Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Of Live USBs and MBRs

Determined to put my 4 GB flash drive to good use, i decided to create a Live USB disk of the Interpid Ibex on it.

Now, Ubuntu 8.10 comes with this neat "Live USB disk creator" tool, which makes it extremely easy to create a live disk.But on my friend Chinmay's blog, i read that this tool doesn't make the USB stick persistent. So, without trying it out myself, i headed here. Now this page describes how to install Ubuntu 8.10 on the USB stick.

After following all the steps mentioned there, i was unable to boot through my USB stick. It displayed some garbage on the screen and i was forced to restart the computer.

So now, I tried the Live USB creator tool, which led to the same problem as well !. One probable source of this kind of error can be a corrupted MBR. So i tried writing a MBR to the disk using lilo.

#lilo -M /dev/sdX

where, X is the letter assigned to the drive, which can be found out by doing a #fdisk -l .

And, as it turned out, this was the problem. Now, I was able to boot through my USB stick and everything seemed just fine. All the settings and documents were persistent. I again, formatted the USB stick and used the tool provided with the Intrepid, and surprisingly the settings and documents were persistent here too !. So Chinmay's might be an isolated problem....or mine an isolated success :P .

The major difference that i found out between the two methods was that the creator tool does not create separate physical partitions on the stick. It instead creates a file on the stick and uses it for persistent settings. On the other hand, the manual method creates a separate partition for keeping the settings persistent.

Now, my USB stick was ready ! ....well not exactly.....i faced quite an annoying problem in Windows while using this USB stick.

Since I'm running out of time, I will post the problem and some workarounds that I found out later.

Stay tuned :-D


  1. the problem was only with hardy images...and it still persists :P ...heres the bug report. Everything works fine with intrepid...well atleast as far the live usbs are concerned

  2. oh okay ! i missed that one... :P