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Thread: How do I run Ubuntu from a flash drive?

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2021
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    10

    Re: How do I run Ubuntu from a flash drive?

    I am following the step-by-step instructions at the post C.S.Cameron linked to here: https://askubuntu.com/questions/1217...ice-step-by-st

    I am stuck at this step: "Copy the boot and the EFI folders from the Ubuntu ISO file to the boot,esp partition sdx3." If I understand correctly, it is telling me to extract two folders from an ISO file and copy them onto a partition. How do I extract folders from an ISO file? And what is the syntax to specify a partition as the destination for a copy command?

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2021
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    10

    Re: How do I run Ubuntu from a flash drive?

    I think maybe I figured it out. For extracting the folders from the ISO, I found boot and EFI folders in the /cdrom folder, so I'm going to assume that's what the instructions were referring to. To use the partition as the destination for a copy command, I could find no solution except to mount the partition. I ended up with this:
    cd /mnt
    sudo mkdir sdc3
    sudo mount /dev/sdc3 /mnt/sdc3
    sudo cp -r /cdrom/boot /mnt/sdc3
    sudo cp -r /cdrom/EFI /mnt/sdc3
    sudo unmount /dev/sdc3
    sudo rmdir sdc3
    Hopefully, that worked. I'll find out when I get to the end of the procedure.

  3. #13
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    Jul 2021
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    10

    Re: How do I run Ubuntu from a flash drive?

    Update: Everything worked. Thank you, C.S.Cameron, for the excellent instructions.

    Unfortunately, the resulting OS is unusably slow. I don't know why. When I created a bootable Ubuntu install USB and chose "Try Ubuntu", the performance was good. This full install performs much, much worse. It takes about 15 minutes to boot. Launching an application takes several minutes. And sometimes, everything just freezes for 5 minutes or more.

    I am going to give up on this project for now and see if I can find another approach to what I want to do.

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
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    I think I'm here! Maybe?
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    Distro
    Xubuntu 20.04 Focal Fossa

    Re: How do I run Ubuntu from a flash drive?

    Your experience is not a great surprise to me.

    If using a USB2 flash drive in a USB2 port everything will be severely limited by the read/write and transfer speeds of USB2 which are simply too slow for an OS.
    USB3 will be much better but still relatively slow.

    A live system, even with persistence is running mainly if not totally in RAM so runs very much faster.

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2021
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    10

    Re: How do I run Ubuntu from a flash drive?

    Ajgreeny, Thanks for the feedback.

    I must be a dunce here because I'm just not getting it. I understand that RAM is faster than flash memory, but why is my full install using RAM less efficiently than the "Try Ubuntu" version? Functionally, the two versions look substantially the same, so why can't my full install use RAM the same way and be just as fast?

    Admittedly, my version is saving changes to the flash drive that the "Try Ubuntu" version isn't saving, but the performance difference is far more than can be explained by the few configuration changes I've made. My version is at least 10x slower. Does my operating system really need 90% of its time to read and write a pittance of user data?

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka
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    3,392
    Distro
    Ubuntu 20.04 Focal Fossa

    Re: How do I run Ubuntu from a flash drive?

    How much RAM does the computer have? Perhaps try the drive on a different computer.

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Jul 2021
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    10

    Re: How do I run Ubuntu from a flash drive?

    Quote Originally Posted by C.S.Cameron View Post
    How much RAM does the computer have?
    I don't know, but if the amount of RAM matters this much, then I'm pursuing the wrong solution.

    I don't require Ubuntu for my application. I can probably get the functionality I need from one of the minimalist Linux distributions, so I'm researching that option now.

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
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    /dev/root
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    Hidden!

    Re: How do I run Ubuntu from a flash drive?

    It can work well to run Ubuntu from a USB drive, as installed system as well as persistent live. But if not, there are several alternatives within the Ubuntu family of flavours. The flavours are developed and maintained by volunteers. And you might be able to find a faster USB drive.

    Please tell us the specification of your computer, if you want help that can focus on the bottlenecks of your computer.

    - Brand name and model of the computer (or motherboard if you put it together yourself).
    - Brand name and model of the CPU
    - Brand name and model of the graphics chip or card
    - Amount of RAM.

    These details can be found via the command

    Code:
    sudo lshw | less
    I suggest that you try an Ubuntu 20.04.x LTS flavour with a light foot-print, Lubuntu, Ubuntu MATE or Xubuntu, as a persistent live system.

    It is rather easy to create a persistent live system if you have an Ubuntu system - install and use mkusb.

    In Windows you can use Rufus. With the correct settings you will find the slider and you 'drag it to the right' to get as much drive space as possible for persistence.

    These links (and links from them) can be helpful:

    Installation/FromUSBStick
    Installation/FromUSBStick/pre#Notes_about_speed
    Last edited by sudodus; July 25th, 2021 at 12:58 AM. Reason: link for Rufus

  9. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2021
    Beans
    10

    Re: How do I run Ubuntu from a flash drive?

    This community is great. I appreciate that you guys are trying to engage with my problem, even though I haven't given you many details. Let me explain what I'm doing, and maybe that will put things in a different perspective.

    I volunteer for a search and rescue agency. We have a couple of vehicles with computers mounted on the dashboard. This week, the drive in one of the computers failed. We will fix the problem by replacing the drive or the computer (not sure which yet). Red tape being what it is, that will take a couple of weeks. In the meantime, this vehicle is out of service for ops assignments. Most of the applications we run from the vehicles are browser-based, so I figured maybe I could eliminate the downtime by making a bootable flash drive that launches a browser and remembers the passwords needed to log-in to various websites. As you can see from my comments in this thread, I have tried, but so far failed, to do so.

    With apologies to my teammates, it is important that the boot procedure be idiot-proof. A Grub screen of boot options won't be understood. Thus, my goal is to make a bootable flash drive that launches a browser on startup, remembers data generated during the session, and shows no prompts during startup. The no-prompts-during-startup requirement seems to be a significant sticking point. That's why I can't use what everyone is calling the "persistent" approach.

    I appreciate the questions about the computer specs, but I really won't know what they are until the next time I go to the station. The computers are fairly recent modern PC laptops (and good ones too – we don't buy cheap stuff). Any solution which will work on a typical PC should work on these computers. Any solution which requires high performance hardware, I'm not interested in.

    Anyway, I never intended to pour a lot of time into this project. Giving up won't be a failure. But if anyone knows a quick way to create a bootable USB drive like I am describing, now that you know the full story of what I'm doing, please let me know.

  10. #20
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    /dev/root
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    Hidden!

    Re: How do I run Ubuntu from a flash drive?

    Thanks for these details, z-q,

    Now I understand that what you need is an installed system, that you can configure to be very easy to use. Since you had problems with the USB pendrive, probably caused by slow performance, maybe also by some other bottleneck, I suggest that you get an SSD drive connected via USB3 or a standard [SATA-]SSD and a box that will connect it to USB3 (the box should be a physical container plus a USB3 to SATA adapter). Your organization should get that for less than 100 € or US $100, and my experience is that it will perform well.

    You install from a standard live Lubuntu, Ubuntu-MATE or Xubuntu iso file to this SSD drive just like it were an internal drive. This will be easy when there is no internal drive connected (or when the internal drive is dead).

    If you have only and need only open source Linux drivers and no proprietary drivers (for graphics and wifi), such an installed system in a USB3-connected SSD will perform almost as well as an installed system.

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