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it is a ramdisk that provides modules for the kernel before the root partition can be mounted
for example, if you compile ext3 support as a module, and your root partition is in ext3, the kernel doesn't know how to read your filesystem in order to load the module.... so initrd just puts the module in ram
syslinux is a boot loader correct? did you install it separately or did it come with your distro?
i don't know anything about syslinux... if it can only be installed on fat32 partitions (like powerquest's bootmagic) then it is probably only able to boot from fat32 partitions; in that case, you will probably want to look into using a lilo or grub boot loader
initrd doesn't need to be "changed" but should be rebuilt every time you compile a kernel; you can gunzip it and mount it in a ramdisk if you want to see its contents, but its contents are already going to be in /lib/modules/kernel-version/
to build a new initrd, i believe you simply have to do make initrd after doing make modules && make modules_install
if your kernel can mount your ext3 root partition, then it only means it has some way of understanding the ext3 format; to find out if ext3 is a module or kernel driver (builtin to the kernel), check lsmod or just go into your kernel source and do make menuconfig
I am a semi newbie. I have been using redhat 9 and then fedora core for a year, but never delved into the actual operations of linux or console based operations. I am buying a laptop for college and so am experimenting with distros now on my desktop to decide what to put on the laptop. Here is my problem:
I am trying to install slackware 9.1 but get this same message. I used fdisk to partition and then slackware's setup formatting and installation of lilo. I made hda1 bootable in fdisk. I used the reiserfs(?) format, and am at a loss. I suppose I will try with ext3.