Booting into Linux from USB Flash Drive

About 10 days ago I purchased a 16GB USB Flash Memory “jump drive” from New Egg.  I bought the Corsair Flash Voyager with the rubber case.  It is not the fastest drive out there – it is the fastest drive I’ve owned.  Having 16GB of drive space is now allowing me to have some fun with people by showing them Linux booting and running from a USB memory stick.

The first distro I installed was Ubuntu 9.04.  I used the USB Startup Disk Creator located under System -> Administration from the Menu Bar.  You will need the Ubuntu 9.04 CD or the .iso file to load the system on the USB memory stick.  Using the slider button I set the maximum storage space to save all my files. This will allow me to save documents, music, e-mail, web bookmarks, just about anything I want up to about 14GB.  I can’t tell you how long it took becasue I had to step away for awhile to assist a client with a PC issue.

After installation was complete, I booted the USB drive off a test HP computer.  Everything worked!  Ubuntu detected all hardware on this PC, allowed me to connect to the Internet, use Terminal Server to connect to Windows 2008 servers, connect to my printers (HP LaserJet 4200 and HP OfficeJet Pro K550), and connect to the shares on my Linux and Windows PCs.

I changed the GDM Login to skip the autologin of LiveUser and created a new user account called george.  I rebooted the PC and was able to logon as George to the Ubuntu instance as George.  Using this account I connected to my printers, and changed the wallpaper to a Star Trek theme.  Later that night I used the USB stick with my notebook to set up access to my home wireless network (worked with no problems connecting to my WPA2 network), G-mail on Thunderbird, and my HP Color LaserJet 2605 network printer.  For the rest of the weekend, that was the PC I used.

Now I happen to have an iso of Linux Mint 7 and I wanted to try it out on the USB drive.  I found a post on PenDriveLinux.com on how to install Linux Mint 7 onto a USB memory stick from within Windows.  Instead of the 1GB persistence file, I chose the 4GB file.  I partitioned the USB drive; 7GB for Mint 7, and 8GB for storage of downloads and other miscellaneous files.  The 8GB partition is formatted to FAT32 so I can use it when I need to connect to Windows.

The green and dark grey / black colors look very nice.  As stated above, I modified GDM to stop the auto login of the use mint, and created a user called george. I also like the Mint menu instead of the standard Gnome Menu Bar.  If you prefer the Gnome Menu Bar, you can add it by right clicking the Panel bar and select Add to Panel.

I was able to enable the Compiz and customise it to my liking.  I picked the option to have the spinning cube when I switch desktops, and picked Beam Up when I close the windows (looks cools with the Star Trek wallpaper.)  I also installed Thunderbird 3 beta 4 and configured it with my G-mail account.

Most of the PCs I tested Mint 7 on worked well.  I always found the ether-net cards and connect to the Internet. I like the fact every website I went to had working multi-media except for audio correctly.  The sound is very faint.

Some things I find annoying:

  • I can’t change the host name permanently (I renamed the PC rio-grande  rebooted and the name stays mint.)
  • Fortunes is always running every time I open Terminal.  Some fortunes are funny, but now it is annoying.

I would like to try this bootable USB on some other PCs like Dell, Gateway, or a Macbook Pro.  I would also like to figure out how to get Symantec ghost32.exe to work with Wine.  The program works but doesn’t see the local hard drive.  If I can make that work at the client site then I can move BartPE to a secondary tool.

I should also mention that I chose not to save any passwords incase I lose my USB stick.  I configured Thunderbird not to save messages on the system, but I don’t think it is working correctly.  I might look into enabling encryption on the home folder or see if I can

Although I have no plans on making this a permanent distro to use at work, I will give it great consideration when I rebuild my Dell Dimension 8200 after I purchase my new notebook.

2 thoughts on “Booting into Linux from USB Flash Drive

  1. George,
    where did you change gdm? I tried doing this through the admin menu ‘Login’, but the change didn’t persist. I also tried changing custom.conf in /etc/gdm but no luck there either.

    Jeff

    Like

    1. First let me say i had to wipe out the 16GB flash drive due to another project at work. I believe what I did was create a new user called george. I logged onto the system with george and opened the admin user menu. I deleted the LiveUser account and rebooted.

      Hopefully that will help. I might try again with Ubuntu 10.04. If not I might wait until Linux Mint 9 is released. Let me know if that works!

      Like

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