Here’s the fastest way I’ve found to install Ubuntu on a USB flash drive, for my Dell Latitude D420. (Pendrivelinux.com is a great resource for this sort of thing.)
- One large USB flash drive like this one. Not less than 4GB. I’d suggest 8GB or more
- One CD (not a DVD)
- Ubuntu 8.10 desktop CD ISO
- IMGBurn or any other CD burning software
- Direct Internet via LAN cable (without proxy, without wireless)
- Burn the Ubuntu ISO file on the CD
- Press F12 when the laptop boots up, and select CD/DVD Drive as the boot device
- On the Ubuntu splash screen, select "Try Ubuntu without making any change to your computer" and wait
- Insert the flash drive
- Go to System > Administration > Create a USB startup disk and follow instructions there
- Once done, remove the CD and reboot using the USB flash drive (pressing F12 during the boot sequence)
To enable wireless, which won’t work by default
- Connect to the Internet using a LAN cable
- Go to System > Administration > Hardware devices
- Select the Broadcom LAN driver, and activate it
That’s it. It’s been a fairly painless installation.
I do have one big crib. I planned to use Hibernation (or suspend-to-disk on Ubuntu) to switch between Windows and Ubuntu. But there are a couple of problems:
- Hibernate doesn’t work on Ubuntu. I need to reboot Ubuntu every time, and that takes 3 minutes
- When Windows is hibernating, Ubuntu can’t access any files on the hard disk
This means switching between Ubuntu and Windows is roughly a 6 minute shutdown-one-OS-reboot-the-other process rather than the 1-minute hibernate-one-OS-resume-the-other that I had had hoped for.
Another minor problem I have is that our Exchange server doesn’t seem to have an IMAP interface, at least that I know of. So I can’t check mail. But like I said, it’s minor. I just forward mails from my BlackBerry to GMail.