Run GNU/Linux from a USB pen drive

  • Javier

    Javier - 2005-07-21

    You can carry GNU/Linux in your pocket with a functional, quick, and useful USB pen drive distribution. Pen drives are faster than CDs, and the small distros that fit on them don't require huge amounts of memory for the operating system and applications.

    Slax is a powerful and complete bootable distro based on Slackware, equipped with kernel 2.6, ALSA sound drivers, Wi-Fi card support, X11-6.8.2 with support for many GFX cards and wheel mice, and KDE 3.4. Slax uses the Unification File System (also known as unionfs), which enables you to write whatever you want into the pen drive. Bundled software includes KDE, the KOffice office suite, GAIM for chat, the Thunderbird email client, and the Firefox Web browser.

    Slax comes in a variety of versions. You can get a minimal version of Slax called Frodo, without big applications, that fits in 41MB, or choose among the 200MB standard editions such as Killbill (which I use) or PopCorn.

    Configuration files

    Slax allows you to modify your environment and save the changes to a single file with the configurations. The list of directories saved and restored include /etc, /root, /home, and /var. After saving your session, you can later run it and use the same environment configuration as before, without having to reconfigure every detail.

    Slax even lets you upload configuration files to the Web. With this option, the next time you boot Slax from wherever you are, you can get the file from the Web. To use this feature, boot Slax with the parameters boot: slax webconfig=YourPassPhrase where YourPassPhrase is the secret passphrase you will use to protect your data. There are some limitations with this system. You can save only 8MB in each session, and the list of saved directories does not include every directory of the operating system.

    Ready to give Slax a try? Download an ISO image file and Syslinux, which you need to make the USB stick bootable.

    Before you install Slax to your pen drive, I suggest you partition your pen drive in two -- one portion for the operating system and the other for data. You can set the partitions as you wish, using cfdisk or another partitioning utility. You need to set up a partition for the operating system in the pen drive, with FAT16 as the filesystem. Plug the pen drive in the machine but don't mount it. If you don't know where your pen drive is, type dmesg and check its output for the mentioned USB device. Then run cfidk /dev/sda where /dev/sda is the pen drive. Create a new partition, give it FAT16 format, and write the changes. Unplug the pen drive, plug it in again, and try cfdisk /dev/sda again to check that the partition exists and has the correct settings.

    to install if you are interest go here:

    • PJ Cabrera

      PJ Cabrera - 2005-07-23

      Edwin, I bet you can't do this with SNAPPIX. :-)

    • Javier

      Javier - 2005-07-23

      jeje he can't

      • Edwin Burgos

        Edwin Burgos - 2005-07-23

        Oh yeah? Just watch me.

        Of course, I'm gonna have to get SNAPPIX's size down to 500MB or go out and buy a 1GB pen drive.

        Wait a second. Where's that external hardrive I bought.... ok there it is. Now I'm ready.

        • PJ Cabrera

          PJ Cabrera - 2005-07-24

          The article specifically says pen drive. :-)

          Pedro tried this with Gentoo before he left for Texas on vacation, and he is so so close. But he wimped out, the wuss. :-D

    • Edwin Burgos

      Edwin Burgos - 2005-07-23

      Thanks for the article terry. I've been looking for this for a couple of days.

    • Javier

      Javier - 2005-07-24

      I try it on Friday with a pen drive that Xavier gave me (256mb) but gave me problems like in the middle of it


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