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Lately I’ve been playing a little more with KIWI — our amazing Image Creator — this time experimenting more with USB images. I made a nice 10.3 customised image (with codecs etc.), and a KDE Four Live USB image (believe or not, you only need to alter one line in the kiwi config.xml). Maybe the KDE Four Live one can be available in time for RC1.

Anyhow, while you can easily create an openSUSE Live USB image, we don’t officially release one. Still, the more I think about it, the more I begin to think that Live USB images for Linux distributions, in contrast to Live CDs, are a really great idea. Here’s why:

USB Sticks are Writable

The biggest problem with a live CD is that it’s always just a stock image. Of course CD/DVD-RW discs are available, but these are not widely used, and are not as compact and convenient as a USB stick, as I’ll mention below.

If you have a Live USB image there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from turning it into your customised operating system. Want to store your music and documents in your /home? Not a problem. When you plug it into another computer after it starts up you’ll have everything you saved, right there available to you. Similarly you can change your background, change your menu items and shortcuts around, etc.

USB Sticks are Compact and Convenient

You’re not likely to go around with a CD/DVD in your jeans, whereas a USB stick is so small and compact that it can fit right onto your keyring. Want to show your friends what Linux is like? Reach into your pocket, pull it out, and show them right away :-)

USB Sticks Are Cheap

The price of USB sticks have gone dirt cheap. Larger 8GB USB sticks are a little more on the expensive side (say ~£40), but all smaller images are reasonably priced. 1GB sticks here are less than £10 for example. Most distributions can easily squeeze themselves down to a CD size, leaving you a few extra hundred megabytes of space.

Still, it is only a matter of time until 8GB or even 16GB USB sticks shoot down in cost.

Finally, USB sticks don’t take up your CD-rom drive :). Computers always have more USB ports, while most people just have one CD/DVD drive, typically.

Cons

It’s hard to imagine a USB stick ever becoming as cheap as a single CD, so this makes it not as practical for wide-scale distribution, and this is probably the biggest problematic point.

So go, follow the easy instructions and get going :).