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Comparing openSUSE 11.2 and Kubuntu Karmic LiveUSB setups

August 8th, 2009 by

Some days ago, KDE 4.3.0 has been released by the KDE community and I myself as a loyal GNOME user was just curious about this new release of the KDE4 desktop environment. Thus I took a test-drive of both openSUSE 11.2 Milestone 5 and the Kubuntu Karmic Daily Build as of the 8th of August 2009 – both are shipping with KDE 4.3.0. Utilizing my Eee PC 901 I setup LiveUSB sticks of both distributions and I’d herewith like to share my findings with the openSUSE community. As you might have noticed, openSUSE Milestone releases provide the ability to deploy the LiveCD ISO image directly to USB flash media as of 11.2 Milestone 4, which is a great step ahead from my perspective. So, let’s get started:

1. openSUSE 11.2 Milestone 5 – (so far) non-persistent

Only one single step is needed here :-) Couldn’t be easier!
# dd if=openSUSE-KDE4-LiveCD-Build0201-i686.iso of=/dev/"usbdrive" bs=4M
2. Kubuntu Karmic Daily Build as of the 8th of August 2009 – persistent

While this setup is a bit “harder” to complete it delivers (at least from my perspective) the smoother solution – so far!
Mount the ISO to /mnt/ and rsync the whole content to a FAT32 partition on the USB flash media (here labelled “ubuntu”)
# mount -o loop karmic-desktop-i386.iso /mnt/
# rsync -avh /mnt/ /media/ubuntu/

Now install GRUB (Syslinux should work as well, but I myself prefer GRUB here)
# grub-install --no-floppy --root-directory=/media/ubuntu/ /dev/"usbdrive"
Create a GRUB configuration file /media/ubuntu/boot/grub/menu.lst with the following content
default 0
timeout 3
title Kubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) Daily Build 08-Aug-2009
kernel /casper/vmlinuz file=/preseed/kubuntu.seed boot=casper persistent quiet splash
initrd /casper/initrd.lz

Last but not least, resize the FAT32 partition labelled “ubuntu” to its minimal extent and create an ext2/3 partition labelled “casper-rw” within the remaining free space.


What I’m currently curious about and the major reason for posting this comparison actually: Could some fellow openSUSE community member extend my current solution to beat the Kubuntu setup not only in ease of creation but also in regard of usability? The major difference here is that the openSUSE 11.2 Milestone 4/5 LiveUSB setup isn’t persistent while the Kubuntu one is due to the casper-rw aufs overlay partition.

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7 Responses to “Comparing openSUSE 11.2 and Kubuntu Karmic LiveUSB setups”

  1. +1,
    It should be a cool idea and a cool feature. Casper-rw aufs could also extend it’s feature to run completely within RAM (toram feature).

  2. JFYI, there are UNOFFICIAL oemtype, i.e. persistent, raw usb-images available at http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/openSUSE:/Factory:/Live/images/ (thanks Beineri for the hint)

    According to coolo, those usb-images are provided as is and filing bug reports against them are INVALID without specifying the full path. While the current KDE build (openSUSE-11.2-usb-kde.i686-2.8.0-Build142.1.raw.bz2) doesn’t work for me, I think the resource is worth mentioning here and thus I herewith share it. My personal copy of the usb-image fails with “failed to find MBR identifier” followed by a reboot.

    To deploy those images, do:
    # bunzip2 openSUSE-11.2-usb-kde.i686-2.8.0-Build142.1.raw.bz2
    # dd if=openSUSE-11.2-usb-kde.i686-2.8.0-Build142.1.raw of=/dev/”usbdrive” bs=4M

    I also tested to lower the blocksize (bs=32k) but this ended up with the very same error message “failed to find MBR identifier”. I myself will monitor the Factory repo for more recent builds though.

    • milan zimmermann

      I just wanted to mention that I tried the version from 14th August and it works very well. I used 8GB Sandisk, it took abu 10 minutes to install. After that, it is best to setup video soon and run in gui mode as yast in terminal mode is a bit difficult .

      Anyway, I wonder why is this “unofficial” – I think this is a very useful thing! Unetbootin did NOt work for me with Suse Factory.

      Good work.

  3. Matteo

    I prefer Fedora’s method: they provide a simple application that takes care of the entire job (downloads the image, copy to usb drive, activate persistent environment) and let you do that without erasing your usb drive (very important imho!).
    On sourceforge there’s also , a similar application but ready to be used with different distributions (it works with suse, ubuntu, and almost any other distro).
    And it’s really easy to use, I suggest you to give it a try!

    Actually I tried the dd method to boot the milestone 5 on my pc, but it didn’t work :( maybe is still the cd-rom bug?

    • Matteo

      ops… sorry for the big link! I forgot to close the tag!

    • Pretty much the same (a simple application called live-usb-creator) is available for Ubuntu as well – not to mention unetbootin (you already did that). The result of live-usb-creator in both Ubuntu and Fedora actually is to utilize syslinux as the boot-loader and to create a loopback casper-rw file containing an ext2 partition for persistence. While this is most likely the most straightforward method for the end user, I myself currently prefer GRUB as a bootloader in combination with a casper-rw partition as described in the blog post. As of unetbootin: this method uses syslinux as the bootloader as well and sets up non-persistent liveusb media, while it’s certainly possible to adjust the syslinux configuration for a persistent casper-rw file or partition afterwards (with the result that you end up with the very same result of ubuntu/fedora’s live-usb-creator)

      Thanks for contributing!