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xOSL (meaning Extended Operating System Loader) is the name of a bootloader, which is a program product class that launches operating systems from a bootable device such as a hard disk or floppy drive. xOSL was originally developed by Geurt Vos.
xOSL provides a graphical user interface which allows the user to set up and boot a computer into any of 24 different operating systems. xOSL is nondenominational bootloader, owing allegiance to no system in particular, and booting them all equally well.
The xOSL interface installs and uninstalls easily. The xOSL program poses very little risk of permanent damage to existing data. Removing the program can be accomplished with the DOS command fdisk /MBR, which returns the disk to its original boot configuration. Generally Xosl resides on it own fat32 partition requiring less than 2mb, and it does not intermingle with other data.
If xOSL is installed on a DOS partition the configuration files are marked as hidden. They all have a filetype beginning with 'X' (.XCF, .XXF, .XDF) You can see the xOSL files with the command "dir /a /w *.x*".
The xOSL solution is highly portable (less than 1 MB) and incorporates easily navigable menu boxes and interfaces. The program requires very little time to configure.
Note: The 24 system limititation is imposed by the physical space available on the operating system menu. Theoretically, the program could support an infinite number of operating systems. By 'chainloading' the bootloader, users have reported booting vastly more operating systems than the program is claimed to support.
xOSL is free software released under the GPL license. The project was actively developed by Geurt Vos between 1999 and 2001 and spanned four major revisions and two minor revisions after its initial creation.
From its origin in xOSL version 1.0.0, xOSL underwent major changes in ver. 1.1.0, 1.1.1, 1.1.2 and 1.1.3. These revisions were significant departures from one another, and introduced new features to the program. These features ranged from drastic user interface improvements to improved compatibility on diverse hardware platforms.
xOSL ver. 1.1.4 and 1.1.5 only introduced improvements to existing functionality and repaired features that should have been functional in their predecessors. Although their improvements were subtle, they did serve to stabilize a developing protocol, and are the most polished revisions of the original to date.
The project lapsed into a dormant state and was abandoned by its original developer from 2001-2007. xOSL remained available for download and use throughout this period.
Despite the lack of active product development, an enthusiastic community of xOSL users began exchanging ideas and product results through the use of Yahoo! Groups and other support sites on the internet. These groups became the foundation of the 'xOSL Culture'. The xOSL groups assisted fellow members with advice and accomplishments through the use of xOSL. After the original xOSL web site expired it was mirrored in multiple locations by Filip Komar and Mikhail Ranish.
The cult-like devotion to xOSL gave credibility to the idea that the future development of xOSL was an inevitability. Other bootloaders such as Lilo and GRUB performed effectively, but xOSL survived as time passed without development support or a marketing platform of any kind.
Very few enhancements to the original product occurred during this time, most of them being fairly inconsequential. One such enhancement gave the user the ability to change wallpapers and the image displayed at startup, and like most other revisions, it did not add a great deal to the program in terms of core functionality.
Other revisions included the translation of xOSL into several different languages, including German, Czech and French, among others.
Responding to the demand for an updated xOSL, John Marlowe did some development of the software under the XOSL2 title.
The product boasted that it has added CD support, when in fact the original xOSL incorporated installation from a CD device. Visually and functionally, the product is basically unchanged, except for a startup screen that bears the xOSL2 logo instead of the classic xOSL logo. No major enhancements were introduced, except a streamlined CD install process. Development of this version of xOSL2 has apparently ceased, and the website is no longer available.
XOSL-OW is an Open Watcom Port of XOSL. XOSL is developed by Geurt Vos using the Borland C++ 3.1 tool set while XOSL-OW is based on the Open Watcom version 1.8 tool set. The XOSL-OW Open Watcom Port allows for future development of XOSL using an Open Source development tool set.
XOSL-OW has no new functionality compared to XOSL but it does give improved behavior on specific PC hardware. In fact stability issues with XOSL on some PC platforms have been the reason for porting XOSL to the Open Watcom tool set.
Examples of stability issues on specific PC hardware are:
In XOSL-OW these stability issues have been solved by an improved A20 Line Switching algorithm and flushing the keyboard buffer before the XOSL boot manager hands over control to either the Ranish Partition manager, the Smart Boot Manager or the Operating System Bootloader.
Currently xOSL is capable of booting operating systems from a variety of format types. These include, and may not be limited to:
Other reasons for the success of xOSL include its compact size. Its primary location is in the MBR where it references items on the physical hard drive for its GUI and other features. As long as a drive is formatted in FAT32, xOSL does not require additional partitioning. The FAT32 drive on which xOSL resides does not need to be the first partition of the drive.
Other features include:
The continued development of xOSL is almost entirely dependent on individual user contributions and community participation.