Friday, July 10, 2009

Trying to get linux to run on usb

I am mainly a windows user because my pc came with windows. I have tried and used various linux distributions in the past and truthfully I like some aspects of linux more than I do windows (beyond the price). Windows has been pissing me off a lot recently (crashes a lot and even though the machine is not very old it already has something like 350 program crashes and several dozen crashes in which only turning the power off gets it to work again). I remember using linux on my dreamcast which you can't do with windows and the live cds are pretty helpful when you need to fix a problem in windows.

I recently got the idea in my head to put linux onto a usb drive with persistence so that I can use it on multiple machines. The main reason I wanted to do this is so that I can use the program WINE (a program that can run most windows programs). I was going to install a few programs I commonly use onto that, so that I can easily use them on all the machines I have access to. For example, I wanted to put Rosetta stone on to that so that I can use multiple machines instead of only one. Switching to linux really isn't that big a deal for me I already use VLC Player, firefox, open office, all the emulators I use are on linux as well, etc. and the few programs I use that do not have as good linux alternatives work on WINE (according to Winehq compatibility guide) . Sure the occasional windows game I play might not but I wasn't planning on uninstalling Windows.

I hadn't used linux in awhile and the few times I have done so recently was via live cd of Ubuntu 7.04 which worked on the pc I had for nearly 10 years now. I recently acquired a new machine, which that version of ubuntu does not work on. The machine I use most often (the one I am typing this up on) is a new pc without access to anything but dial up. Ubuntu does not really like this machine, I went and got the newest version of Ubuntu and it had problems loading from the live cd. Talked to the people at the ubuntu forum and they told me it was the video card and they helped me get it working.

I then used a usb thumb drive to create a bootable version that hopefully would work on multiple machines. That went well and was very easy. I used my sisters laptop that has access to wireless internet and added the programs I wanted, then updated what was already there (added Wine, restricted extras, microsoft fonts, realplayer, vlc player, some interesting education programs, turn off system beep, etc.). Everything was going well, programs were easy to install, updating was easy, the programs I wanted to add to WINE worked, etc.

Here is where things go bad. As soon as I tried to boot it again on the computer I use most often it would not work. When I tried to boot it again on the laptop it would not work. I did an integrity check and it didn't pass. So I erased it from the thumb drive and tried again. This time I was able to get it to work on both the the desktop and my sisters laptop but had problems with the desktop. First problem was that machine only has access to dial-up and Ubuntu is not set up to work with dial up. I had to download a few programs (wvdial, scan modem, martian full) and with the help of the linmodem support page I was able to get that to work. Needed to install ATI proprietary drives to get it to work. The driver update thing crashed repeatedly and wasn't able to install them. Worse when I then tried to use it on the laptop, it again would not work and then refused to work on either machine. Even when it was working it is slow to boot and had a couple errors while booting (it really doesn't like my graphics card).

I was getting fed up with it at that point. So I decided to try another distribution. I chose opensuse 11.1 with gnome. That worked very well on the laptop (might be better than ubuntu but I haven't tried it enough to really say -it supposedly can detect modems) but like ubuntu did not want to work on the desktop. Tries to load gnome repeatedly then gives up. I think I'm going to temporarily give up for a few days at least and then try a different desktop environment. I could try the beta for Ubuntu, but I think the problem is with gnome. I'm not sure which desktop environment to try next KDE or Xfce. It is a new pc with plenty of memory (500 gigabyte hard drive, 2.4 ghz, 3gb ram, a video card that can play fallout 3, etc.). Had I just wanted to install linux to my sisters laptop there wouldn't be a problem, but at least the current releases do not like the desktop computer. I could probably play with it and eventually get it to work as a dual boot or using wubi run in windows but I want it to run off usb on multiple pcs, not on just one, and so far I haven't been able to get it to do that.

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