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

Conky in Hardy Heron 8.04

I’ve added new stuff on my Conky setup that was already up and running. I have a post somewhere around here about setting it up after I did a clean install of Hardy. I was browsing through the Community Cafe in Ubuntu Forums when I came across a conky screenshot with a different look. Links were provided to the how-to of this version and it wasn’t too hard to customize to my own liking. Although mine looks a lil over the top, don’t worry I’m attaching a screenshot so you can see for yourself. Further down, I will include the links of the pages that helped heaps. Let me first share the steps I took to make my conky more than just letters and numbers.

1) Download fonts/icons and extract the contents. The fonts needed are located here:

2) Open a terminal and enter “gksu nautilus” so you can read/write anything. Then copy the *.ttf files to /usr/share/fonts/truetype folder.
3) Edit your conky settings to your liking, save and run it again.

Here are the links to the very helpful pages I used:

Screenshot:
Conky with icons in Linux Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04

My Conky code:

background yes
use_xft yes
xftfont HandelGotD:size=9
xftalpha 0.5
update_interval 1.0
total_run_times 0
own_window yes
own_window_type normal
own_window_transparent yes
own_window_hints undecorated,below,sticky,skip_taskbar,skip_pager
double_buffer yes
minimum_size 200 5
maximum_width 200
draw_shades no
draw_outline no
draw_borders no
draw_graph_borders yes
default_color white
default_shade_color red
default_outline_color green
alignment top_right
gap_x 12
gap_y 48
no_buffers yes
uppercase no
cpu_avg_samples 2
override_utf8_locale no

TEXT
$sysname $kernel on $machine
${font StyleBats:size=18}P${font} Uptime $alignr $uptime
${font StyleBats:size=18}X${font} Load $alignr $loadavg
${font StyleBats:size=18}V${font} Public IP $alignr ${color}${execi 14400 wget -O – http://whatismyip.org/ | tail}${color}
${font StyleBats:size=18}T${font} $processes processes ($running_processes running)

${font PizzaDude Bullets:size=16}N${font} ${color white}Highest CPU:
${color de0b0b}${top name 1}${top_mem cpu 1}
${color white}${top name 2}${top cpu 2}
${top name 3}${top cpu 3}
${top name 4}${top cpu 4}
${top name 5}${top cpu 5}
${font PizzaDude Bullets:size=16}O${font} ${color white}Highest MEM:
${color de0b0b}${top_mem name 1}${top_mem mem 1}
${color white}${top_mem name 2}${top_mem mem 2}
${top_mem name 3}${top_mem mem 3}
${top_mem name 4}${top_mem mem 4}
${top_mem name 5}${top_mem mem 5}

${font StyleBats:size=18}A${font} CPU $alignr ${cpu cpu0}%
${cpubar cpu0}

${font PizzaDude Bullets:size=16}J${font} MEM $alignc $mem / $memmax $alignr $memperc%
$membar

${font StyleBats:size=18}F${font} /root $alignc ${fs_used /} / ${fs_size /} $alignr ${fs_free_perc /}%
${fs_bar /}

${font StyleBats:size=18}G${font} /home $alignc ${fs_used /home} / ${fs_size /home} $alignr ${fs_free_perc /home}%
${fs_bar /home}

${font StyleBats:size=18}B${font} swap $alignc $swap / $swapmax $alignr $swapperc%
${swapbar}
${font weather:size=28}z${font} M/B CPU $alignr ${hwmon temp 1}C ${hwmon temp 2}C
${font weather:size=28}y${font} hdd LINUX $alignr /dev/hdb ${execi 300 nc localhost 7634 | cut -c53-54 ;}C
${font weather:size=28}x${font} hdd XP $alignr /dev/hda ${execi 300 nc localhost 7634 | cut -c27-28 ;}C

${color}Networking:
${font PizzaDude Bullets:size=16}r${font} Down:${color} $alignr ${downspeed eth0} k/s${color} ${offset 80}
${font PizzaDude Bullets:size=16}v${font} Up:${color} $alignr ${upspeed eth0} k/s ${offset 80}

Conky in Hardy Heron 8.04