managed to avoid pretty much all of the timewasting I did last night. Sigh. At least the other people trying to make it work using loadlin indicates I can't have been the only one to get it wrong :-(
Also, the graphics card thing is a non-problem. Just chose Mini X-vesa in the gparted boot menus and it's fine
Moral of the story? Just because you've found a solution doesn't mean it's the best one. Keep looking until you can be sure it is!
So, I wanted to repartition my hard drive tonight. I've used GParted before and it was brilliant, so off I went to download the liveCD again.
Once at that site, I saw the LiveUSB option from the left-hand menu, and thought "Brilliant, I don't have to waste a CDR and it will be much quicker anyway!"... Little did I know that PAIN and DESPAIR awaited me. I'll publish how I resolved this in the hope that less other people will have to.
Step 1: Download the GParted LiveUSB distroI clicked 'Downloads', from the navigation, followed the liveUSB links, and wound up here:
I downloaded gparted-liveusb-0.3.1-1.zip, and unzipped it. Hooray, now what?
Problem 1: The GParted LiveUSB documentation is crap!The GParted LiveUSB information here says firstly I need to download a shell script, then I run it and copy some files to my USB key... Apart from a link to one forum post here that's it. Documentation? Instructions? Why do we need those? What could POSSIBLY go wrong?
Problem 2: Running shell scripts on windows doesn't work too well
The above shellscript invokes syslinux, and just about everything else on the net that talks about creating bootable floppies/USB keys also sooner or later invokes syslinux also. This seems to set up the boot record on the USB key so that you can boot linux off it. DOS used to have a utility like this called 'system' or 'sys' or somesuch but I can't remember. Seems simple enough, except I NEED LINUX TO RUN IT. Actually no I don't... see above. oops
In my humble opinion, if I was running linux already, I wouldn't need the liveUSB, I'd just apt-get install gparted and run the damn thing. Yes some travelling sysadmins might have a linux box at home and also need a usb key to take around, but I'm not one of them. The entire reason I'm trying to get this liveUSB to run is because I DON'T have linux.
So, I read that forum post, and noticed at the bottom someone using loadlin to load linux from a DOS system. Aha!
Step 2: A whole crapload of google searching and researching...
As I can't make my USB key linux-bootable without linux, I need to make it DOS-bootable, then get loadlin to load the linux kernel that comes with the gparted liveUSB. I'm going to skip all the boring details as it took me frickin ages and just explain what to do...
Step 2.1: Download a DOS bootdisk so we have DOSGoto http://www.bootdisk.com/bootdisk.htm and download the "Windows 98 SE Custom, No Ramdrive" boot disk. This gets you an executable which expects to write to your floppy drive... except I don't have a floppy drive. BAH.
Step 2.2: Extract the DOS bootdisk image with WinImage
Step 2.3: Make your thumbdrive bootable
Step 2.4: Get loadlin
Step 2.5: Copy files onto your USB key
Step 2.6: Make loadlin run automaticallyNote: This is like in the forum post here, except it actually works. I think that's out of date.
linux noapic initrd=initrd.gz root=/dev/ram0 init=/linuxrc ramdisk_size=65000(for those interested, those are the kernel boot parameters which I stole that out of syslinux.cfg from the gparted liveUSB distro. If that file changes, so should your loadlin parameters)
Step 3: GO GO GOReboot your computer! If you've set up your BIOS properly to boot off USB keys, your computer should now boot the GParted liveUSB. HOORAYZ!!!!1111
Step 4: cry
That's as far as I got, because the version of X.org on the liveUSB doesn't seem to like my NVidia 7600GT, so I'm stuck with a command prompt. Those of you with other graphics cards however should be fine. Whether the liveDistro includes command line partitioning tools I dunno, I might go look at that now.
If anyone would like to copy/distribute these instructions, or edit copies/etc, you are free to, as I am putting this particular blog post in the public domain under the creative commons public domain license.