The trusty old Fujis that make up the bulk of the computers I deal with day-to-day tend to be pretty reliable, but I have noticed a few going down with (what I believe are) faulty disk drive controllers (to be fair, these machines are at least six years old). The system runs fine, all except seeing a hard drive.
I’d obviously heard of running a computer from a solid state disk of some sort, it’s not new. The Raspberry Pi runs off of an SD card and I’ve seen a few projects using Compact Flash. So rather than bin another machine, I thought I would experiment to see if I could get Linux to run from an old USB flash drive I have lying around (Windows was pushing it on size if nothing else).
At first I looked for a lightweight distro, something close enough to Windows in look that, should I put it in front of one of my users, it wouldn’t freak them out. Precise Puppy seemed to be the answer.
Once loaded it runs from RAM, which made it responsive, but the design was a bit hard on the eye and to save any changes permanently you had to remember to click a button to write to the USB stick, which was a slow and tedious process. It also seemed to asked me to confirm some settings every time it started, not great when a machine rebooted, I could already hear the support calls. The final straw was the difficulty in getting an RDP client working.
I went back to a distro I knew a bit better and which looked easier on the eye: Linux Mint.
To be honest, once I’d decided on Mint, I didn’t do anything particularly special, just picked the USB drive as the installation drive after booting from a Live CD/DVD. It took a bit of time, but once it was installed it ran from there without needing to do anything else.
I decided on a 4GB drive as 2GB was a little tight should you want to install anything else (and Mint isn’t the slimmest by default, it isn’t designed to be).
You could also install it using something like UNetBootin I assume.
The only slight issue is on boot you get an error saying hd0 is out of space and you have to press a key to continue, whether it does or not has been a bit random, but a reboot usually sorts it out. Continue reading…