Saving the planet (3 or 4 CD’s at a time)

Some time ago I discussed the use of UNetbootin to create a bootable USB memory stick rather than having to burn a CD in order to, for example, test a new version of Ubuntu Linux. While this works just fine for a single software package, it isn’t particularly efficient for maintaining a collection of such packages, resulting in multiple memory sticks, all needing labelling to keep them straight. Since relatively large memory sticks are available these days at very reasonable cost, wouldn’t it be nice if someone created a means to burn multiple ISO files onto a single stick? Well, look no further. What you need is YUMI – Your Universal Multiboot Installer – from Pendrivelinux.com.

The downside to this piece of software is that, although it is used extensively to create bootable versions of Linux ISO files, the package itself is actually a Windows utility. However, for those of us with dual-boot systems, this is merely a curiosity rather than a hindrance.

YUMI is downloaded as an executable (.exe) file that requires no installation and can be run directly under Windows. After agreeing to the GPL licensing provisions, there is a three-step process to creating a bootable USB drive. Firstly, you select the drive letter corresponding to the target USB memory stick. Next, you select, from a long list of Linux distributions, anti-virus and system tools, the specific software that is to be installed. There is a check box for downloading the selected distro, or a link to visit the relevant web site. Finally, there is a browse button used to select the ISO file to be installed, and a Create button to start the process.

Once a distro has been installed on the target drive, the program asks if the user wishes to add another piece of software. For memory sticks that have been processed previously, a note in the dialogue box indicates that “Additional distributions can be added each time this tool is run”, the process to do so being exactly that described above. Other options are to remove an installed item, or to format the target USB drive (and erase the entire contents). So, it is very easy to create a customized multi-boot USB drive.

However, one cautionary note. The first time I used YUMI, I wanted to install the current beta version of the up-coming version of Ubuntu Linux. I had previously downloaded the ISO file using wget; however, when I browsed the download folder, YUMI didn’t indicate that any files were present. The only option in the dialogue box is to display ISO files so I was unable to select “all files”. Puzzled by this result, I opted to download and install the latest version of GParted. Once YUMI had downloaded the ISO file for GParted this file was displayed in the file-open box. So, what was going on?

It seems that YUMI has somewhat fixed ideas about the file names that are associated with specific distros and, if the file you have available is not on its “list”, it just ignores its presence. A web posting to this effect indicates “If YUMI does not find the ISO file automatically, you may need to find it yourself. Note that if your ISO file is named differently (i.e. I’m installing UBCD511.iso and not UBCD503.iso), you will need to copy the path manually instead of using the ‘Browse’ button.”

However, even this step is rather unconventional. Firstly, by clicking on the file path of the downloads folder, I was able to copy the latter as C:\Users\toaster\Downloads and paste this into YUMI’s browse box. Now, moving to Windows Explorer, and displaying the files present in the downloads folder I was similarly able to cut and paste the file name as ubuntu-12.04-beta1-desktop-i386.iso onto the end of the path in YUMI’s browse box, having first added a trailing slash character to the path. YUMI was now quite happy to load and install the Ubuntu ISO file, but the process required seems a little over complex for what should be a straightforward file-naming exercise.

Despite these little difficulties, the end result proved well worthwhile. Having installed a number of software packages, namely the Beta-1 version of Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin), GParted and Clonezilla, booting the computer from the USB memory stick brought up a menu that gave the option to continue to boot from the first hard drive or to select from either system tools or Linux distributions. Selecting Linux distributions listed just Ubuntu 12.04, while the system tools sub-menu provided options to boot either the GParted or Clonezilla system.

So, I can now eliminate my key chain of small, single-purpose, bootable USB memory sticks and combine the multiple packages on a somewhat larger USB drive, and have the convenience of a boot-time menu to select between them.

References:

YUMI – Multiboot USB Creator (Windows)
http://www.pendrivelinux.com/yumi-multiboot-usb-creator/

Solve 100 Problems with a Bootable USB Flash Drive
http://www.spkaa.com/solve-100-problems-with-a-bootable-usb-flash-drive

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