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Ubuntu 8.10 on USB flash

One of the features offered as part of the latest Ubuntu release is installation to a USB flash drive. This is a menu option from the Live CD in 8.10, under System>Administration. The ability to use a flash drive has been around in various forms for a while now, but as an occasional Linux user I haven’t seen it offered in this easy a package.


I used VMware Fusion to run Ubuntu in a virtual machine on my hackintosh, using VMware’s ability to access USB peripherals plugged into the computer. The nice thing about this method is that once the system has booted from the Live CD there is no need to install to a hard drive to use the USB startup disk option. The package will install directly from the CD to flash drive.


The screenshot above shows the difference in space between the flash drive’s capacity and free space. The 200Mb was used by files on the drive, and making it an Ubuntu bootable drive didn’t delete them. That’s great if you also want your flash drive to act as storage, but worth remembering if it’s only going to be a Linux drive.

The option to reserve space for documents on the drive is a good idea, but by default this was set to 128Mb. I changed this to 5Gb so there would be plenty of space if the install worked well.


Installation took about 40 minutes, which comprised copying the CD contents and creating the persistence file to store documents.


A look at the drive using OSX’s Finder showed the files installed


As a final test I rebooted the computer and used the F12 key to get into my Gigabyte motherboard’s boot options. The USB flash drive shows up as a hard drive, so selecting this continues the boot process. Boot speed was quite slow but since the flash drive is an 8Mb Danelec branded cheapie that’s hardly surprising. I paid £19 for two of these so performance should be better with a good quality (i.e. not cheap) flash stick. Maybe I need to test the read and write speed and compare these to typical hard drive speeds (internal and USB) to get an idea of what is needed for acceptable performance.

There wasn’t enough time to give the install a decent trial, and the first thing I did didn’t work. To try out the desktop’s graphical abilities I turned on the visual effects and received a message that Nvidia drivers were required. After installing these the system rebooted but the visual effects still couldn’t be turned on and returned an error message when I tried. Does this mean it isn’t possible to install additional software, or is this a bug? Looks like further investigation is required.

The other apps I tried worked fine, and although the time to launch them was longer that usual it wasn’t bad enough to be irritating. Given the portability of this install method it could prove useful to the traveller or computer repairer.

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