In order to be able to use Linux on a computer I have to use, I had a look at running a full operating system from a USB key.
After duckduckgo’ing it I quickly came to pendrivelinux.com, which describes various ways of doing this. It is easy to run Linux from any live-cd of course, but this means that no updates, downloads or saved files will be saved after logging out. If you want that, then it needs to be a so-called “persistent live USB”.
Through the pendrivelinux.com site I found various ways of creating such a USB. Among other things I realized that Ubuntu and Mint already offer a program to create a persistent live Ubuntu or Mint USB. This is called the “Startup Disk Creator” and can be found under the “administration” section of the menu. It works pretty straightforward, as explained on, for example, this site.
A full Linux Mint 12, installed this way, did work on the 4 GB USB key I had, however, there was not enough room for all the updates available. So I went looking for something smaller.
By using UNetbootin I managed to put Damn Small Linux and later Puppy Linux on the USB key. They both worked fine, but Damn Small Linux seemed to be rather outdated (and not too good-looking in my opinion) and I couldn’t find out how to connect it to WiFi. Puppy Linux looked much better and provided a nice interface for connecting to WiFi, but after trying all the solutions offered, I did not succeed either in connecting it.
Ubuntu has the same “Startup Disk Creator” as Linux Mint, and also has more variations of the main Ubuntu distribution. I searched for the smallest of them, in the hope that it might fit, including updates, inside the 4 GB. This seemed to be Lubuntu, that uses the LXDE desktop environment.
Installing Lubuntu via the Startup Disk Creator in Ubuntu and running all the updates didn’t work the first time, but moving the slider of the Startup Disk Creator to 2GB (under the option “stored in reserved extra space”) gave apparently enough room for it all.
I now have Lubuntu running fine from my USB key, including all updates, with a persistent file system. The only thing that didn’t not work, was updating the Kernel, but I reckoned that I can live with that. I suppose it will be included in the next Lubuntu version.
I have to see what Lubuntu, installed on this 4 GB USB key can do. So far I like it, and today I could easily surf, write, mail and edit/save pictures with it.