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Post published: Post last modified: 05 April 2014

One day my laptop got broken so I had to find a quick solution of how to use information resources that I have available from any computer that I can get access to and even more – to do that in comfort, like from my own machine. Now I want to share my solution with you. This particular setup should be useful to students doing computing courses or for any IT person. However, should you check Ubuntu Software Center you will find a huge library of software that suits almost everyone.

  • Storage device: 8GB USB stick (the faster the better)
  • Operating system: Xubuntu 12.04/12.10/13.04 Desktop – “perfect for those who want the most out of their desktops, laptops and netbooks with a modern look and enough features for efficient, daily usage. It works well on older hardware too”


Table of contents:

  1. Create a bootable Xubuntu USB stick (Windows)
  2. Add/Remove software on Xubuntu Live USB
  3. Configuring the system
  4. Gallery
  5. Conclusion


Create a bootable Xubuntu USB stick (Windows)

  • Download Xubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) or 12.04 (Quantal Quetzal) or 13.04 (Raring Ringtail) i386 (32 bit) desktop edition from a mirror in a country close to you
  • Download the latest version of Universal USB Installer
  • Plug in your USB drive. WARNING: Make sure you don’t have any important data on your USB drive as they will be destroyed!
  • Execute Universal USB Installer file and select Xubuntu 12.04/12.10/13.04 Desktop edition from the top drop-down list
  • Use a Browse button to choose Xubuntu image you just downloaded (in my case it is called xubuntu-13.xx-desktop-i386.iso)
  • Select the letter of your USB flash drive
  • and use the slider at the bottom to adjust the size of your home folder where you will keep your files. By default you can use maximum 4GB for your home directory on your USB drive. This is because home directory is a single casper-rw file, which as any other file can not exceed 4GB limit on FAT32 system. For this reason 8GB USB stick is perfect for what we want to achieve and after the process you still will have over 2,5GB free space
  • Click Create > Yes to create a bootable Linux USB flash drive. When process is done click Close

Now it’s time to boot our PC from USB drive we just created. Instructions how to boot from DVD/USB/LAN/etc. can be found on a user’s manual of your machine or just google for it. But most of the time it is enough to follow short instructions during the start up of the machine, for example, “ESC – Boot Menu”, “F12 – Boot Device” and so on.

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Add/Remove software on Xubuntu Live USB

It is very likely that when your Xubuntu desktop boots up for the first time you will see “Restricted drivers available” warning. Just click on it and activate drivers that are shown on a list. Since you have your home directory on the USB drive all system/program changes will be saved on it so you don’t need to set up your desktop everytime it boots. Although you might need to activate/install an extra drivers for other machines/devices you are going to use in the future.

From now on you are free to set up your system in any way you like or to use one of HowtoForge’s articles to do that, but you also might like the way I set it up, so please have a closer look ;)

You can use either Ubuntu Software Center, Synaptic Package Manager from top menu or Terminal from bottom panel to add/remove software.

I’ll start from removing software that I don’t like or don’t find it useful to me.

firefox – web browser
thunderbird – email client
Games*, aisleriot – games
abiword – word processor
gnumeric – spreadsheet
orage – a calendar for the Xfce4 desktop environment
ristretto – picture viewer
leafpad – text editor
onboard – on-screen keyboard
xfburn – CD/DVD burner
xchat – IRC client
parole – media player

sudo apt-get remove firefox* thunderbird Games* aisleriot abiword gnumeric orage ristretto leafpad onboard xfburn xchat parole

Update the system

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

By now you should have ~3.5GB of free space available.

Here is the list of software that I’m adding. Depending on your requirements you may want to install different packages or perhaps go for smaller sets to save disk space. It’s up to you really.

chromium-browser – web browser
emacs – text editor (notepad++ alternative)
mc – file manager
sylpheed – e-mail client (use IMAP to save disk space)
filezilla – FTP client
eclipse – a universal tool set for development
openjdk-jre-7 – Java Runtime Environment 1.7
libreoffice-* – LibreOffice office suite
vlc – media player
flashplugin-installer – Adobe Flash Player plugin
xubuntu-restricted-extras – various codecs, etc.
ttf-mscorefonts-installer – Microsoft TrueType core fonts
xfce4-fsguard-plugin – filesystem monitor (Xfce4)
ntp – Network Time Protocol (NTP server)
bleachbit – frees space and maintains privacy (CCleaner alternative)

sudo apt-get install chromium-browser emacs mc sylpheed filezilla eclipse openjdk-7-jre libreoffice vlc flashplugin-installer xubuntu-restricted-extras ttf-mscorefonts-installer xfce4-fsguard-plugin libreoffice-writer libreoffice-calc libreoffice-impress ntp bleachbit

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Configuring the system


Add new items to the panel (for example, disk usage monitor)

To add (or remove) an item to the panel right click on a panel (it can be top or bottom one) and select Panel>Add New Items… Pick any item that you are interested in from a list. In our case it is Free Space Checker plugin (xfce4-fsguard-plugin). Click Add and Close if you are done. Now you should see new item on your panel and if you installed Free Space Checker, you will see how much of free space you have for your documents.

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(Optional) Add extra repositories (for Skype, Adobe Reader and other applications not included in standart Ubuntu repositories)

Adding Medibuntu repository

sudo -E wget --output-document=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list http://www.medibuntu.org/sources.list.d/$(lsb_release -cs).list && sudo apt-get --quiet update && sudo apt-get --yes --quiet --allow-unauthenticated install medibuntu-keyring && sudo apt-get --quiet update
sudo update-apt-xapian-index

We have to make sure we have a text editor in order to edit system configuration files. Since I removed the default leafpad text editor I have to install another one.

sudo apt-get install emacs

Now let’s edit apt sources.list file and add following lines to enable precise/quantal partner and Ubuntu extras repositories.

sudo emacs /etc/apt/sources.list

For Xubuntu 12.04

## respective vendors as a service to Ubuntu users.
deb http://archive.canonical.com/ubuntu precise partner
deb-src http://archive.canonical.com/ubuntu precise partner 

## This software is not part of Ubuntu, but is offered by third-party
## developers who want to ship their latest software.
deb http://extras.ubuntu.com/ubuntu precise main
deb-src http://extras.ubuntu.com/ubuntu precise main 

For Xubuntu 12.10

## respective vendors as a service to Ubuntu users.
deb http://archive.canonical.com/ubuntu quantal partner
deb-src http://archive.canonical.com/ubuntu quantal partner 

## This software is not part of Ubuntu, but is offered by third-party
## developers who want to ship their latest software.
deb http://extras.ubuntu.com/ubuntu quantal main
deb-src http://extras.ubuntu.com/ubuntu quantal main 

Update source list
sudo apt-get update

Now you may want to install Skype or Adobe Reader.
sudo apt-get install skype acroread

Do not forget to use Bleachbit periodically to free up some space on your USB.

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Setting up Sylpheed e-mail client


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Setting up Pidgin IM client


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Conclusion


This article shows how you can use your spare USB drive to take your desktop wherever you go. From now on you can accomplish much more tasks using almost any PC, laptop or netbook around you.

I haven’t covered security issues using this method, so make sure you keep your USB safe and/or use other security solutions to protect your information on the drive.

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Gallery


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