Yenya's World

Fri, 10 Nov 2006

What is on your flashdisk?

From time to time I think about finding out an ultimate Linux distribution suitable for being run from an USB flash disk. I have a 512MB flash disk, which should be big enough for basic tasks such as fsck, ssh, rsync, and maybe mutt and links. Maybe something like Slax?

There is however a drawback: I sometimes need to use my USB key as a raw device: I simply dd(1) a bootable image of something into it. Usually it is a diskboot.img file from Fedora, which I then use for installing/upgrading a computer, or even with the rescue feature of Fedora Core installer as a rescue disk (it requires the rest of the distro being available over the Net, though). Yesterday I even put an image of a DOS floppy to it, and used it to flash a new BIOS to a mainboard.

So needing a raw device too often has prevented me from using a "permanent" live distribution on my USB key. The problem may be solved with partitioning the device and installing a boot loader (can a DOS floppy image be booted when put on a partition, e.g. by GRUB?), but I don't know whether it is worth the trouble (and I may need a raw device for something else later). I also don't know if all BIOSes support booting from a partitioned removable device (as opposed to the raw device as a whole).

What is on your USB key? If some kind of a live distribution, do you also use it as an install disk or for flashing BIOSes as well?

Section: /computers (RSS feed) | Permanent link | 2 writebacks

2 replies for this story:

Satai wrote: Why USB

Why do you use an USB drive? The probability, that you can boot from a CD on a randomly choosen computer seems to be much higher..

Yenya wrote: Re: Why USB

Nope. Almost none of my servers has CD-ROM drive. Every one of them has an on-board USB port with BIOS that supports USB boot. Also USB stick is much smaller and less prone to physical errors (unlike CD, which can easily be scratched or damaged in another way).

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