Patrick Truchon's Web Portal

OS on a Stick

Posted by Patrick on May 11, 2010

Yesterday, Canonical unveiled a preview of Ubuntu Light, a small OS designed for quick use of simple apps. [1] The idea is that computers would come preloaded with a regular OS (like Windows) and Ubuntu Light on a second partition.  If you simply want to browse the web or quickly use a simple app, you’d boot Ubuntu Light instead of your regular OS and be on your way in a few seconds.

Although I like the idea of a simple OS to do simple things, it would be much more convinient to have it installed on a USB stick instead of on a second partition.  For one, people who want to use it wouldn’t have to go through the potentially complicated process of setting up a dual boot system.  The real advantage, however, is that it would be portable.  A simple USB stick could transform a friend’s (or public) computer into your own.  Recently, I’ve been experimenting with TinyCore Linux [2], a very small GNU/Linux distribution (~10MB) that runs entirely in RAM.  In addition to being really fast, it’s kinda cool to carry it your pocket and boot it on different computers.  Unfortunately, it’s not as user friendly as Ubuntu Light is.

This idea of a portable OS could also have great applications in education.  Sugar on a Stick [3] is an OS specifically designed for education, which “aims to make it easy for children, parents, or local deployers to provide each student with a small device that can starts any computer with the student’s personalized Sugar environment.”  The advantages here are obvious: students don’t need their own computer to work on their own computer environment.  Sugar is a very educationally targeted OS, however, and might be too restrictive for older students.  Ubuntu Light, used in this way, could have potential.

I’m sure someone will figure out a way to hack this together soon enough.  I’ll be looking for it!

  1. Ubuntu, Canonical Unveils new ‘Unity’ Desktop <>
  2. TinyCore Linux, <>
  3. Sugar on a Stick, <>

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