Monday, April 14, 2008

Living a life without a Hard Disk

Life without a hard disk is tough.. but fun in many ways..

I have a knack of crashing hard disks, and I really can't help it. Every 10 months, my hard disk crashes, and then my vendor replaces it, thanks to the warranty. It has almost become a routine now.
Recently, my hard disk device controller failed, and I couldn't access my hd anymore. I had seen this coming (yeah 10 months up), and had backed up all important data. But, then I was too busy and couldn't afford the latency time for the hd replacement. So I chose to live a few days without a hard disk.

Here is what you could do, to keep working on your computer:

1. Get your hd replaced. Lucky, if it's under warranty. Bad if it ain't. Plus, the time to get it replaced.

2. Live on a Live CD. It's cool, runs everything but a tad bit slow. It's not persistent, so all settings lost, each time you run.

3. Live on a portable Linux on your USB mem stick. Super cool. Runs on all shapes and sizes. Small. portable. cheap.

4. Live on an OS installed on your external USB hard disk. Awesome. Not as fast as your IDE or SATA Hd, but hey, an entire complete OS..amazing. But a little expensive if you don't already own one.

Now, I chose an USB memory stick for 2 reasons, it's small and it's decently fast. If you visit, you would find some really cool ways to install any Linux distro onto your trusty thumbdrive. Even though I am a regular ubuntu user, I tried their own PendriveLinux2008 which is derived from MCNLive (A Mandriva flavour)

The beauty of this entire distro is persistent loop, that saves all changes back to the usb drive. Simply put, it's a writable live cd. Strangely, I really love the distro. Beryl/Compiz comes preinstalled along with all the usual tools. You could install more apps if space permits. Plug the disk on any PC and you can use the OS and all your favorite applications. I am not writing a post showing you how to do this, as the pendrivelinux site has nice comprehensive instructions.

FYI, I used Ubuntu 7.10 live cd to access the internet, download the OS and install it onto my usb flash drive. An important tip, sometimes you may need Lilo/grub incase your MBR (boot records) of your flash drive are messed up. It's very easy. Boot in with the live cd of any distro. Install the OS onto your flash drive (as mentioned on pendrivelinux). Run these in the terminal.

$ sudo apt-get install lilo
$ lilo -M /dev/sdx

where sdx is your flash drive.. run fdisk -l to discover it.

If you need any instructions, do email me to write one for you. It's really that simple ;)
Here is Pendrive Linux in it's full glory!


Harish Mallipeddi said...

Buy a laptop with a SSD! You know what I'm getting at? :)

Anonymous said...

Try GoblinX, the best livecd... everything automatically saved on your FAT32 pendrive... It has a zip file instead of iso only for pendrives.

Anoj said...

@ harish.. lol its right up there on "the things I want to buy from my first salary " list.. but still don't think can afford it :). Hopefully the prices will fall soon :)

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of Puppy Linux for flash drive purposes... it packs in a LOT of stuff to that 90 MBs! Never seen the distro you mentioned but I'll check it out.

Also, don't forget that we can use web-based apps instead of a local hard drive: google docs, picasa, mediafire, etc.

Anoj said...

PendriveLinux and MCNLive are around 700 MB but they pack in almost everything that one needs, and their package management is another huge plus for beginners.
Btw Puppy and DSL run beautifully on an older p-III laptop that I have and are extremely small n fast;)

Mel said...

I haven't really explored this option in depth however With the price of flash memory dropping and 8GB flash drives with in the 30$USD range, I can see this becoming a viable solution for myself as well.

Id use Linux for "Work" purposes but they've intentionally gone for vendors that lack linux clients, and home brewed "Windows only" applications.

Im pretty exited to try Gentoo on a flash drive... maybe span the portage tree over to my NAS. Maybe this might peek your interests as well?