If you read my previous blog, you already know that VistaPE is a project that uses WinBuilder to automate the construction of a WinPE 2.0-based bootable image from the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) as well as the Vista OS install media (or a hard-disk copy thereof, for much better build-time performance). What may not have been clear in that posting, has now become crystal clear to me, thanks to spending a large part of the last two days devouring the forum posts, tutorials, and how-to’s available at Nuno Brito’s stellar site www.Boot-Land.net, the home of WinBuilder and an affiliate site for VistaPE.net.
What I didn’t immediately realize but am now keenly aware of, is that this site is a treasure trove of Windows internals lore, tools references, and information that has to be explored to be believed, and deeply pondered to be fully understood. I have learned more in the past two days about Windows boot structures, how the boot process begins, about the various types of file systems and MBR records that PC BIOSes can create and the various versions of Windows can accommodate, and how to build bootable floppies, hard disks, UFDs, and optical media than I ever imagined possible.
To me, Boot-Land.net is a stunning and entirely convincing demonstration of the power of open source and community effort. There’s no way a commercial outfit would be willing to disclose the kind of information that people want and need to know about low-level inner workings of operating systems, bootstrap loaders, BIOS operations, and related forensics and construction tools–at least, not without feeling like its “valuable intellectual property” had been given away purely for good will. Boot-Land.net does this as a matter of deliberate policy, design, and support for community.
Any Windows professionals, including those who work with XP and Vista, as well as other versions both older and newer, will find lots of interesting, valuable, and useful information here about how to design, build, and install compact boot environments for Windows machines. They’ll also learn about lots of tools they can include in such environments for installation, automated deployment, troubleshooting, and system repair.
I’d have to recommend this as one of the best resources I’ve ever seen when it comes to understanding how the Windows OS is put together, how it loads and boots, and what kinds of specifics are necessary to fit customized configurations to particular collections of hardware (motherboard, CPU, chipsets, devices, peripherals, and so forth). My only beefs against the site are its “sink or swim” approach to organizing and presenting information and providing guidance to newbies, and the incredible amount of information through which interested parties must work to find the items of greatest interest and relevance to them. But when compared to the treasures and wisdom so liberally scattered around its collection of goodies, those are pretty minor beefs indeed.
You simply must check it out! http://www.boot-land.net/forums/