One of my friends texts me today asking if he can come over to use some of the gadgets and resources I have to put Linux on his netbook. Of course, I say yes and less than half an hour later, he's here and off we go on trying to put a distro called Moblin on his netbook. One problem. I don't have an external CD drive. The best I could do was try booting from a thumb drive. Not wanting to try messing around with a distro I had never heard or played around with before, my friend mentioned a program that will boot from an ISO image and I started looking into this.

In the end, I didn't bother trying to get Moblin to work (probably could have if I tried) off a thumb drive. It started when I ran across a program called UNetbootin, which will take the ISO image for a distro, extract it, and dump it to a thumb drive (or hard drive partition). Except I wanted several distributions on my thumb drive. UNetbootin only lets you do one (unless you manually edit files by hand) distribution. Wanting to boot several distributions, I started Googling different terms to try finding a way to boot several distributions off one thumb drive using UNetbootin. On the UNetbootin Launchpad page, someone opened a bug report asking about this and one of the suggestion solutions was to use a script called multicd (http://multicd.tuxfamily.org) that extracts the data from several (specific, supported) distributions, provided the ISO images are in the same directory as the script and properly named, and combine everything into a single ISO image that will prompt a bootloader with all of the included distributions. It took a little playing around with the script to get it working properly (and I can upload the edited version if there's enough interest).

Eventually, I ran into troubles. UNetbootin kept segfaulting when I went to burn the outputted ISO image from the above script. After enough Googling, I came across this forum thread detailing the same problem. Turns out it's a problem with UNetbootin and something about several kernels in same location or something along the lines of that. I kind of skimmed through the pots. Further in the thread (page 7, actually), someone wrote a script that will take the outputted ISO from the multicd script, and make the necessary changes to make it work on a USB drive and then write the files, called cd2usb. Again, I had to toy around with this script to get everything to work. Eventually, I got it working and have enough distributions to fix (and own) any PC I can touch running off my thumb drive. Score!

A very big thanks to the maintainer of http://multicd.tuxfamily.org and Chris Picton for creating and releasing their respective scripts.