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Boot To USB Background

Ever look for clear information on how to do something in Linux? Some times information can be a bit difficult to decode. Here is a bit of background on what this project encompased.

As the instructor of the IT 190 Into to Linux class at Peninsula College, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is how to make Linux available to the students when they are off campus. Making a server availalable is one solution, but I would prefer that they use Linux in their own homes.

We gave them each a copy of the Knoppix distribution and let them try it out. Unfortunatly, the fact that Knoppix runs off CD means that it doesn’t always preform the best. The other issue is that since it boots from CD, everything is mounted into a ram drive or read off the CD directly. This prevents students from just saving their work and forgetting about it. They have to mount floppies, USB drives, or even their current hard drive to preserve the work that they did.

Another option is for the students to use VM Ware of Virtual PC. Virtual PC is a good solution since your campus has an MSDN education license which makes MS owned software available to us. The main problem with VPC though is speed. Since it emulates an operating system within another computer, you need a decent speed computer with a LOT of memory (with a 2.7ghz computer and 2g ram, it runs pretty good for me). Another hang up is that some of the kernels need to be patched to work properly in VPC (want a prebuilt vhd file with FC3 already installed and patched, email me and we can work out how to send it, it is almost 600mb). VMWare performs better, but costs more.

The other option is for the student to work out the hard drive space to install Linux directly on their box (either by resizing existing partitions, or buying a new physical HDD). Some opt for this route and in the end have the most fun and success I think. The biggest issue is the risk and/or requirement of loosing existing data on their windows drive when partitions need to be resized or when learning, the student accidentally kills a partition they shouldn’t.

The last option, and the one we will explore further here, is to install Linux onto a USB drive (memory stick, external drive, anything as long as it has enough room).

Check the boot disk tutorial for more technical information.

Ray Pulsipher


Computer Magic And Software Design

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