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Beginners Guides: USB Memory Drive Projects

Beginners Guides: USB Memory Drive Projects - PCSTATS
Abstract: Encryption, Firefox browser, word processing, arcade games and yes even an operationg system can be run off your USB hard drive... if you know how!
Filed under: Beginners Guides Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: PCstats Mar 11 2006   Mike Dowler  
Home > Reviews > Beginners Guides > PCstats

Run Linux on a USB device

The most obvious and desirable use for a bootable USB key is to cart your entire operating system around in your pocket. Enterprising Linux enthusiasts have made it possible to do just that.

Linux (in case you didn't know) is an open-source, Unix-derived operating system. As it is open-source, people are free to experiment and re-invent the code in new ways. This has led to many interesting Linux operating system variants, the most useful of these being the 'live' Linux distributions which boot and run the entire operating system from a single CD or other storage device. Regardless of the operating system that might be installed on the system's hard drive, booting from the 'live' CD will load and run Linux instead. The advantages of this are obvious. You can have a familiar environment and set of applications with you wherever you travel.

Recently, some of the smaller 'live' Linux distributions have been re-engineered to work from USB drives. These portable operating systems use the system's memory for performing operations, and your flash disk as the 'hard drive' for storing personal data. The rewritable nature of USB disks actually makes them a better platform for portable operating systems than CDs. For now, let's look at one of the easiest of these 'flash' Linux distros to get to grips with; Puppy Linux.

Puppy Linux was originally a 'live CD' Linux distribution notable for its extremely small footprint. All applications load fully into memory (on a machine with 128MB of RAM or more), making loads from the CD non-existent.

Fairly recently, instructions and a wizard for creating a USB drive-based version of Puppy were included on the CD. This 'Flash Puppy' operating system is what we'll use for the purposes of this article, as it is incredibly simple to set up and run. Your USB drive should be formatted with the FAT file system (not FAT32) before you begin this process. To do this, right click the removable drive in 'my computer,' choose the 'format' option, then choose 'FAT' as the file system. Do not do a quick format.

First things first: You need to go to the puppy Linux site and download the latest version of their 'live-puppy' operating system. This will come in the form of an .ISO file which you can use to create a CD with the CD burning software of your choice. If you need help with this process, see our guide here. We used Puppy Linux version 0.9.6 for the purposes of this article.

Once you have created the Puppy Linux Live CD, boot your system from the CD to load the Puppy Linux OS (note that you may need to change the boot options in your BIOS to boot from CD. You will be asked if you wish to use a USB drive as a storage device for personal data. Hit ENTER for no, since we have another use in mind for your USB drive!

Choose the 'US QWERTY' keyboard layout (or whatever is appropriate), enter your mouse type (PS/2 or USB), then choose an appropriate (and safe) graphics resolution. Whatever you normally use on your Windows desktop should be fine here. Now that you are on the Puppy Linux desktop (Puppy uses the FVWM Windows manager by default), go to the familiar 'start' button in the bottom corner, open it up and go to 'utilities\install puppy USB drive.' This will start the USB installation dialog.

This very friendly and simple wizard will walk you through the process of installing Puppy on your USB device (note that you will need at least a 64MB USB key to do this). There are a couple of things that need to be changed though.You will need to type the address of your USB drive as displayed in the dialog. If you have only the one drive plugged into the system, this will generally be '/dev/sda1'

Assuming you formatted your drive cleanly with the FAT file system as instructed, enter N for no when the dialog asks for permission to erase all files on the drive. You will also need to specify a keyboard layout also. Choose 'US' if you are in the US or English-speaking Canada. The final choice you need to make is between the two possible installation modes. Mode 1 will allow you to access documents you created in Linux from a Windows operating system, provided you have applications that can open them correctly. Mode 2 will not, but may run more efficiently.

The process will now format and install the necessary files on your USB drive. When it is finished, reboot and set your computer's BIOS to boot from the USB drive as instructed in the first part of this article. Congratulations! You now have a fully functional pocket operating system at your disposal, complete with the Firefox web browser and ABIword word processor. Now start learning Linux!

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Contents of Article: PCstats
 Pg 1.  Beginners Guides: USB Memory Drive Projects
 Pg 2.  Boot up with a USB drive con't
 Pg 3.  — Run Linux on a USB device
 Pg 4.  Private email encryption application
 Pg 5.  USB travel kit A) Portable web browser
 Pg 6.  USB travel kit C) portable word processor
 Pg 7.  WinXP briefcase to synch files on the USB drive
 Pg 8.  Format a USB drive with NTFS file system
 Pg 9.  Create permanent folders and share over a network
 Pg 10.  Take your favourite media player with you

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