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Writing a boot loader in assembler

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          ========================================
              Daniels NASM bootstraps tutorial
          ========================================

author: Daniel Marjamäki (daniel.marjamaki@home.se)



Preface
-------
This tutorial is a guide for those who want to create
their own bootstraps.


The basics
----------
These are the rules that you must follow:
  - The BIOS will load your bootstrap to address 07C00h.
    Sadly, the segment and offset varies.
  - Bootstraps must be compiled as plain binary files.
  - The filesize for the plain binary file must be 512
    bytes.
  - The file must end with AA55h.


A minimal bootstrap
-------------------
This bootstrap just hangs:

    ; HANG.ASM
    ; A minimal bootstrap

    hang:                   ; Hang!
            jmp hang

    times 510-($-$$) db 0   ; Fill the file with 0's
    dw 0AA55h               ; End the file with AA55

The line starting with "times" is a command that only
NASM understands. The line will insert 0's until the
filesize is 510 bytes. The whole file will therefore be
512 bytes.
The last instruction puts AA55 at the end of the file. 

To compile the bootstrap, use this command:
    nasm hang.asm -o hang.bin

If you want to test the bootstrap, you must first put it
on the first sector on a floppy disk. You can for example
use 'dd' or 'rawrite'.
When the bootstrap is on the floppy, test it by
restarting your computer with the floppy inserted. The
computer should hang then.


The memory problem
------------------
There is a memory problem.
As I've written bootstraps are always loaded to address
07C00. We don't know what segment and offset the BIOS has
put us in. The segment can be anything between 0000 and 
07C0. This is a problem when we want to use variables.
The solution is simple. Begin your bootstrap by jumping
to your bootstrap, but jump to a known segment.

Here is an example:

    ; JUMP.ASM
    ; Make a jump and then hang

    ; Tell the compiler that this is offset 0.
    ; It isn't offset 0, but it will be after the jump.
    [ORG 0]

            jmp 07C0h:start         ; Goto segment 07C0

    start:
            ; Update the segment registers
            mov ax, cs
            mov ds, ax
            mov es, ax

    hang:                           ; Hang!
            jmp hang

    times 510-($-$$) db 0
    dw 0AA55h

If you compile and test this bootstrap, there will be no
visible difference to the minimal bootstrap presented
earlier. The computer will just hang.


Some exercises
--------------
1. Create a bootstrap that outputs "====" on the screen,
   and then hangs. Tip: modify the jump.asm program.
2. Create a bootstrap that outputs "Hello Cyberspace!"
   and hangs.
3. Create a bootstrap that loads a program off the floppy
   disk and jumps to it.


Solutions to the exercises
--------------------------

1. 

    ; 1.ASM
    ; Print "====" on the screen and hang

    ; Tell the compiler that this is offset 0.
    ; It isn't offset 0, but it will be after the jump.
    [ORG 0]

            jmp 07C0h:start     ; Goto segment 07C0

    start:
            ; Update the segment registers
            mov ax, cs
            mov ds, ax
            mov es, ax

            mov ah, 9           ; Print "===="
            mov al, '='         ;
            mov bx, 7           ;
            mov cx, 4           ;
            int 10h             ;

    hang:                       ; Hang!
            jmp hang

    times 510-($-$$) db 0
    dw 0AA55h


2. 

    ; 2.ASM
    ; Print "Hello Cyberspace!" on the screen and hang

    ; Tell the compiler that this is offset 0.
    ; It isn't offset 0, but it will be after the jump.
    [ORG 0]

            jmp 07C0h:start     ; Goto segment 07C0

    ; Declare the string that will be printed
    msg     db  'Hello Cyberspace!'


    start:
            ; Update the segment registers
            mov ax, cs
            mov ds, ax
            mov es, ax


            mov si, msg     ; Print msg
    print:
            lodsb           ; AL=memory contents at DS:SI

            cmp al, 0       ; If AL=0 then hang
            je hang

            mov ah, 0Eh     ; Print AL
            mov bx, 7
            int 10h

            jmp print       ; Print next character


    hang:                   ; Hang!
            jmp hang


    times 510-($-$$) db 0
    dw 0AA55h


3.

    ; 3.ASM
    ; Load a program off the disk and jump to it

    ; Tell the compiler that this is offset 0.
    ; It isn't offset 0, but it will be after the jump.
    [ORG 0]

            jmp 07C0h:start     ; Goto segment 07C0

    start:
            ; Update the segment registers
            mov ax, cs
            mov ds, ax
            mov es, ax


    reset:                      ; Reset the floppy drive
            mov ax, 0           ;
            mov dl, 0           ; Drive=0 (=A)
            int 13h             ;
            jc reset            ; ERROR => reset again


    read:
            mov ax, 1000h       ; ES:BX = 1000:0000
            mov es, ax          ;
            mov bx, 0           ;

            mov ah, 2           ; Load disk data to ES:BX
            mov al, 5           ; Load 5 sectors
            mov ch, 0           ; Cylinder=0
            mov cl, 2           ; Sector=2
            mov dh, 0           ; Head=0
            mov dl, 0           ; Drive=0
            int 13h             ; Read!

            jc read             ; ERROR => Try again


            jmp 1000h:0000      ; Jump to the program


    times 510-($-$$) db 0
    dw 0AA55h



This is a small loadable program.

    ; PROG.ASM

            mov ah, 9
            mov al, '='
            mov bx, 7
            mov cx, 10
            int 10h

    hang:
            jmp hang


This program creates a disk image file that contains both
the bootstrap and the small loadable program.

    ; IMAGE.ASM
    ; Disk image

    %include '3.asm'
    %include 'prog.asm'




Finally
-------
Thanks for reading.
Email me any suggestions, comments, questions, ...
If you don't use NASM and are having problems with the
code, you should contact me. Together we can solve it.

The GNU Project Debian GNU/Linux Linux Mint GNOME


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