USB Support for GRUB, a suggestion

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USB Support for GRUB, a suggestion

Postby bitbanger on Sat May 12, 2007 1:37 pm

Many cautious people who would like to try Linux Mint would prefer to NOT compromise their hard drive by attempting to set up a dual boot environment. An install to a usb-hdd seems the logical choice because they are so cheap! I just picked up a 160GB drive for 50$US. However, many computers lack the bios support for a boot from a usb device. Of the three computers I own only the laptop will boot from usb. Two of them were built in 2007. I can install to usb but not use it in general.

(There is also a problem with the install. I managed to fry the MBR on the hard disk (hd0) when installing to a usb-hdd. If I am installing to /dev/sda why does the install process default to installing grub on (hd0)? This does not make sense to me. I have learned that if I physically disconnect the hard drive the install works even when the "write grub to (hd0)" is active. I am having difficulty understanding what this means. Several attempt to put the correct value in this field have resulted in installation failure.)

Is there support in grub for usb? If not, could this be added? Even if it would be necessary to run grub from a CD or a floppy I would want it. I think it would be super cool to be able to boot Linux Mint from a usb on a friend's machine for a demonstration of this incredible OS. I have a demo version on a 4GB flash.

This also raises the dread xorg.conf problem. (On my 4GB flash I have several candidate xorg.conf versions and a simple bash script to switch them.) I think that the process used on the LiveCD to identify the computer environment would make a good utility to allow for fast re-configuration. When a boot fail to bring up the GUI the terminal mode would allow execution of the utility. A fast re-boot and you're in business.

This would even allow me to have a Linux Mint machine on a usb-hdd that I could plug into any supported computer and be up and running. With the general availability of computers a portable usb-hdd is a lot less to carry around than even a laptop.

How many service people have a portable computer in addition to their other "life support" equipment. They know that the customer has computers but they need to have their "stuff". This could become a possible marketing advantage for Linux.
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Postby Husse on Sat May 12, 2007 2:55 pm

You have posted this thread
http://www.linuxmint.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2498
From this you can see that you have to put grub on a CD (or floppy) to do this, just as you suspect.
I managed to fry the MBR on the hard disk (hd0) when installing to a usb-hdd. If I am installing to /dev/sda why does the install process default to installing grub on (hd0)?

Where grub is placed is independent of where you install. After you have chosen the partitioning scheme you get to a summary, with a header something like "Mint will be installed with the following settings" On that page you can select where grub is to be placed. On Bianca there is a little link and for Cassandra a button "advanced".
I fully agree that it would be cool to be able to demonstrate Mint as you suggest
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Re: USB Support for GRUB, a suggestion

Postby scorp123 on Sat May 12, 2007 3:33 pm

bitbanger wrote: However, many computers lack the bios support for a boot from a usb device.
You have these options:
- use a boot floppy or bootable CD-ROM with a minimum kernel that will boot the rest off the device you choose (e.g. USB)
- upgrade your BIOS
- buy a newer computer whose BIOS can boot off USB devices

GRUB cannot circumvent or defeat your PC's BIOS. If your PC can't boot off USB then there is almost nothing GRUB can do about this.

bitbanger wrote: Is there support in grub for usb?
You seem to have a misunderstanding about what GRUB does or what it doesn't. Besides, you should ask this stuff e.g. here maybe?
http://www.gnu.org/software/grub/
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Grub education

Postby bitbanger on Sat May 12, 2007 4:49 pm

Thanks Husse and scorp123 for your replies.

There is no question in my mind that I am quite ignorant about most things Linux. As an honorary Luddite this is not surprising.

Building a kernal on my own exceeds my level of expertise and will probably be so for the foreseeable future. Is there anywhere that I can get such a minimal kernal for floppy or CD with USB support?

Of the five new machines where I have been able to look at the bios purchased this year only the laptops have the boot from usb that actually works. One new desktop claims to offer this feature but I have not been able to get it to work.

This might be another place where the Linux community can move ahead of the Windows crowd.
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Re: Grub education

Postby scorp123 on Sat May 12, 2007 5:02 pm

bitbanger wrote: This might be another place where the Linux community can move ahead of the Windows crowd.
Well, Linux is ahead of Windows :wink:
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