[NBLUG/talk] Linux on USB

E Frank Ball III frankb at frankb.us
Wed Dec 28 22:06:31 PST 2011

On Mon, Dec 26, 2011 at 11:33:49AM -0800, glenn at spontaneousdancing.net wrote:
 > I need to have a lightweight, x86-compatible (i586 specifically) GNU/Linux
 > distribution. I can't use VGA (so X is useless), and require serial
 > communication.

I've only used serial port consoles on PA-RISC hardware.  I don't know
if the average x86 hardware supports this (servers do).  Anyway I
installed Debian PA-RISC and used a serial console and it worked fine.

Most distributions these days are 686 or better only, but Debian still
has a 486 kernel version.  Debian also has very small RAM requirements
to do an install:  "You must have at least 56MB of memory and 650MB of
hard disk space to perform a normal installation."

 > The trick is that I need the Linux distro to boot and operate like a
 > LiveUSB, in so far as that I can tell my BIOS to boot from USB and
 > eventually land in a root shell.
 > My current solution is insufficient.
 > I looked into modifying an Ubuntu LiveCD and then putting that onto a USB
 > stick. See this: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/InstallCDCustomization
 > . This is, however, very tedious.

You can install Debian or Ubuntu or probably just about any linux onto a
USB drive.  Do a normal installation and select the USB drive as the
hard drive to install onto.  Be careful about how/where grub gets
installed.  You can do the install on a different machine and then boot
it on your target hardware if it isn't easy to do an installation on the
target machine.  Debian can also do a net boot (pxelinux/bootp)
installation.  I used it on an old laptop with no CDROM or floppy
that was too old to boot off of USB.


  Frank Ball  frankb at frankb.us

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