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First off, sorry for the undescriptive title. I also wasn't sure where to post this, did I guess right?
Here's my situation. I'm a student at a college where most classes are conducted using dedicated computer suites or a collection of laptops.
They all have MS Office 2003 and the desktops are running XP Pro, but I'm not entirely sure of the spec, they aren't important anyway.
My problem is with the Notebooks used in some classes, they are relatively new Dell Inspirions, but they only have 1GB of Memory and are being strangled by the double-whammy of Vista AND a package called ‘Learning Centre’ (an inter-school file management system), which seems to be very badly optimized.
Since I found that I can boot into DSL from my flash drive, I’ve started looking for a slightly heavier and prettier distro that I can use for everyday work.
A few simple requirements:
1. Boot from USB
2. OpenOffice (Binary would be nice, since compiling to flash memory is slow.
3. Firefox (duh?)
Also would be very nice:
- Persistent home directory, automatically mount /home/ to a folder on the flash drive, rather than to RAM (Or write contents to folder on shutdown, and read again on load.)
- Able to edit config files and settings from within the distro (not having to re-package it every time I change a setting.)
I’m not a linux noobie, I’m comfortable with bash and I know how stuff works, but I’ve never attempted to create something like this.
Is there any way I can do this, with special attention to the “Would be very nice” part, given that anyone can just stick a live distro on a flash drive, I’m looking specifically for this persistence.
Last edited by Bradfirj92; 09-17-2008 at 07:15 PM.
Any Linux distribution can be made to boot from USB.
You can install OpenOffice on any Linux distribution of your choice.
Same with FireFox.
You may want to customize the final setup slightly to reduce read/write access to the USB stick by using 'tmpfs' for certain mount points. Also keep '/home' on a different partition on the USB stick.
One of the biggest problems will be with the setup for network hardware and the video. You may have to customize your own hardware detection and setup. Another alternative is to slightly customize a Live CD (and install to USB stick) - that way the hardware detection and setup tools of the distribution take care of most (if not all) of your needs.
Customizing the live distribution is a matter of editing the 'fstab' file and tinkering with the 'initrd' image.
You can start by simply installing to the USB stick - create a partition for 'boot', one for the root filesystem '/', and one for /home. I usually don't create one for 'boot' because I rarely ever make changes to the boot directory. After installing, you can tweak things a bit.
After the 'initrd' image and its init script do their job, they switch to the real 'init' and switch you to your final root filesystem. The real init then processes the startup scripts which includes mounting all 'auto' filesystems via "mount -a" (or similar). What you want to do is add a startup script so that after the root filesystem is mounted, you create several 'tmpfs' systems, copy the contents of certain directories to them, then mount these r/w over the original directories (like /etc, /var). You also want to edit 'fstab' so the root filesystem is read-only and '/tmp' is the mountpoint for a tmpfs filesystem. The use of all that tmpfs will eat at your RAM, but that's a tradeoff to be made against numerous r/w operations to the '/' filesystem. (pppd for example writes to /etc/ppp/, various things including logs are written to /var, and just about anything gets written to /tmp) The aim is to minimize the r/w operations to the flash blocks and hopefully make the USB stick last longer.
I think I'm going to end up using my Creative Zen Vision : M for this instead, avoids the problems with multiple r/w on flash bocks, but I'll still be looking to mount tmp to tmpfs. Why did you suggest making the root filesystem read only? Does my decision now to use a non-solid disk change that at all?