Installing Linux Mint 7 to External USB Drive

I have heard a lot of good feedback and saw really nice screenshots of Mint 7 Gloria, both Gnome and KDE versions. I had about 15GB of free space on a Western Digital USB drive and thought I’d go ahead and try it out. I already had Ubuntu and previous versions of Mint installed on the same drive. I booted up my Mint 6 system, downloaded the iso and burned it onto a CD with no issues. The computer I was and still am using is a Sony Vaio VGN-CR35G laptop with an ATI graphics card.

The installation itself was a breeze. No different from other processes I’ve gone through. The way my drive is set up is not unusual. I have 10GB partitions for the linux distros that I try out and a single /home partitions that is slightly larger. During the first boot, I was impressed with how great and streamlined it looks from login screen to desktop. I have no issues with drivers and the wireless works without any fuss, just like other versions. I feel that the run time from boot to desktop is faster and the annoying beep at shutdown isn’t there anymore. I’m excited to plug this drive into other computers in the house to see if compatibility would be an issue. I will have to write another entry on that.

Overall, I’d have to say that this is the easiest install that I have ever done. If I remember correctly, it is the quickest finish too. The artwork that comes with it is top caliber as always. You can never have too much eye candy. Compiz runs and works by default, which is great. I can’t really say anything more other than I wish I could sync this with my Ubuntu One account. Currenty, UO is in its beta stage and can only be used with a Jaunty system. Hopefully, that gap will be bridged in the near future. At the rate things go right now, that’s probably soon.

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Installing Linux Mint 7 to External USB Drive

Stage 1: Portable Multi-Distro Linux USB Drive

Like the title says, I want to install 5 Linux distributions on my USB drive. It is a Western Digital Scorpio drive with 80GB of space. I thought it was broken and unusable until I plugged it in recently. Seems it was the pc that wasn’t reading it right after all. Now that I have a new power supply unit in this old box, everything seems peachy. I was using the drive as a back up but I already have 3 hard drives and only 2 are currently plugged in. I ran out of IDE connectors. Did I mention it’s old? :p

I have my drives set up to work independently as I sometimes take them out and test them on other pc’s. I don’t need all of them to be hooked up just to boot up one drive or OS. I just invoke the BIOS Boot Menu using F11 during POST and pick the one I want. Simple and easy for me.

I used my GParted Live CD to make the partitions the way they are now. See image below. Shrunk my NTFS I use as a windows back up sometimes. Next up was 2 Gigs of swap then an extended 60GB partition for my /home and 5 partitions for the Linux distributions I want to try. Looks nice and organized and most importantly – it works fine.

GParted Screenshot of USB Drive Partitions

I got the torrent from LinuxMint.com and got some rest while waiting for it to finish. Burned it at the lowest possible speed using the simple CD writer in Linux Ubuntu 8.04, my primary distribution. I had some issues booting up the Live CD. I got an “(initramfs)” prompt instead of a regular desktop. Using the Compatibility Mode, I found out that it was some error with it not detecting the floppy and SCSI devices. I used the Live CD troubleshooting guide provided by nice people in the Mint Forums. Pressed F6 during splash, pressed tab, deleted “quiet splash–” and entered “all_generic_ide”. That worked and let me into the Live environment. I liked what I saw, was curious and proceeded.

The installation was smooth. My first boot was met with the famous Grub Error 17 and 18. The reason being how the BIOS and the Live CD arranged the drives. In the Live CD, the usb drive was third and my BIOS read it as the first drive. The solution was to edit the menu.lst and change all references to (hd2,4) to (hd0,4), which is where my Mint is.

Tried again and here I am posting the results. Four more distributions to go. I’ve narrowed down my choices based on release date, number of packages and most important is the community or support. I did not include Linux Ubuntu since I’m already using that and it has its own hard drive in my pc. The list goes:

  • ArchLinux – 10/07/2007 with 15,000 packages
  • Debian – 04/08/2007 with 26,000 packages
  • Fedora – 05/13/2008 with 8,000 packages
  • Mandriva – 04/09/2008 with 16,000 packages
  • Sabayon – 09/07/2007 with 12,000 packages
  • Sidux – 04/12/2008 with 22,950 packages
  • [Simply]MEPIS – 12/23/2007 with 20,000 packages

*data is based on http://en.wikipedia.org

I wanted the distribution to be recent, within the last year or 2 years, so I wouldn’t be learning something that’s at the end of its life cycle. I wanted as much packages as possible because… just because. I’m still a beginner and still have a lot to learn. Now I have not looked into the community or support sites for these distributions yet. Well, I went into Debian once but for after reading some threads, I felt unwelcome because of my choice of OS – Ubuntu. I will give it another go and keep an open mind.

That’s about it for today. The rest is yet to be determined. Hopefully, I’ll get more information in a few days and start installing a 2nd OS on my USB drive. Until then…

Stage 1: Portable Multi-Distro Linux USB Drive

Next Project 0.2: Portable Multi-Distro Linux USB Drive

Change of plans. Instead of a using only Ubuntu, I’ve decided to add other Linux flavors. I’m currently downloading Linux Mint 5 Elyssa. I still have space for more Linux distributions in my 80GB Western Digital Scorpio drive. I like the Mint philosophy about ease of use. Maybe as I progress and learn more, I’ll look into non-Debian based distributions. Aside from usability, my biggest issue will be community support. Mint has the same positive and helpful community that I like in Ubuntu. I’ve only been to their parent’s forum once and it felt kinda hostile. I was disappointed since it came highly recommended by my fellow Ubuntu users. But I’ll give it another look. Like everything else in life – gotta learn the roots.

I have an NTFS partition in my WD Scorpio that I’ve already backed up into my Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron installation. I’m experiencing a lil sentimentality and hesitation in wiping it off the drive. There’s still plenty of space though. I can shrink the NTFS and use the rest for swap, /home and an extended partition to house the distributions I would try.

I have another concern. These distributions usually have their own bootloader. Although I don’t really use Grub that much as I use my hard drives independently by choosing which one to boot in the BIOS Boot Menu, that won’t be possible in this planned drive. I guess I can pick only the ones that use Grub but I’m not sure how much variety that would give me. I’ll have to look into that in the days that come. For now, looks like my partitions are set. Will try Mint first on my USB drive and go from there. Good luck to me.

(“,)

Next Project 0.2: Portable Multi-Distro Linux USB Drive