For a while now I’ve been wanting to put together a system-on-disk, a USB stick I can use on the road which gives me a comfortable linux desktop with all the apps I might need.

It turns out that the Ubuntu Desktop LiveCDs already have a nifty persistent mode, where it will save any filesystem changes to a seperate partition with the label ‘casper-rw’. That’s great, and a lot of the work out of the way towards getting the project done.

There are a few guides out there for getting this going on a USB key, most notably on the PenDriveLinux website. Following this guide is pretty straightforward, and can get you up and running in no time.

Unless of course, you run certain Phoenix-based BIOS firmwares on your computer. My work Dell (the primary use for this project) runs such a BIOS, and misreports the device IDs for bootable USB keys. The good fellows who put together Syslinux have a patch in place, so if you use the latest Syslinux (newer than that which is available in Ubuntu 10.04) this is supposed to fix it.

Sadly this wasn’t the case, and after a long time I ended up switching from FAT16+Syslinux to EXT2+Extlinux, which worked straight off the bat.

Now to forge ahead with the encryption side of things.