Ubuntu, Flash Drives and Goofing off

Well, the last couple of days I have been messing around with ubuntu. I already have some virtual machines that are running ubuntu at work and home, but what made it different this time is that I recently obtained an 8GB flash drive from newegg.com

So I set out to install Ubuntu to my new flash drive. So I found some instructions here. All this is doing is installing the LiveCD of Ubuntu to one partition on the flash drive, and then creating a seperate partition to install the filesystem. This is all fine and dandy and actually works quite well. The only problem is that the LiveCD is actually Gzipped libraries and UnGzipped when requested which makes for a very slow experience. Not horribly slow, I mean we’re running off a little pen drive here, but slow enough. Originally people only had access to 1GB flash drives and were trying to squeeze as much space out of the drive as possible. This is no longer the case with flash drive prices dropping quickly. I mean the 16gb flash drives are now below $200. Give it another year and they will be at $100.

So now I am attempting to do a full install to my flash drive after wiping it and we’ll see how that works out. I found these instructions here and here (the latter is actually how to do it to a usb external hdd, but same idea). It seems straight forward with installing Grub or Lilo and doing the install as normal.

Now, this is great and really cool to freak out your friends when you load up your own operating system on their computer, the only problem with the entire scenario is the write threshold on flash drives. That’s right, there is a point when your flash drive will commit suicide and then you are up the creek. There is a posting on this page by flimbo about installing each mount point to a different flash drive which could mitigate some of this disaster. IIRC, the “theoretical” write threshold is anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times. I found this information on Ask-Leo. Writing is much more expensive than reading, but there is a high number of read/writes when running an entire operating system from a flash drive. More reads than writes however.

All that being said it is a pretty cool techie item to have up your sleeve. If you are fixing a friend/relative’s computer its pretty handy to pop in a thumb drive and run some disk diagnosis tools, but at that point you could just use the LiveCd to do that. All in all, just eyecandy for the brain. Cool stuff!!