Freeware Fest on Friday Elmar Hanlhofer’s Plop Boot Managers are a small family of tiny tools that allow booting from media that a computer normally cannot boot from.
Before you point out that all modern computers can Booting from USB – the boot managers also work well in virtual machines, where USB boot support is much rarer. Yes, of course you can virtually “insert” an ISO file into your VM’s virtual CD-ROM, but if you want to boot a VM from a real physical USB stick, it’s not that easy.
The programs are tiny: they fit on a single floppy disk (even a 720 KB one), and the ISO image is about half a megabyte.
Plop Boot Manager 5: Okay, the font and starfield are a bit 1980s, but the functionality can be very handy.
Boot PBM5 and it will display a menu that allows you to boot the actual target operating system on the machine from a floppy, or from a CD-ROM, or from USB. None of this uses the PC’s BIOS, so it doesn’t matter if the firmware is happily unaware of the existence of these media.
Optionally, the boot manager can be installed directly on your PC’s hard drive, in which case it will present a list of partitions and boot their contents. The unfinished PBM6 supports both UEFI and BIOS systems. Interestingly, the separate Plop VHD Loader can also boot some operating systems directly from MS hypervisors VHD virtual disk files. without use a hypervisor or start another operating system first.
As an example of what you could use this for, you can install a Linux distribution directly onto a USB stick and then have a universal bootable drive that will run on almost any PC. It’s easier and safer to create this in a VM, and you don’t run the risk of accidentally writing the bootloader to your main drive and ending up with a PC that won’t boot if the USB stick isn’t there. However, most hypervisors still use a legacy BIOS by default, and most of them cannot boot from real, physical USB drives on the host. With PBM they can.
It makes it easier to create the bootable drive in the first place without having to map that device as the VM’s drive with the
createrawvmdk Option which, as the VirtualBox manual shows, is quite complicated and requires root privileges.
Hypothetically speaking, if you were expecting to be spending a lot at the local library this winter because you could no longer afford to heat your home, this could be a handy way to introduce time restrictions on the library PCs evade.
Important boot note
The original Plop Boot Manager, currently at version 5.15, and the new PBM6, still under development, are freeware, but they are Not open-source. However, both are free to use for both personal and commercial purposes. They also have a Linux-only cousin, PlopKexec, which is fully open source.
https://www.theregister.com/2022/10/07/plop_boot_manager_boot_a/ Plop Boot Manager boots PCs from media they cannot boot from • The Register