How do I disable the "attractive," graphical startup screen?
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You want to edit your /etc/inittab file. Open it up in your favorite text editor, find the sections that deals with the default runlevels. You'll see a line like id:5:initdefault:. Change the 5 to a 3 and the next time you boot, it should show you nothing but text.
# Default runlevel. The runlevels used by RHS are:
# 0 - halt (Do NOT set initdefault to this)
# 1 - Single user mode
# 2 - Multiuser, without NFS (The same as 3, if you do not have networking)
# 3 - Full multiuser mode
# 4 - unused
# 5 - X11
# 6 - reboot (Do NOT set initdefault to this)
Change the "id:5:initdefault:" to "id:3:initdefault:". You'll then boot to the command line, and can start X with startx.
bootsplash can actually be really useful, don't knock it till you see it's applications. and there is no kernel overhead, just a little extra memory usage.
so yeah the mandrake bootup screen DOES use bootsplash. When i used to use mandrake, what I did was to take the kernel config from the annoying config file there and just recompiled a stock kernel without the boot patches on it. Also though it will presumably be using an initial ramdisk (initrd) which actually contains the graphic data, so if you were to remove the reference to the initrd file then the image shouldn't appear.