If you have an old computer which does not boot from USB Flash Drive I have a solution for you.
This applies to the third world and perhaps to the guys and girls of the developed world who are going through rough times and cannot afford a USB booting netbook or laptop or desktop.
If you have a device which boots with USB, most of what of I state below may not apply to you except the principles.
If you are buying anything new do not buy ones without USB booting.
I of course use old gadgets and my 233 speed with 128 RAM and 4 MB graphic is still working but painfully slow.
Also for the guys and girls of the developing world who have gone abroad looking for better pastures with all your parents’ saving and the parent no longer can support you on the second or third years.
All what you need is a Flash Drive and if you cannot afford that it is better you start looking for a menial job and rough out till times get better or they chase you out without extending the visa.
Once those universities sap all your money they have no use of you and start recruiting new batch for their own survival.
Education is money and money is education now in the developed world.
However world has not got better but worse with plenty of geeky gadgets around you, even I cannot afford them in my retirement age.
That is why I am turning to bare bones of computing and Linux utilities are there to get expensive work done with minimum of expenditure but lot of learning to do.
One must get out of the Microsoft plug and play mentality (i.e. even monkeys and dogs can be trained).
And nothing is plug and play even for Microsoft with so many new gadgets hitting the market and D.I.Y is one of the best ways to put your neck and nose ahead in the game of computing world.
Lot of time is necessary and risk taking is essential and above all experimenting. At worse you may ruin the partition table of the Flash drive which I have done.
Linux guys and girls are not there to spoon feed you and they are mostly doing it as a hobby with lot of work and midnight oil burning for their own survival.
But there are few professionals not many of course who are out there willing to help.
I am not a GuRu but an ardent supporter of Linux and a daily user of few outstanding Linux utilities.
UnetBootIn in one of them even though it has lot of teething problems.
For two years I have not looked at my Flash Drives with Live Linux distributions which were booting with my laptop but with none of my computers without USB booting facility.
Since my old IBM is ready for junkyard and power pack and mother board needing a rest period before the junkyard experience I went and bought a secondhand IBM in good working order with little amount of USB support but SATA hard disks.
As the testing period was over and it is doing my daily work and downloading at night, with the extended New year holidays I decided to go for the Acid Test of USB booting while doing lot of other things around the household.
This is my Final Report on UnetBootIn, may not be comprehensive but how I got it to do my work and used all my Flash drives for USB booting with or without USB booting facility of the other computers I have.
Ignore the top preamble and concentrate now.
I have no idea of how it works but this is how I figured it out with some basic idea about Linux booting practice with GRUB.
How I did it.
1. Its kernel is less than one MiB
2. Its init file is the biggest which is less than fifty MiB
3. It has ID file
4. It has GRUB Menu (slash.msg for Pendrive Linux)
5. System configuration file
6. Two text files names ubnfilel and ubpathl
These seven files are necessary for its booting.
Rest of the files are distribution specific out of which livecd.sqfs file is the heaviest and the most important that boots up after initial GRUB sequence.
It has a boot folder and isolinux folder which are basic essentials for Linux booting.
Process has 3 essential steps.
3, Booting (grub) sequence.
Most painful part is the downloading which can break at any moment because of the poor downloading here.
So I choose DSL my yesteryear favorite (50 MiB), Puppy 4.2 my very first USB Linux and parted Magic (158 MiB). Unfortunately gnome’s gParted one of my favorite utility is not there in the listed distributions. I hope gnome will come out with gparted enhanced with UnetBotIn in it’s 128 MiB distribution in the next revision.
Knoppix is not there but it is a different kettle of fish altogether with nearly 4 GiB of compressed files and the best heavy weight category and I am here with the light weight category, for now.
All three worked in the first instance but not PCLinux and Mepis.
Then I wanted to try PCLinux (could not get it because all iso files are now torrents at Linuxtracker) and Mepis (broke at once at 200 and the second time at 850 MiB out of 925 MiB).
Tried PCLinux from my hard drive but some important boot files were missing.
Failures on several occasions, I went into the experimental mode.
Prepare DSL for booting as usual or copy the files listed above to the intended Flash Drive.
Then go to the graphic item and distribution source and give the path for the file in my hard disk and click OK.
Before that one should delete the sqfs file of DSL or Puppy (or overwrite only this file when prompted).
Then say NO to overwrite for all the files except the sqfs file.
Before booting it is better to see whether all the files I mentioned above are copied correctly to the Pendrive.
If so shutdown the computer and reboot and the live CD is now in your Pendrive and you do not need to have a CD or DVD to boot your favorite Linux distribution onto the RAM. With this Pendrive you can install Linux to any worthwhile computer without a CD or DVD you may have.
In my case I did install PCLinux-2010 from the Pendrive I prepared on my laptop which I formatted to install Knoppix and record World Cup Cricket (quality of the USB TV card was poor).
Now I am looking for a netbook (my daughter would not oblige) to try my wizardry like wizard of OZ.
Only downside was that one cannot boot the DSL (you have overwritten or deleted in the process).
If you have brains you may even install another sqfs file and edit the boot menu and boot the second one too.
I have no time to try it but I hope UnetBootIn will add that facility in future and access to iso files in my hard disk so that I can bypass the downloading bit and boot any of the 100 odd Linux live CD /DVDs I have.
PCLinux USB creator was hopeless to say the least and it does not do the job properly like UnetBootIn and also needs Linux partition and not fat partitions.
Go and enjoy Pendrive freedom that come from Linux Developers of repute.
I must say special thanks to MCN (Mandriva) group which started the ball rolling in 2007 with the first Penndrive Version I got to work on a Pendrive in Singapore in 2009.
However Singaporeans have no clue about Pendrive Linux or Linux in general.
This is something Indians would have invested (prepare LIVE PENDRIVES for sale) during World Cup but missed it in toto and now doing IPL cricket instead.
Anybody can come to me but I charge for the time especially the download time which is painfully slow and I value my free time which is devoted for rants like this.
Edited on the 20th
How to get new Puppy into your Pendrive (It is easy as eating cheese cake and dogs love cheese)
Easiest method is to is to boot the Live CD and used it as a base to make a Live Pendrive. This was how I made my first Live USB long before Pendrive Linux and at a time when I did not have a computer with USB booting facility.
Puppy was my entry into Light Weight Distribution Version and I have not looked back on that experience.
Then I went into PCLinux and its many versions including PCLinux Mini Me. I am not impressed with the record of USB booting with PCLinux even now and that was the one that took the longest time and method (Thanks to UnetBootIn) how to figure out making a USB drive. It failed miserably with my USB hard drive in spite of me getting it into a Linux partition and I finally gave up because I do not fancy carrying a heavy SATA disk in my front pocket.
I prefer a Pendrive around my neck instead of a hard drive.
Mind you I use the hard drive to carry all my favorite iso images some of which are 4.4 GiB and Supreme Games Linux is almost 8 GiB.
Getting Puppy into a Pendrive was the easiest with UNetbootIn but with a problem.
It only downloads the 4.2 version (the first version I used before Dingo-most number of Live CD I have is with Puppy) from the internet.
So I set about to get a copy of Puppy lupu from my hard disk to Pendrive.
1. Plug in the Pendrive with Puppy 4.2
2. Start UnetBootIn and selected Puppy for install rather copy
3. From dialog box gave the path to my lupu already downloaded and click OK
4. Said NO to all overwrite messages
5. Check the Flash Drive to see production OK. Both Puppy 4.2 and and lupu 525 sqfs files were there with only 250 of the 14oo Mib used.
6. Booted the Flash drive to see it only boots the 4.2. Could not get F2 to change boot option since it configures the keyboard in later stages (Puppy bypasses even the BIOS) of booting.
7. Mounted Flash on my desktop and changed the 420 to 422 and lupu 525 to 420.
8. Booted again and got the kernel panic message (in early days when I get this message I go into panic mode, almost a heart attack but now wait for a few seconds and switch off the computer making sure RAM is not in freeze mode and fully flushed like toilet bowl after a wee, wee.
(I get a message from South Africa where water scarcity is a serious problem and asking me to put bricks on the cistern to reduce the capacity and fill it with waste or used water. I think they way we are chopping trees and the Coal Power Plant functioning at full speed we will be near that fate before India. Please excuse me on this diversion if I blog this separately nobody will read it and hence the inclusion here)
9. Booted again but again kernel panic mode
10. UnetBootIn again and and copied lupu 525 and this time said yes to all overwrite messages including uninit and unkernel.
11. Booted again presto the lupu was running.
Summary in 4 steps
1. Format the Pendrive with FAT 32 partition
2. Install Puppy 4.2 using UNetBootIn and check booting of the Pendrive.
3. Download any of the latest Puppy, lupu, quirky or wary (you can rename the iso image with your dog’s name if you are a dog lover. I believe Barry Kauler an Australian is a Dog Lover. Note, unlike cricketers Australian are nice and normal guys).
4. Repeat Step 2 to with overwrite mode on (manually) and boot it up.
I think I have said enough of UnetBootIn.
I hope the Developers got the message and in its next update of UnetBootIn it is sweet as honey.
Thanks Guys and Girls you are doing some excellent work, you should make sure that you have some rest in between and play some Linux Games like me .
I get a message from WiN 7 guys that they also have developed a Pendrive utility but it is painfully slow and need a huge Flash Drive with all the viruses included in the processing.
So before any one using it do a virus scan first using a Linux Utility called Medi Linux!