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I was looking for some method to install Ubuntu (32-bit) on my 8GB (7.3GB) USB stick, with the following things in mind:

  • The installation should be persistent, and keep all changes and installed software, so I can have my system on-the-go;
  • I should be able to easily install Ubuntu from it, much like a Live CD, which would help greatly when sharing it with new users;
  • I need to be able to access all/home files from Windows (and hopefully keep the installation under 4GB), so I can still use it as a mass storage stick everywhere on a daily basis.

This would be a massively useful tool for me. As far as I know, usb-creator does include a certain degree of persistence, but it stores everything in one single file of up to 4GB, which sounds really odd and limited in functionality and performance. I might be wrong, but it seems it doesn't quite do what I'm looking for.

Ultimately, I can drop the "easily install Ubuntu from it" as long as there is some sort of command that does the trick, but I'd prefer to get Ubiquity too.

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You can label a partition "casper-rw", put an ext2 filesystem on it, and delete the casper-rw file. Once you've got things like /home visible, you can mount an ntfs filesystem for your files. –  ubfan1 Jan 20 '13 at 6:36
    
@ubfan1, what exactly would be kept in casper-rw? I'd rather not partition the drive to give me more dynamic control of my space, and besides Windows does not (natively) read ext2. –  zebasz Jan 21 '13 at 7:02
    
casper-rw looks like a sparsely populated regular filesystem, with only the changes present and which override the static compressed filesystem. If you run system updates, you will soon have hundreds of Meg of files present. –  ubfan1 Jan 21 '13 at 17:18

1 Answer 1

Casper-rw does not make for a Windows friendly file or partition. Linux home is not easily accessible in Windows A persistent Ubuntu install uses the FAT32 filesystem, which Windows can see. Any data that you save in the drives root can be accessed by Windows. Any data saved in the drives root can be accessed while running the device by going to filesystem/cdrom. You need to be root to do so.

In other words, do a persistent install, add a folder named Windows and save data to it as normal.

If you do not require the ability to install Ubuntu from the drive you can do a Full install using manual partitioning, ("Something Other") You can make the first partition FAT32 or NTFS and the second partition ext2, 3 or 4 for use as /, you may also want swap space.

With a full install you can do updates and upgrades just like an install to internal drive.

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I guess there's no way to put /home in FAT32 or NTFS, then? I know they're rubbish compared to ext, but you know, Window compatibility and stuff. I didn't know that /cdrom thing, might come in handy, but why do I need root for that? Can't I just create a symlink inside home to /cdrom? How do I grant the user permanent permission to access those files? –  zebasz Jan 23 '13 at 14:23
    
Windows filesystems miss critical properties (symbolic and hard links, special characters in file names, etc.) which practically all other OSs support, so putting your /home in a Windows file system is probably not possible. There is UMSDOS and PosixOVL, which try to solve this problem, but I have no idea if they are usable for such a purpose (not without hacking, anyway). –  Jens May 3 '13 at 20:30

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