The development version of Fedora Core will now install on and boot from a USB drive without any initrd magic or special installer options. I’ve been testing with a USB-connected IDE drive, but look forward to using this feature with a USB stick (”thumb”) drive. A 4 GB USB flash drive — with a street price under $100 these days — can comfortably hold a no-compromise desktop installation (Gnome, Firefox, Evolution, and OpenOffice included) with half the space free for user data.
I’ve been waiting for this day! I teach programming and system administration at Seneca College, Toronto. The students have been using IDE disk drives in removable drive packs so that they can install and administer their own systems and easily move from the labs to the Open Lab and Library and then to their home systems. The problem is that 3.5″ hard disks are a little too fragile to be transported in backpacks, and the drive pack connectors are designed to handle drive swaps every few months instead of every few hours. There are frequent problems with drives that have been dropped, or that don’t connect to the host reliably, or which are left at home. But a USB flash drive can be dropped without consequence, and if you put it on your keychain you’re not likely to leave it at home.
And besides: it is just be plain cool to carry your desktop in your pocket.