USB ISO image writer and dabbling with Linux

Problems with UNetbootin can be solved by using USB ISO image writer like Etcher where Linux Mint 19 Tara was installed well. GParted must be used with caution.

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If you are keen to give Linux a try as an open source operating system to take over the running of older PC / laptops, you will need to have a good disk image writer. This is because all distributions of Linux come as iso image file that you would need to put to either a DVD-rom or more likely, a USB flash drive. Personally, I have given up on the quirky DVD-rom burning long time ago since I had discovered UNetbootin. UNetbootin is a small utility programme allow you to source for popular Linux distribution and burn the iso image selected (which is downloaded via this application) to CD/DVD-rom or USB flash drive.

I had Linux distribution LXLE 14.04 installed in my Toshiba T210 since 2014. As some of the browsers’ functions began to malfunction, especially those related to the playing of videos, and I could not fix the problem even after updating the browser (in this case Vivaldi) to a newest version, I learned that this was solely because my OS is long in the tooth!

The iso image flash was corrupted!

To get the image of updated OS burned into USB drives, I had been using UNetbootin for a long time. But after many attempts to flash LXLE 16.0.4 iso to my USB drives, I was about to give up.

These attempts included:

(1) Changing the USB drive from 4 Gb to 8 Gb…. still I was asked to put in a username and password (which I was assured by LXLE’s forum if this happens, you have a corrupted installation of the iso file).

(2) Downloading the same iso file from another site and flash it again (just in case I had got a corrupted file from the first site) ….. the same login screen greeted me.

(4) Using GParted to reformat the USB drive each time. This had the effect of completely cleaning the USB drive for another iso image to be put on it … this made no difference!

(5) Try flashing the iso file of Puppy Linux Xenial Pup to a USB drive….. this worked.

(6) I then tried out installing real Ubuntu (which LXLE is based) on USB drive as instructed by this page . But I did not check the physical requirements i.e. the USB Drive’s size before trying this out using UNetbootin. I used a 8 Gb USB drive. It of course did not work. LXLE needs at least 20 Gb of space to work!

All these problems were not seen when I downloaded LXLE 16.0.4 in early July 2018 & burned the iso file onto my 16 Gb USB drive. And I had been “test driving” LXLE 16.0.4 for weeks so that all my printer drivers, and other software that I used on the old version of LXLE could be made to function in the new OS. Hence the quirky behaviour of UNetbootin could be due to

the system updating done after the LXLE 16.0.4 iso flashing. The updating could have done some changes to the functioning of UNetbootin!

I suddenly remembered that I had seen a USB Image Writer program in LXLE 16.0.4! So I tried to use this to flash the LXLE 16.0.4 iso file to a 4 GB USB drive as an experiment. This worked! The same program and procedure were used to flash the iso file of Puppy Linux Xenial Pup around the same time.

Careful when using GParted

GParted is a great utility programme for one to restructure the partition table of one’s harddisk (or even USB drives). However, as I described below, users are to take great precaution when using this utility. Any mistakes are usually irreversible. If you mess up your harddisk partition, you are as good as having the entire hard disk reformatted, losing all the content and installed programmes etc.

I was very careless when using GParted when I thought I had the iso flashing problem solved and I could release the 16 Gb USB drive by deleting the partition using GParted. This I managed to do easily. But GParted threw up something that said that I had another 16 Gb drive… so I went on to delete this partition table again (so I thought).

It turned out that GParted mistook the 4 Gb LXLE 16.04 live USB containing drive a 16 GB USB drive. And the working OS allowed me to delete its own partition!. I thus ended up without a working “live” version of LXLE 16.04 after that! Panic!

Luckily I had the iso files stored somewhere else and could restart my work. Thus with GParted, if you are in doubt of what you are doing, you should hit the “Cancel” button and reexamine your steps etc.

Etcher is a good USB Image writer

I then went back to my 12-years-old Dell Inspiron and fired up Puppy Linux. I searched the internet for USB Image writer and found Etcher. I proceeded to download the correct version. Etcher’s installation was very simple. I just had to extract the Appimage file and click on it! Using Etcher on Puppy Linux, I was able to write the iso image of LXLE 16.0.4 again.

The next project was to install a most up-to-date version of Linux distribution (based on Ubuntu) on my Toshiba T210.

Installing Linux Mint 19 Tara over old LXLE 14.04

I had tried Linux Mint before and found out that it has a current version, Linux Mint 19 Tara (Xfce Edition that is suitable for older machines) which is based on the latest Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. I downloaded Mint 19’s iso file and burned it using Etcher to another 4 Gb USB drive. I test-driven this and checked off all my requirements e.g HPLIP set up (and working with my old HP MFP 1132 printer/scanner), veracrypt installation etc. Then I went on to replace my old LXLE 14.04 (hard disk partition SDA8!) with Linux Mint 19 Tara!

So far I am happy with what I have.

As the old Toshiba T210 came with Windows 7 which was only a 32 bits version as opposed to the hardware which can take 64 bits, I actually put in the 64 bits version of Linux Mint 19. Tested the “live USB” before installation.

With 64 bits, I feel that the old Tosh now has some added computer power. But it could be a brand new OS that has not been burdened with some older operational files. I can now make full use of the 4 Gb memory that I had installed in this old Toshiba T210!