Friday, October 15, 2010

The winding road to a straight-forward solution

Update(26 Oct 2010): Please read comments section for this entry for more useful information. My gratitude & Thanks to all who contributed. Cheers!

This is a rant... and I will admit to not thoroughly investigating this topic... but really, why does it have to be this hard to install SUSE on a Laptop? Curious? Read on...

First, the scenario, I was on the road 3 weeks ago and needed to install SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 SP1 onto a Thinkpad X61. This model does not have a DVD drive and while there's a docking station somewhere that has a DVD drive, that docking station cannot be found, Oops. Not a big deal, next idea was to do a network install where I setup my machine with DHCP & HTTP server to provision the X61 via PXE-boot. Unfortunately, I do not have sufficient time and the network setup at that place was new to me so I thought the risk is rather high.

Next idea was to use my 8GB USB thumbdrive and make it into a SUSE install stick. Yes, this might work (it did eventually) and I recall seeing some documentation on before. I backed up the existing data on my thumbdrive and ensured that I've installed syslinux onto my system so as to make the USB stick bootable... that's all that I can recall off hand.

Now comes my rant:

I cannot find that document on how to make a USB stick into a bootable SUSE installer. First, has gone through a facelife (and its a truly nice visual upgrade). While the structure of the site has improved in terms of content organization, that particular document did not survive the website upgrade. After spending more time with Google, I realize that the older site is still accessible by prepending "old-" to the URL =

Eventually, I found the documentation/article at

Finally, the steps are pretty straightforward except for the little bump in the road where I have to download a script called mksusebootdisk from here. Murphy's law kicked into high gear and I had trouble downloading this little file. Aargh!

From the documentation, it states that the mkbootdisk script that ships with SUSE does not really work in this scenario as it doesn't work with FAT32 on USB stick (and you can't use Fat16 as SUSE DVD image is greater than 2GB). Therefore, you'll need the modified version mentioned above. Great!

This document has been around for about 2 years and in that time, this little script is still not shipped with the latest SUSE. I'm sure there is a good engineering reason to this but I was too upset to even consider it. LOL! :)

Anyway, after clicking on the link one last time (hoping the same action will yield a different result), I was able to download that mksusebootdisk script. Ha! Everything was smooth sailing thereafter and I installed SLED 11 SP1 on the Thinkpad X61 from my 8GB USB Stick.

Onwards and upwards... keeping on carrying on... :)


  1. OpenSuse needs to take a page from Ubuntu. The stick installer is a part of the default system menu. Comes with a nice UI. Very viral. I've converted a lot of sticks into Linux boot sticks after just a quick demo and a casual conversation.

  2. @NotesSensei did you put your suggestion via openFATE? The openSUSE folks are very open to new ideas. Ubuntu is a good desktop centric distro, no arguments from me. However, openSUSE's efforts is not so much on being the next desktop distro.openSUSE is more than a distro, it's a community of like-minded people who like FOSS and fun

  3. That page is absolutely obsolete, and that's why it is NOT part of the new wiki.

    Searching "live USB" in the wiki leads you here

    which basically tells you "dd the ISO on your USB and boot from it", since all CD (not DVD) images are hybrid ISO/permanent USB images.


  4. There is already a feature request open. I am lobbying to have it added to 11.4 as a default installed application.

  5. Thank you all for your inputs. Its nice to know people read my blog and care about openSUSE enough to contribute. :)

    @AlbertoP - Thanks for pointing me to that page. I've seen it before but missed out on sub-section 4 partly because the main title was "Live USB", which was not what I'm after... maybe we could create a separate page for "bootable USB as installation source", that might make it easier for searches & folks like me. :)

    I wonder how do I go about making this suggestion to the opensuse wiki?

    @Brandon Philips - Thank you! Looks like we're on the same page and you took the initiative to open a feature request. I feel that it wouldn't be too hard to have a YaST entry that will provide this feature (avoid typos - you don't wanna dd to the wrong device). As you've said in that feature request, its better to have it as part of the openSUSE install rather than have users download KIWI etc.


  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I've also tried out the isohybrid method as AlbertoP pointed out and it works. :)

    1) Install syslinux (zypper in syslinux)
    2) isohybrid [openSUSE or SLE ISO file]
    3) Ensure your USB stick is unmounted (note the device, eg /dev/sdc1)
    4) dd if=[path to openSUSE or SLE ISO in step2] of=/dev/sdc (as checked in step 3)


  8. FYI, I've added my suggestion in the Discussion tab at