2010-10-27

Open Question: Install Linux without Live Media?

I wrote a couple posts back that one of my motivations for completing Fresh OS (which is very close to completion but won't be complete until the weekend probably due to my schoolwork) is so that I can install it on a friend's laptop as that friend expressed an interest in running Linux. Well, that thought is right now at the back of my mind. The DVD drive doesn't work (it's partially broken, actually), and she has told me already that live USBs don't work (as she has tried before). I tried using Wubi, but unfortunately some issues with Microsoft Windows XP regarding executables on that computer won't allow Wubi to run. So I phrase this as an open question: is there any way for me to easily install Linux on this laptop (1.5 GHz single-core processor, 512 MB of RAM) without any live media? I've seen some online solutions about downloading and extracting ISOs, but that's a little too time-consuming. Also, the reason why I'm not dead-set on this is because this is not the primary computer anyway (in fact, it almost never gets used except in emergency situations as the primary computer is now a MacBook). So, what do you say about this?

4 comments:

  1. I have had really good experiences with gPXE and Fedora (boot.fedoraproject.org) lately. Just a thought if that laptop chokes on 'big' USB iso things, but might be able to work with the small bfo image.

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  2. @Azmo: That all sounds good and fine, but the problem is that this particular laptop's DVD drive is totally nonfunctional, and it can't boot from USB. Period. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. First i'd suggest having a good root around in the BIOS as sometimes USB booting can be spread over several well hidden options. However Laptop bios's are often locked down into uselessness so it wont surprise me if there aren't even 3 things to look at.
    Does it have a floppy drive?
    If so then you are probably going to be alright.
    Your distro of choice probably offers some sort of boot floppy that can get you started on the road to USB media heaven. For example debian has this to offer:
    http://wiki.debian.org/BootingFromFloppyToUsb
    Super Grub offers a more distro-agnostic option:
    http://www.supergrubdisk.org/wiki/USB_Boot

    If there is no floppy and the HDD is the only bootable device then you may have to resort to taking the HDD out and working on it from another machine.
    You could use a virtual machine to get things set up as you like and then dd the virtual HDD to the laptop HDD. It's easier if you don't use a dynamic virtual disk just a fixed size one that is the same size as or smaller than the eventual target HDD (remember dd will copy everything, even empty space, so the smaller the VHD the quicker the copy - you can always grow to fill unused space on the real HDD later).

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  4. @T Beermonster: This person told me she already looked into the BIOS, and there was no USB boot option. I'm not sure if it has a floppy drive (I saw something that looked kind of like a floppy drive but it seemed to small. Anyway, the other thing to note is that this computer isn't especially important to her (as she has a shiny new MacBook, so this is her "in case of emergency" computer) so she and I won't pursue this project any further. Anyway, if it does in fact have a floppy drive (which I cannot confirm through Microsoft Windows, as it is in another language), I'll try, but I doubt it. Thanks for the comment!

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