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Introduction to Linux - A Hands on Guide
This guide was created as an overview of the Linux Operating System, geared toward new users as an exploration tour and getting started guide, with exercises at the end of each chapter.
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To put it simply, think of the booting process as a chain of events. The BIOS checks its boot order looking for an MBR. When it finds one, it hands over control to the MBR. If grub is installed in the MBR then grub takes control. Because grub is too large to fit completely in the MBR it needs to create a further chain, hence the stage 1, stage 1.5, and stage 2 files, which are located elsewhere on the hard disk. The grub information in the MBR merely passes control over to the said files.
When you boot from a floppy, the stage 1 and stage 2 files are on the floppy. (Stage 1.5 is only needed for reiserfs.) Therefore it does not need to access these on the hard disk.
The details of how to load the kernel into RAM (that is its path) and how to mount the root file system (again, its path) are written into the grub menu.lst.
In reply to saikee, congratulations! You're the only person I have ever met (albeit obliquely) not to have found floppies unreliable. However, if you really want a reliable medium which runs on the IDE bus, then why not try a compact flash card. A compact flash IDE adapter is about £10. The RW performance on the cards is improving all the time, and most of them have DMA enabled. They are silent; faster; hugely more capacious; you can format them with whatever file system you like; they are physically smaller; and finally, they use far less power than a floppy disk. Incidentally, a DVD RAM disk also presents itself as a pseudo hard disk. Again, any file system you like with RW capabilities. We also have a plethora of "live" CDs available to us. These make ideal Linux recovery disks. In fact, we are spoiled for choice.