This system is so light you might need to watch out for strong breezes
Ordinary Ubuntu LiveCDs are pretty portable and useful things, but come with all the same hardware requirements as the full desktop install. I’ll show you how to create a fully-functional Ubuntu system that will idle at 80MB of memory and use 1.2GB of disk space.
- You could install this system onto a 2GB USB stick and still have room for more.
- Want to create an Ubuntu guest VM to run Ubuntu apps? This one will boot in about 30 sec and not take up your whole hard drive.
- You’ve got a netbook with a small SSD, and want to have the smallest OS possible.
- You’ve got some crusty old hardware with a tiny sliver of RAM that needs the lightest system possible.
The secret: the Ubuntu Minimal image!
- The Minmal CD image is a 10MB download (!) that can boot you up into the installer. From there you can choose one of a whole slew of different types of system to install, from servers to the regular KDE or Gnome desktops. What we want to install though, is the basic command line system.
- From there, use the command line to add packages until you get the system you want. To do this really easily, you can use my Perfectminimal script.
- If you don’t want to use the script a good suggested list of packages for a fairly minimal Gnome desktop is:
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install gdm xorg gnome-core gnome-codec-install indicator-session-applet update-manager firefox-3.5-gnome-support gnome-themes network-manager gdebi dkms
- The dependencies from these packages will cascade down and install a very minimal Gnome system that punches well above it’s weight.
Put it on a 2GB+ USB stick
If you want to put this on a USB stick, then you can install Remastersys. Run Remastersys in backup mode and it’ll generate an .iso of your customised minimal system, which you can then feed to Ubuntu’s regular “USB startup disk creator”, or the cross-platform LiveUSB creator Unetbootin.
If you use the former to create a “persistent” LiveUSB you can allocate a couple of hundred MB for persistence on even a 2GB USB stick. That’s enough room to store files, perform updates, install new software, and generally do everything on a USB stick that you’d do on a hard drive.
One word of caution though: USB sticks have a limited lifespan, and running an OS off them will reduce that. Make sure that you’re safeguarding your data. A good solution would be a could-based file storage system, such as Ubuntu One, which gives you 2GB of remote storage for free, and integrates nicely into the Ubuntu desktop.