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So I got round to thinking it'd be cool to have portable slackware. first checked out zipslack, the official minimal install of slackware......except that it isn't. It's a way to get the basic installer onto a USB drive or other small media so you can boot into an installer, then continue installing via network or whatever.
Next option, obviously, was Slax. By coincidence, a new version was just released - Slax 6.0.2 - which has an installer especially designed for USB thumb drives.
Initial install went great, everything worked fine. Hanging around in ##slax on irc.freenode.net, however, someone asked me for installation help. I tried an installation again and utterly failed several times.
So it turns out that there are a few pitfalls here and there during installation; here's what they are and how to avoid them:
> the way you want to extract what you download is as recommended:
in the terminal:
$ cd /media/usbdrive // or wherever you have your usb thumb drive mounted
$ tar -xvf ~/path/to/slax-6.0.2.tar // that is, where ever you have the slax tarball
$ sudo ./boot/bootinst.sh // running the installation script for vfat (more on this in a moment)
and from there, ideally, it just installs itself! If you don't set it up that way, however, the paths of certain files aren't going to resolve and you could have installation problems.
A successful install is fairly verbose. It tells you that the installation is complete; upon error, it tells you what error it ran into.
2. File Systems
You can put Slax onto a drive formatted a number of different ways. I guess one of the most typical formats is vfat, created by:
$ umount /dev/sdb1 // you may have to be root to do that
$ mkfs.vfat /dev/sdb1 // or whatever the path to your usb drive is
If you use a vfat formatted drive, you will need to use the ./boot/bootinst.sh method of installing.
You can also put Slax onto an ext2 or xfs formatted drive. To create this you'd do:
$ umount /dev/sdb1 // again, you may need root...and /dev/sdb1 would be whatever your usb location is
$ mkfs.ext2 /dev/sdb1 // or, if you have xfs capabilities installed, mkfs.xfs /dev/sdb1
This is important: if you use these filesystems you MUST use run ./boot/liloinst.sh during installation -- not ./boot/bootinst.sh
If you try bootinst.sh with ext2 or xfs or anything but vfat, your installation will fail.
3. Booting from USB on a Mac.
> Probably only 95% of people reading this care, but some people, like me, are stuck around Macs at work and occasionally would like to boot into a sensible OS like Slax, from USB. It's easy from Slax/CD - you pop in the CD, reboot holding the "C" key. But I like USB keys...but that's too bad, because Macs don't. An Intel Mac will not boot from USB. Possible exceptions? The Apple TV might, given that its sole USB port is by default looking out for a USB drive with all kinds of interesting updates for it. Whether it will actually BOOT or not, I don't know yet, but there's a chance. Another idea I've had is to get a physical USB-to-Firewire adapter, and seeing if I can trick the Mac into booting off the drive that way. Seems unlikely, but it'll be worth a shot sometime. Maybe.
4. Where's my AIM?
> Pidgin on slax don't got AIM or ICQ. You'll have to recompile it to get it in there.
5. How can I make it persistent?
> Actually, my install is just magically persistent. I don't know why...I think the Slax guys might have made it persistent by default with 6.0?
But supposedly, you can make a directory on your flash drive. Let's call it "slaxrc" for kicks. When we get to Slax's Lilo screen, we can use the boot parameter:
and then slax will know where to put all of our changes and where to find them again later. I suppose you could even add this boot param to your Lilo settings in Slax....haven't bothered doing it myself but maybe i will sometime.