Live Ubuntu Gerris distribution

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''Thats it, the disk should be bootable on Macbook.'' ''Thats it, the disk should be bootable on Macbook.''
 +==== See also ====
 +[ gfs-users discussion thread]

Current revision

Using this ISO image, you can boot a complete Ubuntu system with Gerris pre-installed from a USB memory stick. The distribution also includes various utilities which are useful in association with Gerris: emacs, gnuplot, ffmpeg, meshlab, blender, gmsh etc... The base system is a standard Ubuntu 10.04.2 LTS distribution.

This image is built to work on any 32 or 64 bits Intel-compatible system.

To test it you need:

  1. an Intel-compatible machine (or an Intel-compatible virtual machine)
  2. a USB memory stick with 1Gb or more free space

You then need to download the (large, ~814 MB) ISO image file. Then follow the standard Ubuntu installation instructions (start from step 2).

When you follow the instructions it is also a good idea to use the "Persistence" option of the installer. This will create a persistent home directory on the USB drive which will hold your data between successive reboots.

Note that running the distribution from the USB stick won't modify the operating system already installed on your machine in any way. If you are happy with the system, you can choose to install it permanently on your hard drive (with the option to share it with the other operating system).


If you know about this sort of things, the MD5 hash of the image file is:


Under linux/unix you can check that your downloaded image has a matching hash using

md5sum ubuntu-10.04.2-desktop-i386-gerris.iso

Note for MacOSX users

Apparently (recent?) Macs do not make it easy to boot another system (how surprising...). If the default Ubuntu instructions for Mac do not work for you, you need to

  1. Install the rEFIt bootloader on your Mac
  2. Find a Linux system somewhere (a Virtual Box linux system on your Mac will do too)
  3. Follow the instructions below on the Linux system to create the bootable USB stick (copied verbatim from here)

Note that, if prepared this way, the USB stick can be used to boot any (Intel-compatible) system (not just your Mac).

With release of Lucid Beta it was time to upgrade my MacBook as well. However the cdrom on my Mac is non functional. I was stuck with using the live usb stick. But unfortunately MacTel EFI firmware has a poor support for booting from USB sticks. There is long list of web pages on net that will tell you to try it once and give up if it doesn't work. The USB stick created with Ubuntu's live image creator did not work at all. It keeps giving message "BOOT ERROR" after the reFIT tries to load the disk.

But all hope is not lost. After a loooooonnnnnng search and countless number of permutations finally I found a solutions. The trick is to make the live USB stick with no partitions. By formatting your USB stick to VFAT directly without creating any partitions on it apple's firmware will be able to boot from it.

However if you format your disk directly with VFAT, the usb disk creator from Ubuntu refuses to use this disk as a target. Asking the utility to format it, will result in the /dev/sdb1 partition being created again. So you will have to create the live image manually. But it does work fine in the end. Read on for full howto.

The instructions are based on this howto

Insert your usb disk and find out which drive it is enumerated as (dmesg will tell you).

For rest of the instructions we will use /dev/sdX, be careful to replace it with appropriate drive since you might otherwise erase you hard disks.

WARNING: use these instructions at your own risk. DO NOT JUST COPY PASTE COMMANDS without understanding the intent. You have been warned, these may burn your house down and kill your dog. I won't be responsible.

1. Format the USB stick

sudo mkfs.vfat /dev/sdX -I

WARNING: this will erase your entire USB stick, no data will be recoverable. Make sure you have already copied whatever you needed to someplace else.

2. Mount the Ubuntu iso to some place

sudo mkdir /media/ubuntu-disk
sudo mount -o loop <path-to-ubuntu-iso> /media/ubuntu-disk

3. Mount the usb drive

sudo mkdir /media/usb 
sudo mount /dev/sdX /media/usb

4. Copy the ubuntu files to USB drive

cd /media/ubuntu-disk
sudo cp -rf casper disctree dists install pics pool preseed .disk /media/usb

sudo cp -rf isolinux /media/usb/syslinux
sudo cd /media/usb/syslinux
sudo mv isolinux.cfg syslinux.cfg

5. Make the disk bootable

sudo aptitude install syslinux mtools
cd ~
sudo umount /dev/sdX
sudo syslinux /dev/sdX

Thats it, the disk should be bootable on Macbook.

See also

gfs-users discussion thread

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