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Hack 4. Set a Bitmap Boot Screen for LILO

You can have a splash screen for just about everything these days, including your bootloader.

Most people use either the time-honored LInux LOader (LILO), or the GRand Unified Bootloader (GRUB). This hack shows you how to download a LILO splash screen and configure it to appear with LILO when you boot your machine. This hack assumes your video card supports VESA frame buffers that will render a 255-color, 640x480 graphics screen in bitmap format (practically every decent graphics card made in the last several years works). It is not necessary to configure your Linux kernel to support frame buffers. When LILO displays the splash screen, the Linux kernel isn't loaded yet, so LILO cannot depend on the kernel for frame-buffer support.

On the other hand, this hack works nicely with all the other frame-buffer hacks, such as [Hack #8] and [Hack #20], so you might want to combine all these hacks to get the most out of your card's frame-buffer support.

You won't find a cornucopia of preconfigured LILO splash screens on the Internet, but a few do exist. Most of the downloads include a README file that includes instructions on the lines you need to add to lilo.conf to make the LILO boot splash work. Some of the URLs listed here have the instructions written on their respective web pages. Here are most of the splash screens available on

Tux Lilo Selection Screen

Lilo Waterdrops Theme

EnterTheLinux lilo/grub splash screen

KeramikBlue Lilo Bootscreen

Slackware Lilo splash screen/Slackware Bootsplash Lilo

This hack uses the first splash screen in the list, the Tux Lilo Selection Screen, as an example. Visit the URL and download the file. Then log in as root, extract the file, and copy the bitmap file (*.bmp) to the /boot directory:

$ su -
# tar zxvf 16756-Lilo-Tux.tar.gz
# cp lilo-boot-tux.bmp /boot

Now view the README.TXT file. In it are the instructions to put the following lines in your lilo.conf file. Start up your favorite editor and add these lines:


These lines tell LILO to install the ability to display a bitmap and instruct LILO as to which graphical bitmap file to use. The bmp-table, bmp-colors, and bmp-timer lines tell LILO where to place the menu and countdown timer (after which LILO automatically boots the default selection), and which colors to use. [Hack #5] provides more details about these lines.

Now run the lilo -v command to effect the change:

# lilo -v

Reboot your system, and you should see a brand-new graphical LILO startup screen.

If you are running certain versions of SUSE Linux, you can use a special version of LILO to display animated LILO boot splash screens. You can get more information about this from, along with some sample animated LILO boot graphics.

The next hack provides complete instructions on how to create your own LILO boot splash [Hack #5].

Avoid downloading LILO boot screens that are designed to use the message= command in the lilo.conf file. This technique works on only a few distributions of Linux, and it is difficult to find all the utilities necessary to make it work. Because the bitmap approach is at least as effective (if not better), it's probably a waste of time trying to make the message= technique work.

If you can't resist and you do try using the message= technique, note that message= and the bitmap approach are mutually exclusive. You cannot use both simultaneously.

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