Sunday, 14 January 2018

Boot Menu for Q60 with Multiple Hard Drive Formats

With the latest version of smsq/e the Q60 can handle files on FAT32 formatted media and QUBide formatted disks and media as well as its native QWA hard disk format.  There are also the options of booting the Q60 in to mode 4 smsq/e or the QDOS classic or Linux. In addition there may be specific configurations of the OS for some jobs. A boot options menu is a define necessity. Below are screen scrapes of QL Heaven's current boot menu showing 3 of the options in operation.

The Q60 for those who do not know comes with an ancient ROMMed version of smsq/e. This is 2.97 if my recollection is correct. The GD2 drivers are not present in this version, so mode 4 and possibly mode 8 colours are only possible. It's not a terribly good version of smsq/e now. Its function is to load a boot file that loads a newer version of  smsq/e. That is obvious but with the multiple options for launching the Q60 into action and the at least 4 different incompatible hard disk formats that could be  attached to the system there is a problem especially if a CD/DVD is also to be attached. The Q60 has 2 ISA slots which can supply IDE connections giving 4 possible maximum IDE devices. The tower the q60 board exists within has 2 internal 3.5 inch drive bays and 3 external 5&1/4 inch bays.
Mounting hard disks internally caused problems for smsq/e if the appropriate drivers are not loaded.

The answer is a boot menu and a caddy system for the hard disks to mount them in the external 5&1/4 inch bays. As a result the Q60 has a default timeout  boot with 4 QWA partitions on the primary hard disk. A second QWA disk with additional partitions can be mounted if that boot option is chosen or a QUBIDE formatted disk instead or a FAT 32 disk with 4 files acting as 4 additional partitions.

As an alternative the primary hard disk in it's caddy can be swapped out and replaced if the Q60 is to be booted in to LINUX or QDOS classic.

The trick for this system is to communicate from the boot menu to the reloaded boot file once the new version of smq/e has been loaded as neither boot file or smsq/e has any means of remembering which option had been selected so that the correct drivers are loaded for the current hard drive configuration. How that is done is quite simple and inelegant but functional, the boot file writes a note to itself on the primary hard disk. When it is reloaded it looks for the note that tells it which hard disk configuration has been selected, reads it loads the correct driver and deletes the note.


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