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Old 07-02-2010, 10:30 PM   #1
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Question Anyone here running Linux from a USB drive?

I've been toying with the idea of installing USB on a thumb drive and booting my netbook (which came with Windows XP installed) with it.

I would like to worry less about viruses and Trojans while surfing online. (You may know that I was badly infected by a Trojan worm in December and it took months to get everything ironed out).

Is anyone here booting a computer to Linux using an USB drive? Is there a preferred distribution (there are SO MANY)?

Does anyone know if I'm surfing the web in a computer booted from a Linux USB drive, does the OS even see my Windows drive? Can I still download a Windows virus/trojan that affects that drive while I'm surfing in Linux?

And finally, is Linux pretty intuitive, or would you recommend I at least skim through a "using Linux" book? (For example, I'm so used to just finding software - like Firefox - and installing it, and would it work the same, would I have to install that to the thumb drive, too?)

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Old 07-02-2010, 10:48 PM   #2
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If you use a distribution like Ubuntu, the software is pretty intuitive. You might also look at Linux Mint, which was a variant of Ubuntu, but now is based on Debian, that has all the nice stuff built in - playing commercial DVDs work out of the box, lots of drivers out of the box for common Windows hardware.

You really don't have to worry about viruses, and while it is possible to read and write your Windows filesystem, there aren't viruses that target Linux.

Firefox is built into distributions like Ubuntu and Linux Mint. But most Linux OSs have an easy way to get popular software packages if they are not part of the out of the box OS.

Last edited by Pranananda; 07-02-2010 at 10:50 PM.
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Old 07-02-2010, 11:11 PM   #3
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I have a thumbdrive with Puppy Linux that I use for trouble shooting. It's a decent distro, quick, easy, and stable.
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Old 07-03-2010, 01:15 AM   #4
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You might also have a look at Wubi. It allows you to dual boot between Windows and Ubuntu Linux, but you don't need to repartition your hard drive or use a thumb drive.

I think you would find installing and using applications in Ubuntu (Wubi is just a specialized version of Ubuntu) pretty straightforward. In fact I would consider installing software in Ubuntu to be quite a bit easier than Windows, since you install all software through the "Ubuntu Software Center". There's no need to go to a bunch of different web sites and download each program (Firefox, etc) separately, you just select the program(s) from a list and click install (the program will be downloaded to your netbook and installed).
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Old 07-03-2010, 01:47 AM   #5
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Wow, that Wubi sounds cool.

Maybe I'm being stupid here, but - for example - if I have a removable hard drive formatted for a Mac and save files to it, it isn't readable in Windows.

If I am booted into Wubi/Ubuntu and download ebooks or zips or RARs (which according to the website are saved inside the Wubi file folder), are those ebooks/zips/RARs available to me when I'm back in Windows?
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Old 07-03-2010, 02:46 AM   #6
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Yes, as long as you save your files onto your Windows partition.
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Old 07-03-2010, 03:00 AM   #7
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When you're in Wubi you will be able to mount your Windows XP drive and copy those ebook files to it. Ubuntu can read from and write to your XP drives (if your hard drive is not encrypted).
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Old 07-03-2010, 04:24 AM   #8
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Well, I've installed Wubi and am currently surfing in Linux! It so far is pretty intuitive, maybe a little slow, and the toolbar at the top of the screen rather than the bottom makes me feel like it takes more screen space than it probably really does. It's late, so I need to go to bed - I'll have to play some more tomorrow!
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Old 07-03-2010, 06:07 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by FizzyWater View Post
Well, I've installed Wubi and am currently surfing in Linux! It so far is pretty intuitive, maybe a little slow, and the toolbar at the top of the screen rather than the bottom makes me feel like it takes more screen space than it probably really does. It's late, so I need to go to bed - I'll have to play some more tomorrow!
It's slow because you are running the OS inside of Windows.

If you like Ubuntu or another linux distro, you can always load it onto your HD as a boot option and dual boot into either Windows or Linux as needed.

The rest can be played with. Note that with Ubuntu you have four 'desktops' that you can work with. You can move applications that are running between desktops by dragging, so that you have less concern about screen real-estate.
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Old 07-03-2010, 06:38 AM   #10
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sidux is my 2¢
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Old 07-03-2010, 07:50 AM   #11
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I've run Linux just about every way you can imagine and running it through USB can be fairly slow, especially if you are not using either Puppy Dog Linux or Damn Small Linux.

It's a crap shoot with USB, too. Some distros implement the USB stack fairly well, while others can cause 'ghost' problems, or just down right fail to work.

I love the idea of Linux, heck, I've used it and pushed it in the market place since 1 year after its release; however, I went back to Windows because Calibre did not work so well, and the items I needed to use my ereader were not available (i.e., Adobe Digital Editions, etc.).

As they say in Rome, 'Caveat emptor' when it comes to using Linux with things that are only intended to work with Windows or Mac.
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Old 07-03-2010, 08:11 AM   #12
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I use Peppermint Linux and Crashbang from Flash drives. Very useful for rescuing crashed systems and also just to play with.
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Old 07-03-2010, 11:09 AM   #13
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I'd like to add that Ubuntu Netbook Remix is a great distro for Netbooks. Very intuitive. Works great on my HP Mini.
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Old 07-03-2010, 05:18 PM   #14
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I can't imaging using Windows for anything other than the Virtual Machine I have for NoteTab -- and that's an application, after all. It can almost run well under WINE (a windows application layer for Linux) but seems happier in the VM.

I can't imagine having to run antivirus and spyware checkers all the time, sucking up CPU and memory -- and still having IE let in the monsters. Plus, Linux hides nothing from you, it never installs 5 things when you asked for one, it never puts anything into startup without permission, etc. In fact, there are so many ways to do whatever it is you want to do, that that is the biggest obstacle -- learning how to learn how to use Linux.

Any version of Ubuntu can be made into a USB Live drive, there's an app in the menu called Startup Disk Creator. (If it's not on the live cd, you can install it!) Make it "persistent" and you have what is effectively a portable system, that will determine the specs of the machine you boot to, and install drivers as appropriate.

You can't completely update such a system, though. A little bit, and depending on what you use for system space when you make the drive, you may be limited in how much you can install. But it's easy to play with and wipe and start again, so give it a shot. I think you can do it from a Live Boot CD, actually. A properly configured 8GB USB Thumbdrive would make an excellent portable system.

Calibre works great in Linux. Anything said otherwise is FUD. Dr. Goyal develops it in Linux after all, and ports it to Mac and Windows.

EDIT: Here's the Ubuntu page on installing Ubuntu to a pen drive, with several ways to do it. And here's a GUI for Windows to install Linux to any USB, with Persistence.

Last edited by capidamonte; 07-03-2010 at 05:27 PM.
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Old 07-03-2010, 07:34 PM   #15
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I'd like to add that Ubuntu Netbook Remix is a great distro for Netbooks. Very intuitive. Works great on my HP Mini.
Jolicloud is another netbook distro worth checking out IMO.

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