[nmglug] Questions About Dual Booting From A USB Drive

William D. Nystrom wdn at lanl.gov
Wed Apr 6 10:58:40 PDT 2005

Hi Karl,

On Wed, April 6, 2005 10:42 am, Karl Hegbloom said:
> On Tue, 2005-04-05 at 13:01 -0600, William D. Nystrom wrote:
>> Initially, I'm
>> interested in trying Debian, Fedora Core 3 and perhaps Gentoo.
> I think you should also try Ubuntu.  The "Hoary Hedgehog" release
> candidate is probably worth a try!  I think it will do all of the
> hardware detection you need, similar to what Knoppix will do.

What I am looking for regarding Linux is a distro that has alot of prebuilt
packages that are easy to install and stays pretty close to the latest
developments.  I posted a question about linux distros to this forum a
couple of months ago.  My expectation is to primarily be booting my USB
drive off of a couple of different laptops.  I'm open to trying several
different linux distros as long as it does not become too large of a time

>> 1.  I'm thinking I will probably need to do alot of partitioning and
>> resizing of partitions.  Is Partition Magic 8.0 the way to go here or
>> are
>> there better alternatives?  I've used Partition Magic in the past but
>> not
>> at all recently.  Reviews complain about poor technical support and
>> possibly about draconian key activation issues.
> Don't waste your money on Partition Magic.  Instead, get the System
> Rescue CD from http://www.sysresccd.org/ and use the 'run_qtparted'
> command from there.  You have to boot it to frame-buffer mode (fb1024).

Thanks for this info.  I had not heard of this web site.  My checks into
Partition Magic seem to indicate that they have developed an activation
scheme similar to Microsoft which makes it difficult or impossible to move
it from one computer to another by doing an uninstall and then reinstall.

>> 2.  Would I start by installing Windows XP first or Linux first?  Are
>> there still limitations with Windows regarding the maximum cylinder on
>> the
>> hard drive which would dictate how I might do the partitioning?  For
>> Windows, should I use NTFS or FAT32?
> You should use your Windows XP CD as a coffee cup coaster, and go
> native.

I'd do that in a hearbeat if I could but there are some applications which
I run that I don't know of Linux replacements for.  I've heard that I can
use GNUCash to replace Quicken but am not sure what I could use to replace
Turbo Tax.  But more importantly, I have some stock charting software and
backtesting software and I am not aware of any software like it that is
available for Linux.  If I were to decide to stop using this software or
could find suitable Linux replacements then I would change very quickly.

>> 3.  Are there any issues with this plan that I have not thought of?
> Windows XP won't run on more than one computer like that, since it
> computes a registration key based on a hardware signature.
> Some Linux distro installers do not support installation to a USB hard
> drive.  You may need to do it 'by hand' to get it to work.  The main
> issue is that there has to be an 'initrd' that loads the 'usb_storage'
> module so that it can access the drive in order to mount the root file
> system.  The boot loader and Linux itself are totally separate.  The
> boot loader will load the Linux kernel and an 'initrd' image, and then
> the system in the initrd must take it from there.  The bulk of the
> hardware detection is done after the 'pivot_root' and 'chroot' to the
> real root FS on the hard drive.

I'm not sure of the implications here.  When you say to do it "by hand",
do you mean that I would need to remove the hard drive from the USB
enclosure and put it in a computer such as a laptop to do the install?
Or did you have something else in mind?

Thanks again for your reply.

Dave Nystrom
Phone: 505-667-7913
Fax:   505-665-2227
Email: wdn at lanl.gov
Smail: Mail Stop T085
       Group X-2
       Los Alamos National Laboratory
       Los Alamos, NM 87545

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