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smoothing USB Installation
  • kreegkreeg January 2011
    SliTaz 3.0 and LiveUSB.

    I've been a SliTaz user for two months. It has always worked on my Aspire One Netbook right out of the box. Of all the small distros that I have tried, SliTaz handles WIFI connections the best. Especially 2WiRE, some other small distros cannot handle 2WIRE. I like this little distro for its size and speed, but initially I found it buggy, like no Tux login, Midori crashes, boot failures, etc. Chasing around in the forum led me ultimately to fixes in unexpected ways. Once I found the source to most of the problems, I decided to start with a new installation which I am reporting here for any others that have similar stories. All installations and settings below are done from the command line in XTerm, which seems to be more consistently successful.

    SliTaz does not like the FAT32 file system. Switching to ext3 takes care of the Tux no-login issue, ineffective system writes, etc. These three commands did the job:

      fdisk -l   (listed the USB as /dev/sdb1)
      tazusb format /dev/sdb1 ext3
      tazusb get-liveusb /dev/sdb1

    In a few moments the installation was complete. Upon booting the USB, I found the Tux login problem had vanished. Tux's Home was on the USB instead of in memory as it was when forced to use 'root' on the FAT32 install. Downloads, bookmarks, etc., were now persistent. My first task was to get passwords set. From XTerm, I found that 'passwd' is cranky; it wants a combination of caps, lowercase and digits. Setting the passwords for 'root' and 'tux' made the system more secure. Next, I wanted to install flash on Midori, which I had been unable to do with the FAT32 install:

      tazpkg get-install get-flash-plugin && get-flash-plugin

    I then installed AbiWord:

      tazpkg get-install abiword

    SliTaz (and Linux distros in general) suffer a woeful lack of decent fonts but it is easy to use fonts from XP. By using the 'cp' command, I transferred 10MB of fonts I liked best by copying from




    AbiWord was able to immediately access the fonts, as was mtPaint. I decided to download mtPaint's manual to the hard drive so that it would also be available for a mini-install of SliTaz on an old 128 MB flash drive (SliTaz works beautifully on this tiny drive, BTW). The manual is not available with the help key in mtPaint, but it isn't very far away on the HD.

    After these initial installations, I used 'tazusb' to write and compress the file system to the USB:

      tazusb writefs gzip

    Tazusb's compression formats take a while, 'gzip' is about 40 percent faster than 'lzma' but its file is about 25 percent larger. When I installed to the 128 MB drive, I used the 'lzma' compression, but I found that it sometimes would make the USB unbootable. I didn't want to use 'gzip' on the tiny drive, but there was no choice - though gzip works very well. I've taken to moving the rootfs.gz file from Tux's boot directory to the HD before doing a writefs on the 128MB SliTaz.

    Later I installed gnuchess and Gimp. I prefer Xboard to Eboard for gnuchess, but I've not yet figured a way to do this. The Gimp install doesn't include the manual and I've yet to figure this out, too. I'm also disappointed Gimp doesn't handle GIF files. Neither does mtPaint. They do handle GIFs on many other distros. I installed the giflib but this had no effect on these applications.

    Midori tends to crash when backspacing to the beginning in the google search box on the home page. Another crash occurs when using the 'back' button when there are several tabs active. To avoid this, right click the tab and close it. I like Midori but it requires work-arounds.

    I'm still a noob, but I have fiddled with Linux on and off for ten years. I have come to dislike bloat in any OS. Too many little-used bells and whistles, too slow and often buggy and inconsistent from one release to the next. Then there are the security issues with you-know-who. SliTaz is a wonderful little distro. There are some very helpful people on its forum. They are very generous though sometimes they make suggestions they themselves are not checking out. There is much effort seeing that SliTaz has an extensive choice of packages. This is attractive but I hope as much effort goes into making installation automatic for people with zero Linux background. Some might think that 'guides' are the answer to installation problems. Funny, but sometimes even the guides don't have it right. I believe that instead of extensive help suggestions in installation guides, the same work could be made toward debugging the installation, eliminating the need for most guides. This kind of work is not exciting, it's tedious and full of attention-to-detail. The real heroes are to be found in the trenches of bug-warfare. It would be nice if SliTaz went into an 'app freeze' and did nothing but beta test the 'stable' ISO with its most reliable volunteers for three months prior to its annual release. The SliTaz user community will grow by leaps and bounds if this philosophy were to become defacto.

    My small wish list:
    1) make dual boot (USB anyway) available or more apparent, and 2)fool-proof a simple (ie, a single tazlito command) remastering of the current USB/HD boot to LiveCD to use on systems with no USB boot and no floppy disk drives (there are a lot of them just now going into the toilet).

    To the SliTaz team and dedicated volunteers, I thank you. I have your snail-mail donation address and I will contribute, but I understand no checks (due to prohibitive fees) and I don't know if cash (US Dollars) is acceptable. I hope others donate too.

    Comments on this post certainly welcome.

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