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Old 08-25-2011, 04:59 PM
"John A. Sullivan III"
 
Default Booting from USB

Hello, all. This is off-topic because I'm not asking how to create a
Debian boot stick. There seem to be good how-to documents for that.
However, we are thinking of creating a large number of Debian boot
sticks and neither I nor may staff have any experience using them and we
have a limited number of devices for testing.

Our concern is the end user experience and how most PCs (probably widely
varies based upon the age) react to them. Is using them typically as
simple as plugging it in and turning on the computer or are we going to
have a nightmare of support calls walking people through their BIOS
settings to get their systems to boot from their Debian USB stick?
Thanks - John


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Old 08-25-2011, 05:26 PM
Walter Hurry
 
Default Booting from USB

On Thu, 25 Aug 2011 12:59:35 -0400, John A. Sullivan III wrote:

> Hello, all. This is off-topic because I'm not asking how to create a
> Debian boot stick. There seem to be good how-to documents for that.
> However, we are thinking of creating a large number of Debian boot
> sticks and neither I nor may staff have any experience using them and we
> have a limited number of devices for testing.
>
> Our concern is the end user experience and how most PCs (probably widely
> varies based upon the age) react to them. Is using them typically as
> simple as plugging it in and turning on the computer or are we going to
> have a nightmare of support calls walking people through their BIOS
> settings to get their systems to boot from their Debian USB stick?
> Thanks - John

Expect the latter. Assuming that a given PC supports USB booting (most
do, these days), generally it needs a key (mine is F12, but they vary)
pressed during the boot sequence, to choose to boot from a different
device - as a one-time option.



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Old 08-25-2011, 06:03 PM
Joe
 
Default Booting from USB

On Thu, 25 Aug 2011 12:59:35 -0400
"John A. Sullivan III" <jsullivan@opensourcedevel.com> wrote:

> Hello, all. This is off-topic because I'm not asking how to create a
> Debian boot stick. There seem to be good how-to documents for that.
> However, we are thinking of creating a large number of Debian boot
> sticks and neither I nor may staff have any experience using them and
> we have a limited number of devices for testing.
>
> Our concern is the end user experience and how most PCs (probably
> widely varies based upon the age) react to them. Is using them
> typically as simple as plugging it in and turning on the computer or
> are we going to have a nightmare of support calls walking people
> through their BIOS settings to get their systems to boot from their
> Debian USB stick? Thanks - John
>
>

I have one computer with every boot device disabled in BIOS except the
primary hard drive, but if I leave a USB storage device connected to
it, even a camera, it will attempt to boot from it, and will *not* fall
back to the hard drive if it doesn't find a bootloader. It's a plug
pull and three-finger salute job.

But you probably already know if you have any computers like that. In
general these days, there is a boot menu hotkey, though of course you
only get a second to see which it is. If your machines are new enough
to boot from USB, they will probably mostly have this menu key and will
not need BIOS tweaks.

But some probably won't...

You may know that there is a boot program available for CD which will
then allow a boot from USB if the BIOS doesn't do it, but I don't
suppose you want to get into that kind of thing.

--
Joe


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Old 08-25-2011, 07:37 PM
Lisi
 
Default Booting from USB

On Thursday 25 August 2011 17:59:35 John A. Sullivan III wrote:
> Our concern is the end user experience and how most PCs (probably widely
> varies based upon the age) react to them. *Is using them typically as
> simple as plugging it in and turning on the computer or are we going to
> have a nightmare of support calls walking people through their BIOS
> settings to get their systems to boot from their Debian USB stick?

I frequently support older computers (and you mention widely varying based on
age), and they don't boot from USB keys. Even enabling CD rather than floppy
in the BIOS as first port of call is usually necessary until I have got my
hands on the box.

Lisi


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Old 08-26-2011, 10:26 AM
Darac Marjal
 
Default Booting from USB

On Thu, Aug 25, 2011 at 07:03:17PM +0100, Joe wrote:
> On Thu, 25 Aug 2011 12:59:35 -0400
> "John A. Sullivan III" <jsullivan@opensourcedevel.com> wrote:
>
> > Hello, all. This is off-topic because I'm not asking how to create a
> > Debian boot stick. There seem to be good how-to documents for that.
> > However, we are thinking of creating a large number of Debian boot
> > sticks and neither I nor may staff have any experience using them and
> > we have a limited number of devices for testing.
> >
> > Our concern is the end user experience and how most PCs (probably
> > widely varies based upon the age) react to them. Is using them
> > typically as simple as plugging it in and turning on the computer or
> > are we going to have a nightmare of support calls walking people
> > through their BIOS settings to get their systems to boot from their
> > Debian USB stick? Thanks - John
> >
> >
>
> I have one computer with every boot device disabled in BIOS except the
> primary hard drive, but if I leave a USB storage device connected to
> it, even a camera, it will attempt to boot from it, and will *not* fall
> back to the hard drive if it doesn't find a bootloader. It's a plug
> pull and three-finger salute job.

I might be wrong here, but I think that's a problem with the boot sector
on the camera. I think that BIOSes assume that any storage device has a
boot sector and, upon finding a disk connected to the system, will start
executing the code at the start of that disk. For most 'data' disks,
that will just be the equivalent of "PRINT "Insert boot disk and press
any key"."

Then, harking back to the days of booting from floppy drives, you're
expected to change disks and either CTRL+ALT+DEL to go back to the bios
or press a key to go back around the loop (hopefully booting from the
new disk). I don't know if it's possible to get the BIOS to restart its
scan, but if so it's almost never used.


--
Darac Marjal
 
Old 08-26-2011, 05:25 PM
Joe
 
Default Booting from USB

On Fri, 26 Aug 2011 11:26:16 +0100
Darac Marjal <mailinglist@darac.org.uk> wrote:

> On Thu, Aug 25, 2011 at 07:03:17PM +0100, Joe wrote:
>> >
> > I have one computer with every boot device disabled in BIOS except
> > the primary hard drive, but if I leave a USB storage device
> > connected to it, even a camera, it will attempt to boot from it,
> > and will *not* fall back to the hard drive if it doesn't find a
> > bootloader. It's a plug pull and three-finger salute job.
>
> I might be wrong here, but I think that's a problem with the boot
> sector on the camera. I think that BIOSes assume that any storage
> device has a boot sector and, upon finding a disk connected to the
> system, will start executing the code at the start of that disk. For
> most 'data' disks, that will just be the equivalent of "PRINT "Insert
> boot disk and press any key"."
>

It's not a big deal, and only causes confusion when my wife leaves her
MP3 player charging and later boots the computer.

But the point is that the BIOS has been explicitly instructed to boot
from the internal hard drive before any add-in bootable devices, and
removable devices and media are specifically excluded from the boot
sequence. I might be relying on that configuration (with password
protection, of course) to prevent someone maliciously booting a
business computer with an alien OS.

--
Joe


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