How to create an on-the-fly flash drive with bootable Linux distributions


Looking for the means to carry with you an easy-to-use Linux distribution toolkit that will enable you to install Linux wherever you go? Look no further than Ventoy.

Image: Jack Wallen

Creating a flash drive with bootable Linux distributions usually involves reformatting said drive. This means if you want to switch distributions, or add more, you’ll lose the distribution already on the drive.

What if you could not only keep that distribution, but make this process incredible easy–like, on the fly easy? Wonder no more, as with the Ventoy application, this is a reality. 

Ventoy is probably one of the best tools on the market for creating bootable flash drives for Linux distributions. With Ventoy, you install the app to a flash drive, which will format the drive into two separate partitions, one of which uses the exFAT file system. In that exFAT partition, you simply copy the ISO images you want to use and Ventoy does the rest. You can then take that drive and install any number of Linux distributions on your mobile laptops or desktops–no matter where you are.

It really is that simple. 

I’m going to walk you through the steps to get your Ventoy-created, bootable flash drive ready, so you can create an on-the-fly Linux distribution toolkit to carry around with you.

SEE: Flash storage: A guide for IT pros (TechRepublic Premium)

What you’ll need

Ventoy can be installed with either Linux or Windows. I’ll be demonstrating with Linux, so the only thing you’ll need to follow these instructions is a Linux distribution. This can be a server or a desktop as the Linux version of Ventoy is command line-only. For the Windows version, there is a handy GUI tool to make Ventoy even easier.

How to install Ventoy

Ventoy is a portable application, in that you don’t actually install it to the host machine. You download the file, extract it, and run it from within the newly-created folder which will install everything necessary on the target flash drive. So, the first thing to do is download the file from the Ventoy git page

Once downloaded, extract the file with the command:

tar xvzf ventoy*.tar.gz

This will create a new folder, named ventoy-XXX-linux. Change into that new folder with the command:

cd ventoy-XXX-linux

Where XXX is the release number. 

In that folder you’ll find a subfolder, named ventoy-XXX (where XXX is the release number). Change into that folder with the command:

cd ventoy-XXX

Where XXX is the release number.

The next step is to plug in your USB device. Once inserted, go back to the terminal window and issue the command:

df -h

You should see that flash drive listed, which will include the Linux-recognized name of the drive (such as /dev/sdb). That name is what you’ll need to install Ventoy onto the flash drive.

To install Ventoy to the flash drive, issue the command:

sudo ./ -i /dev/sdX

Where X is the name of the flash drive.

You will be asked twice if you want to continue, with the warnings that all data on the drive will be lost (Figure A).

Figure A

Installing Venoy on a USB flash drive.

Once Ventoy is installed, your USB drive will then show up listed as Ventoy (Figure B).

Figure B

Our flash drive now has ventoy installed.

How to copy ISO images to the drive

At this point, all you have to do is download the ISO images you want added to Ventoy and then copy them into the exFAT partition (named ventoy). You can copy those by using your file manager or from the command line, like so:

cp /path/to/image/image.iso /path/to/ventoy/

Make sure you use the complete path and name to the ISO image as well as the path to the Ventoy partition on the USB drive. For example, copying elementary OS could look like:

cp ~/Downloads/elementaryos-5.1-stable-20200603.iso /media/jack/ventoy/

Once the copy completes, you can then either copy more ISO images into the folder (if your USB drive has the room), or eject the drive. 

Boot the computer you want to install Linux on from the Ventoy-enabled flash drive and select the distribution you want to install (Figure C). 

Figure C

If you have multiple ISO files copied to the Ventoy drive, they’ll all be listed here.

That’s all there is to it. To make this setup even better, you can delete and add ISO images to that Ventoy flash drive at will. 

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better solution for creating a mobile Linux installation toolkit. Give Ventoy a try, I’m certain you’ll be sold immediately.

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PowerPoint: How to create a snowball that grows as it rolls downhill


Whether circumstances are good or bad, you can have fun making your point with this rolling snowball slide in Microsoft PowerPoint.

Years ago (I’m not saying how many) I was impressed by a professor’s discussion of the unknown impact of new technologies. He described it as a snowball rolling downhill. Its growth and path are out of our control, and whatever it smacks into gets clobbered. Once the technology is set into motion, you can try to predict the results, but there are always unintended consequences. It was a great analogy that has stuck with me throughout the years.

SEE: Windows 10 Start menu hacks (TechRepublic Premium)

With that visual stuck in my head, I realized that it can be used to suggest circumstances in a good or a bad way in a PowerPoint presentation. For instance, it could be good if a product is performing better than predicted and bad if service calls are overwhelming your staff. In this article, I’ll show you how to create the simple animation; you get to decide if it’s a reason to celebrate or a warning.

I’m using Microsoft 365 on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but this will work in earlier versions and the show will run in the browser edition. You can download the demonstration .pptx file or start from scratch.

A brief review

Before we launch right in, let’s review the steps we’ll take to build this simple animation. We’ll use the curve tool to add a hillside to a blank slide. Then, we’ll add a circle shape to simulate the snowball; a motion path animation will roll the circle downhill. To the circle, we’ll add a spin-and-grow animation, so the circle appears to actually roll downhill, picking up snow as it goes.

How to add the hillside

If you’re not familiar with PowerPoint’s curve tool, you might want to practice a few times to get the feel of it. You click to create an anchor, as you would most any shape. Then, you move the cursor in any direction (in our case, we move down and to the right), then click and release to create new anchor points. As you move the cursor, the line might look a bit sharp, but once you click and move away from that anchor point, the line softens up.

I won’t give you step-by-step instructions to recreate the hillside; simply use Figure A as a guide. Start with a blank slide and set the background color to a blue-gray gradient to resemble a snowy day. Then, click the Insert tab and click Shapes in the Illustrations group. From the Lines section, click Curve. Click on the left border of the slide and release to create the first anchor. Gradually move to the right and down. When you want to make a dip or rise, click and release.

Figure A

  Create the hillside.

Continue in this way until you run off the screen toward the bottom-right corner. At this point, follow the bottom border, make a turn at the bottom-left corner, and go up to complete the shape. Press Esc to finish drawing. Don’t worry about the shape at the bottom or left—you won’t see that during the presentation. We want a closed shape so we can fill it. If you don’t completely close the shape, filling the curve won’t have the effect you expect. (You can try it if you like.) With the curve shape selected, click the contextual Shape Format tab, and set Fill to Pattern fill. I chose the first thumbnail—white with blue dots, to resemble snow. With the hillside in place, you’re ready to add the snowball.

How to add the snowball

In this section, you create and color a snowball. The real work comes later when you add the animation. For now, add a circle shape at the top-left border, jut above the top of the hill (see Figure B). Using the Format Shape pane, do the following:

  1. Set Fill to Gradient fill.
  2. Set Type to Redial.
  3. Use the Gradient stops control to set two stops (See Figure B). Set the first to white and the second to a medium gray. By doing so, you will see the snowball actually turn as it rolls downhill. The stops are up to you, but I’ve found in a simple shape, the fewer the better.

At this point, you have all of the shapes you need. It’s time to add the animation that makes them all work together.  

Figure B

  Give the snowball a bit of depth so you can see it rolling downhill.

How to add the animations

To make the snowball appear to roll downhill, add a motion path that shadows the hillside. Then, we’ll add two more animations: Spin and Grow/Shrink. The Spin animation will make the snowball turn as it rolls downhill. The Grow/Shrink animation will enlarge the snowball. In both cases, you might have to tweak the settings a bit to get everything just right but doing so isn’t difficult.

First, we’ll add the motion path. To do so, select the snowball and do the following:

  1. Click the Animations tab and then click More in the animation gallery. The More button is the down arrow to the right of the gallery; use it to display more choices. 
  2. In the Motion Paths section, select Custom Path.
  3. Click along the left border just a bit above the hillside and then draw a path that closely resembles the hillside dips and rises. Don’t worry about being too exact. PowerPoint will leave a dotted trail as you go.
  4. Stop a bit above the bottom border, as shown in Figure C. The motion path is difficult to see in the figure, but you can see the green triangle that marks where it begins and the red triangle (near the bottom) that marks where it ends.
  5. With the snowball still selected, use Add Animation in the Advanced Animation group to choose Spin from the Emphasis section.  

  6. Repeat step 5 and add the Grow/Shrink animation.

Figure C

  Add the motion path.

With the animations in place, you need to tweak them to determine how many times the snowball revolves as it rolls down hill and how quickly it rolls. Fortunately, it’s not as difficult as it sounds.

Using the Animation Pane, right-click the first animation item (the motion path) and choose With Previous from the Start dropdown in the Timing group. Next, right-click the motion path item (in the pane) and choose Effect Options from the submenu. On the Effect tab, increase the Bounce end option a bit. Doing so gives the snowball a bit of a wobble when it hits the ground and stops. On the Timing tab, choose 2 seconds (Medium) from the Duration dropdown (if necessary). Click OK.

SEE: How to expose parts of a PowerPoint slide for emphasis (TechRepublic)

Next, right-click the second animation item and choose Effect Options. In the resulting Spin dialog, click the Effect tab and set Amount to 1080 Clockwise—that’s equal to three full revolutions (360 x 3). To update this setting, click the dropdown and enter 1080 in the Custom setting and check Clockwise. Then, click the Timing tab and set Duration to 2 seconds (Medium). Click OK. With the second item still selected, choose With Previous from the Start dropdown in the Timing group.

Right-click the third animation item and choose Effect Options. On the Effect tab, set the Size to 300% (use the dropdown and the Custom setting as before). The snowball will grow by 300% on its way down the hill. On the Timing tab, set Duration to 1 seconds (fast). Click OK. You want the snowball to grow a bit quicker than the roll down the hill. Otherwise, the snowball continues to grow at the bottom, which you don’t want. With the third item still selected, choose With Previous from the Start dropdown in the Timing group.

Are you surprised to learn that you’re done? It was probably much easier than you anticipated! To see the show, click F5 and then click the slide. A figure can’t show the motion, but the gradient fill for the snowball will revolve—making the rolling motion obvious as it rolls downhill. As you can see in Figure D, the snowball is on its way downhill and it has increased in size. 

Figure D

  The snowball grows as it rolls downhill. 

If you don’t like the effect, return to the animation Effect Options settings and tweak things a bit. You might want the snowball to roll faster or to grow even larger! In addition, you could turn the hillside into a rocky cliff and the snowball into a huge boulder. Now that you know the animations necessary, you can use your imagination to figure out new ways to use it. 

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