(Booting a USB stick with multiple GNU/Linux distros)

After MultiSystem (2015), and then Multibootusb (2018), now I found GLIM tool (2019) by Matthias Saou to easily create multibootable USB to run and install GNU/Linux distros. GRUB2 Live USB Multiboot (GLIM) is a user friendly program to setup any USB stick to run multiple GNU/Linux LiveCD systems with fancy bootloader. GLIM supports both 32-bit and 64-bit computer either with BIOS Legacy or UEFI. With GLIM you can have multiple OS installers in one USB drive, take example Ubuntu and Fedora and Mint, to install them to computers so it saves a lot of your time. The difference between GLIM and the two tools mentioned above is, that using GLIM is easier, you simply need to copy ISO images you want to your USB stick without running application. Awesome, right? Then, how to use GLIM? This tutorial explains it with examples in easy way and with screenshots. Go ahead and happy doing business!

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About GLIM



Background


Let me share one thing to you. As you may know, I distribute GNU/Linux operating system in Indonesia --an archipelagic state located at equator between Malaysia and Australia-- so I always looking for new way to create better multiboot USB. The problem I could not tackle up to today is creating working multiboot for Debian Live and Manjaro. Fortunately, GLIM solved that for me, as now I can make them. Thank you Matthias Saou!

Summary


In order to create multiboot USB with GLIM, you need:
  • USB stick with disk name 'GLIM'
  • ISO image files of the distros
  • GLIM program itself
  • Command line access
  • Directories named after distro names in the USB stick

1. Formatting USB


Use your GNOME Disk Utility to format your USB stick with these properties:
  • Partition table: MBR
  • Filesystem: FAT32
  • Label: GLIM

 
(My USB stick as example: it's a 16GB SanDisk Cruzer Blade I made MBR and FAT32; notice the mount point /media/master/GLIM/ as it's important)

2. Download GLIM


To make USB bootable, of course you must have the GLIM software first. Download GLIM from GitHub. On the page, simply click Clone button and click Download ZIP. You will get a compressed file named glim-master.zip by about 1MB.

(Web browser showing GLIM website with full information and screenshot about its use)

3. Installing GLIM to USB


As long as your USB stick is named 'GLIM', you can install GLIM (the bootloader) into USB by running GLIM shell script.

First, extract the glim-master.zip you got from GitHub.

Second, enter the glim-master/ folder it gave you.

Third, run the shell script named glim.sh inside it without sudo:

$ ./glim.sh

And follow whatever asked with Y there.

Finally, successful GLIM setup will say "GLIM Installed! Time to populate the boot/iso directory".

See picture below: successful GLIM setup will create directory structure and files in USB stick like this.

(Structure of my USB drive with GLIM configuration files)

4. Copying ISO to USB


For example, to make Debian bootable in this USB,
  • Create folder debian/ under GLIM/boot/iso/ directory.
  • Copy the ISO image of Debian to GLIM/boot/iso/debian/ directory.
  • For other distros, for example Ubuntu and Fedora, create directories ubuntu/ and fedora/ under iso/ just like debian/ directory above. For other distros, see notes below.

(Copying process of Debian into USB: it must be stored in GLIM/boot/iso/debian/ folder)

Up to this step, one GNU/Linux OS is successfully made bootable in the USB stick. Repeat copying process above for other distros if you wish multiboot.
  • Pro tip: I use rsync to copy big ISOs faster and more reliable to USB stick with resume capability like downloading with BitTorrent.
  • Caution: make sure your external HDD storage and its cable are healthy and not in any broken state.

Testing


Reboot your computer with USB option as first boot, then you should see the unique GLIM bootloader like mine below. Press Enter to run selected OS, press Esc to cancel.

Pro tip: I don't have spare computer so I test every USB stick with QEMU virtual machine. It is very easy and handy.

Happy working!

Notes


  • Debian Live burnt in GLIM way installs a lot more longer than with GNOME Disk Utility (GNU dd). On my sample, it takes about 45 minutes while normally under 20 minutes.



This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.


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