The PhoneBoy Blog


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Booting Damn Small Linux off a USB Key Finally!

This past week, I obtained a new IBM Thinkpad T41 laptop, which I have to say is a nice system. Of course, the drive inside of it has a work disk image on it with all of the corporate applications and standards, including an encrypted disk. While I could easily format and reinstall the box, I actually need that image for certain aspects of my product support job. It’s also nice to have an official box “just in case.”

Meanwhile, I like using the laptop for non-corporate uses once in a while, but would prefer not to actually “do my work” under the corporate installation of Windows 2000. No problem. That’s where Damn Small Linux(DSL) comes in. It’s a small Linux distribution that will boot off of a business card-sized CD (50mb). It contains applications for most basic needs. Others can be downloaded on the fly (DSL extensions).

It gets even better. With a computer that can boot off of a USB Flash drive (unfortunately, you’ve gotta have a pretty new computer to have this feature), you can install Damn Small Linux on that, keep plenty of data (or DSL extensions) and have a system with no moving parts (except the computer fans of course). And since I have 1gm of RAM in the laptop, I can load the OS, data, and applications directly into RAM, unplugging the USB flash drive until I need to commit some data. Can you say mondo battery life?

It took me a bit to get DSL working on this USB flash and IBM T41. It required a bit of hacking into the linuxrc inside of the miniroot. After being up until 3:30am last night and not getting anywhere, I figured out what the problem was today — a module loaded at boot time was killing my USB access. Don’t load the module, and everything was working.

Maybe I can go to bed before 2am for a change… :)


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