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…

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Stage 1: Portable Multi-Distro Linux USB Drive

Hard Drive Cloning Project Results

Hard Drive Cloning Project

This is my first project of this kind. I’ve had many firsts since I started using Linux Ubuntu 7.04 back in April. Including my first time to install an operating system! The purpose of this was to move/clone my old 40GB Maxtor drive with Windows XP which was starting to fail. I have an 80GB drive which housed my Linux Ubuntu 7.04. I then purchased a 160GB Seagate drive. Of course I want Linux on the largest drive because that is what I use the most. Well, here are the results…

Successfully cloned an 80GB Hitachi drive which had my Ubuntu onto a new 160GB Seagate drive. I searched the Ubuntu Forums on how to do that. And I was not disappointed. I found a nifty command in Linux that does just that. I made sure the syntax was correct since I was in danger of destroying everything I’ve done on Linux. So I popped in my Ubuntu LiveCD and did this:

sudo dd if=/dev/hda of=/dev/hdb bs=4096 conv=notrunc,noerror

sudo – because of the permission error I kept getting
dd – the magical command
if – the source drive or partition
of – the target drive or partition
bs – determines the size of the tranfers (?)
conv – I have no idea but that was recommended

Again, I made sure that I didn’t get the source and target drives mixed up! Or else!

When it was done, I booted up my 160GB drive and voila! Everything was exactly the same. I had to reboot one more time to get back the drives to the correct /dev/hda tag. I didn’t have to do anything else. Ubuntu just did what it usually does. So the 80GB Hitachi with Linux was successfully cloned to the 160GB Seagate. Problem solved!

Now the 40GB Maxtor drive was another challenge. It was in NTFS format. The dd command did not work. I kept getting an input/output error message. I used the LiveCD to wipe out and split the 80GB Hitachi into 2 almost equal partitions. The ntfsclone command worked but for some reason I could boot up Windows XP on the 80GB drive even though all the files were there. I thought it was a Windows problem so I looked for a Windows solution. The 15-day Trial of Acronis True Image did the trick.

So now I can let the 40GB Maxtor drive rest in peace until I find a need for it. I hope not. Windows XP has been moved to my 80GB Hitachi drive and my Ubuntu is now on the 160GB drive with plenty of unallocated space for other Linux distros that I want to try out. I would never have done all this without the Ubuntu Community. Hats off to you guys!

Community
Thread here.

Hard Drive Cloning Project Results

Red Stack

Unfortunately, this is not a guide. Merely notes on what works and what doesn’t. But even that is not 100% accurate. Last reset, a guildmate of mine – BlueCrus, showed me a wonderful red stack that worked well with our wonder – Academy of Trajectory. I have been experimenting with flying and ranged units. The stack I was given consisted of 2 melee units, 3 ranged units and 1 melee unit. Balrogs and Death Knights are interchangeable as the top 2 stacks. Then Magmademons, Ice Hexes and Acid beasts. With Mountain Rises at the bottom to kick the fodder. I also picked up Mind Flayers and had them behind the Magmademons. With Hellfire and Flask of Gasoline on defense, it was great!

With a different wonder, I didn’t really use this stack extensively. But the times that I did, I think it did better than the other stacks I’ve tried. If you’re a mountain mage and looking for a stack, this is a good one to try out. Let me know how it goes…

Red Stack