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Can I run Ubuntu 12.04 LTS off my 4GB USB drive as its own native operating system with persistence enabled to save changes to the USB the same way that I do with Slax or other fully portable Linux distros?

How can I remove the "install this" icon in my current live Ubuntu USB installation? Can I run it fully portably without the icon wanting me to install it to the host computer?

I'm a Windows XP user, but I would like to switch to Ubuntu on an 8GB USB if it's possible.

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There are basically two ways to run Ubuntu from a USB drive.

The first is to do a regular install and select the USB drive as the target for installation. Be sure to select the right drive for writing GRUB to the Master Boot Record (MBR). If you select your internal drive by mistake then your computer will not boot if your USB drive is not connected, even though your intention is to boot into Windows.

The second is to use the program Startup Disk Creator on Ubuntu to create a Live USB install. To add persistence select the option "Stored in reserved extra space" under the question "When starting up from this disk, documents and settings will be:" and then use the slider to reserve as much space as you need to store your documents and extra applications.

If you want to remove the "install this" icon from your desktop all you have to do is uninstall the package called "ubiquity". Do this with:

$ sudo apt-get remove ubiquity

Note that this only works if you've enabled persistence when creating the live USB. If you use the first method then ubiquity will be uninstalled as part of the installation process.

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Assuming you are referring to the icon of the USB devive in Windows XP, you should be able to change/remove it by editing the autorun.inf file on the flash drive in the topmost directory of the drive
If you are trying to change the name of the drive on Linux you need to alter the partition label of the partition on the usb device, you can do this with gparted or the gnome disk utility
as for switching the drive to a larger usb you can copy the partition using gparted to the other usb then run sudo grub-install /dev/sdX replace X as needed for the correct usb device (you can get the letter using gparted in the drop down menu that changed the displayed disk)

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