An MX and antiX Linux overview with commentary and advice for USB first-timers and Linux noobs
by Tom 07/27/2020
Important MX and antiX LiveUSB features
– Fast and easy system creation, modification, and reproduction
– Full encryption
– Unique auxiliary boot menu system
– Live-usb-storage partition
– Multiple persistence configurations
– System snapshot and backup tools
– Hard disk rescue tools suite
– General overview of typical Linux installations for noobs
– Installation from Windows
– – rufus
– – unetbootin
– – Etcher
– Installation from Linux
– – Etcher
– – dd command
– – Installation from an existing MX or antiX instance
– – LUM AppImage
Booting the LiveUSB
– Special considerations for noobs
– Unique MX and antiX boot menu system
– – A subject in itself
– – Booting the LiveUSB on machines other than the one it was created on
First-time step-by-step walk-throughs
– Creation of a LiveUSB with MX or antiX built-in ‘Live USB Maker’ app.
– – Important preliminary safety note*
– First-time custom configuration of MX or antiX “live USB”/”bootable USB” to fully convert it into a “writable LiveUSB”
Suggested as helpful
– Change the MX Xfce desktop to better match your eyes and display
– MX Xfce desktop
– Additional command-line programs
– For offline reference download and move to your desktop folder:
– Miscellaneous hints for noobs
Among other things, this article is an attempt to provide at least one solution or point of entry for the general problem of getting started in Linux.
When I look back on my own experiences moving from Windows to Linux knowing what I know now, I often think that it all really shouldn’t have been nearly as difficult and erratic as it was. Starting with a Linux system installed to a USB stick is what I think I would tell myself to try first if I had it all to do over again. This approach might have greatly facilitated my progress and saved a lot of unnecessary pain.
The desire to assist others who might be in a position or circumstances similar to my own–that is, the position of an amateur enthusiast or a non-tech outsider, someone who has had relatively limited educational and professional experience with Unix-like computer systems or, for that matter, computer systems and technology in general–this is a large part of my motivation for writing this article.
A lot of people wish to find a practical way to begin to explore Linux or begin to make the transition from Windows in a way that doesn’t involve significant inconvenience, modification or risk to their existing computer arrangements.
Also, regardless of whether or not one perceives any particular interest in or need for Linux as opposed to Windows, many people wish to make fuller, more economical use of limited internet and computer access or aging hardware.
Moreover, there is a significant number of personal computer users who wish to protect and preserve their security and privacy, and a significant number of users who wish to protect and preserve their investments of time, effort and money in acquiring and producing digital records and information. Many people prefer to do these things through the use of convenient, economical, detachable, and independent means.
For example, one common MX or antiX LiveUSB use case is that when banking or making online payments, people wish to work from an environment known to be completely volatile and pristine and then immediately create duplicate offline backup records of transactions both on and off the computer.
Also, there are people like myself who like to explore and experiment with computers who appreciate the idea of having thoroughly “sandboxed” external environments and extra space in which to safely engage with unfamiliar procedures and software.
For all of the above, an MX or antiX ‘Writable LiveUSB’ can often be a handy tool.
The terminology surrounding this subject frequently seems to be both nebulous and confusing, so I’ll break it out and define it a little here according to my own best understanding:
Writable LiveUSB – an exact and specific name apparently coined by the MX and antiX Linux distribution pair for what others sometimes refer to more generically as a “live USB with persistence”.
Live USB – a more limited term often used elsewhere by itself to mean only a device created for temporary demonstration and testing purposes and for installing a new operating system and desktop environment to a host computer. That is, most ‘live USB’s lack ‘persistence’; a “live USB with persistence” is a special case.
Bootable USB – usually means the same thing and is used interchangeably with ‘live USB’. But not all ‘live USB’s are bootable as in certain cases the boot partition might actually reside on some other storage drive.
Persistence – changes to the operating system, new programs, files and data are written back from host computer memory exclusively (at least in most cases) to the USB device.
USB – a term frequently used not literally as the acronym for “Universal Serial Bus”, a specific type of data port and connector, but rather to denote a flash/thumb/pen drive, key, memory stick or any such similar compact storage device–in the context of the present article, possibly even an SD or micro SD card such as used with cameras, phones, and portable audio players. Actually, so far as I know, any type of storage device that may be connected to a host computer via a USB port might be employed to create a ‘writable LiveUSB’ just so long as it has sufficient speed and capacity.
For practical purposes, creating a fully and optimally functional ‘writable LiveUSB’ will most often require the use of a 64 GB USB 3.0 or greater thumb drive. In any case, this will usually represent the best value even if the device is intended primarily for use on an older machine. The 3.0 devices are backward compatible and read into RAM over USB 2.0 seemingly as fast as does the spinning hard drive; whereas, USB 2.O drives used on newer USB 3.0 machines will definitely cause speed to suffer. Much of the point of creating a writable LiveUSB is to keep as many options and as much flexibility against the unforeseen available as possible. There is not much to be gained from being “penny wise and dollar foolish” with the purchase of a USB stick. At the time of this writing a 64 GB USB 3.0 SanDisk Ultra Flair costs about $15. Other brands and models of USB 3.0 thumb drives with 64 GB and 120 GB capacity can now be had for about $10 and $20, respectively. Obviously, these represent convenient smaller-scale capacity increments and are much less expensive than a spinning or solid state backup drive, a new internal hard drive, or a new computer which, if your hard disk is beginning to fill up, might otherwise be required to accommodate some of the objectives I’ve mentioned above.
It happens that it is possible and not particularly difficult to install any Linux operating system to a USB device in such a manner that the device and the operating system acting together have the characteristic of persistence. With a bit more effort it is also possible to format and arrange one or more additional partitions for various purposes on the same device such that the USB and the host computer operating systems have some degree of mutual access to the various partitions. However, doing all this well so that everything is safe and consistently works together properly requires a fair amount of time, experience and expertise. So several free Linux distributions and installation applications have been developed that specialize to some extent in producing just such arrangements. Beyond the MX and antiX Linux distribution pair, Knoppix, Tails and Puppy Linux distros, and rufus and mkusb installation apps, are the usual examples. None of these are exactly or entirely analogous to MX and antiX, but they provide overlapping capabilities and are closely related in the technical sense. With the recent advent of versions 19.2, MX and antiX now appear to have achieved a level of development and maturity that makes them stand out among prospective alternatives.
MX and antiX are sibling Systemd-free Linux distributions based on Debian Stable. Both projects share members of a small group of original developers from a previous pair of projects that forked. Beneath the different desktop environments, different arrays of bundled applications and a wide variety of easily-switchable different kernel offerings, the base systems, a common simplified Synaptic-like package installer, several unique apps and most of the LiveUSB features are virtually identical. The important distinctions between MX and antiX derive mostly from the different intended classes of target users and hardware.
MX describes itself as a “mid weight” distribution focused on ease of use, whereas antiX describes itself as a “lean and mean” lightweight distribution appropriate for older computers.
In contrast with MX, antiX is relatively temperamental, being assembled and provisioned as it is with the objective of extracting and preserving the maximum possible performance from ancient personal computer hardware–this often by use of interfaces and packages that date back possibly to the early ’90s or even the late ’80s at the dawn of the internet age. In addition to the expected offering of the most resource efficient point-and-click GUI programs, there is an entire parallel suite of terminal-only ncurses-style programs and several prettified desktop window programs that are not really quite GUI programs as commonly understood. These are arranged to facilitate near direct or direct editing of configuration files. antiX has made efforts to accommodate the modern needs and desires of almost everyone, albeit in minimalist fashion–which, unusually, is simultaneously elaborate in the sense that it comprises a rather large “kit of parts”. Included are no less than four in-session switchable desktop environments and a multitude of themes. There is also a plethora of alternative additional software available in common with MX through the shared package installer. An independent ‘Control Center’ window is provided to serve as sort of an easy central point to access and coordinate all things hardware and maintenance related. Nevertheless, despite the implicit educational value and the wealth of attractive compensations and accommodations, “noobs” who lack a solid general knowledge and base of skills in historical computer developments are best advised to choose MX.
MX comes with a very sensibly configured and easy-to-comprehend Xfce desktop environment. MX is also offered in “ahs” or “advanced hardware support” version mxlinux.org/blog/new-advanced-hardware-support-repo-ahs-for-short to additionally accommodate (mainly) all the newest available graphics processors.
If your hardware is less than ten or twelve years old, MX (both standard and ahs) will probably work fine and be considerably more comfortable than antiX.
More than most other Linux distributions I’ve encountered, MX and antiX seem to have distinct characters or personalities. Think of MX as a 4WD Toyota Tacoma and antiX as a Harley chopper and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the different kinds of mindsets that go best with each. They’re both rugged and well suited for just about any conceivable computer task, but with antiX you’re definitely closer to the edge and likely to have to get your hands dirty more often.
Together and separately MX and antiX strive for individual instances of their ‘Writable LiveUSB’s to be as universal as possible and to operate well “on top of” most, if not all, Windows and Linux desktop or laptop computers, old or new. At this point they appear to have largely succeeded.
This was not entirely the case when I started experimenting with MX and antiX LiveUSBs versions 17.4. The devices I made had problems deploying different WiFi drivers so that I had to make an individual device for each computer I desired to use either distribution on. This was a serious limitation that defeated much of the intended utility. Recently, however, I have been using antiX 19.2 and both versions of MX 19.2 and have tested all of them on five different types and ages of laptop computers–four Linux and one Windows. I can now say that, with only a few minor exceptions, all have worked great at performing every task I’ve had an occasion or notion to try.
As it turns out, the newest computer, a fifteen-month old Dell Inspiron with Intel UHD graphics, does not actually happen to require the use of any of the MX “advanced hardware support” features as I thought it might. So I can’t speak to that aspect of performance in any meaningful way except perhaps to mention that for the negligibly small extra size of the ISO file, a move from 1.6 GB to 1.7 GB, it probably can’t hurt to have the extra capabilities around.
I can’t say that there are now no significant quirks or bugs. In fact, I have come across a few (though I should acknowledge that one or two might easily be artifacts of my own imperfect understanding.) Moreover, so far as I have been able to determine, most of these are currently either undocumented or poorly documented; further, all are apt to be a bit confusing or frustrating for noobs. I will point a couple of these out now, and the others along with available remedies or work-arounds as we go along.
antiX provides no means to toggle the functioning of laptop touchpads through any discoverable mechanism within the desktop environments. Older laptops tend to have a top-row function key labeled and mapped for this specific purpose, but on one of the machines I tested where such a key exists, it failed. Probably this was just a minor key-mapping conflict that might be resolved with a little digging in the appropriate configuration file. Also, antiX apparently provides no means to lock and suspend the computer at the same time. You can choose one or the other but not both. This potential security risk is offset somewhat by the fact that antiX boots very quickly. It doesn’t usually hurt too much to simply shut the machine down and later reboot when it needs to be secured for anything longer than a few minutes.
Online and offline documentation (included with installed systems) on the whole are thorough and excellent, especially considering the facts MX and antiX are niche distributions with only a few core developers and a small user base. There are separate MX and antiX forums and a common searchable MX-antiX wiki with FAQs as well as a multitude of YouTube help videos produced by developer Dolphin Oracle.
Important MX and antiX LiveUSB features
Fast and easy system creation, modification, and reproduction
MX and antiX come with their own very simple and elegant ‘Live USB Maker’ application. Depending on the speed of the computer you are using, the entire process often takes less than five minutes; writing the ISO to USB less than three.
As important as encryption is for safety with a portable device, it is frequently overlooked or difficult to achieve with other live USB creation systems. A simple checkbox in the ‘Live USB Maker’ app.
Unique auxiliary boot menu system
Similar to GRUB and better looking, but also provisioned for heavy post-installation system configuration and troubleshooting. Goes a long way to making a single writable LiveUSB functional across several computers.
In many cases there is mutual access and visibility into partitions between LiveUSB and host computers. From a writable LiveUSB there is often complete access and visibility into Linux host computer file systems so long as one has the LiveUSB root password and any host system encrypted-disk password. However, for some reason unknown to me, this seems not always to be the case with certain distributions such as Kubuntu. Also, whereas the LiveUSB can potentially access everything on a Linux host computer, the host computer cannot see into the LiveUSB user directories beyond the Live-usb-storage partition. On Windows host computers, the LiveUSB has access to all Windows partitions–at least, this is the case with the non-professional Home edition of Windows 10 with which I’ve had limited experience. (After I left Windows for Linux desktop systems a few years back, I’ve had little desire or occasion to look back.) But, I’m given to understand by others that Windows may be purchased in professional or enterprise grade editions that either ship with encryption enabled by default or that, possibly along with the Home edition, may later be enabled by the user if so desired. I have no knowledge or experience with whether or not MX or antiX liveUSBs possess the capability to unlock these. However, going the other way around, that is, trying to look from a Windows host computer into an MX liveUSB, recently, I see that Windows offers every opportunity to reformat and thereby destroy each Linux partition one attempts to open. So be warned. The potential for harm either through or to the use of a liveUSB by both malice and carelessness is definitely present.
Multiple persistence configurations
What follows might appear a little intimidating or overwhelming, but it shouldn’t be in fact. I only present the full list for purposes of illuminating the complete breadth of possibilities. First-timers are simply advised to select option 4) when the opportunity arises. “Persistence allows you to retain data, settings and installed programs when the machine gets switched off for personal use.” Note that with options 1) through 6) “disk” refers to the USB device be it either spinning or solid state as with a thumb drive, not to the host computer hard drive; whereas, with options 7) through 12), “disk” does refer to a hard drive of the host computer.
1) Default–(i.e. same as conventional demonstration mode–no persistence)
2) persist_all–Save root in RAM, save home on disk (save root at shutdown)
3) persist_root–Save root and home in RAM then saved at shutdown
4) persist_static–Save root and home on disk with home separate on disk
5) p_static_root–Save root and home on disk together
6) persist_home–Only home persistence
7) frugal_persist–Frugal with root in RAM and home on disk
8) frugal_root–Frugal with root and home in RAM then saved at shutdown
9) frugal_static–Frugal with root on disk and home separate on disk
10) f_static_root–Frugal with root on disk and home separate on disk
11) frugal_home–Frugal with only home persistence
12) frugal_only–Only Frugal, no persistence
MX Remaster Control Center. “This tool allows you to rework an ISO while running live. Remaster allows you to change files, applications and settings with the goal of producing a new master copy for storage or distribution.” Upon shutdown the root file system is compressed into a squashfs file. Upon remastering, changes, such as additional programs installed after LiveUSB was created, are incorporated into a new squashfs file. This file may then be used to quickly clone additional new copies of the now pre-customized system into new ‘writable LiveUSBs’. Depending on which persistence option has been selected, home directory contents may also be incorporated or separately remastered. (I think.)
System snapshot and backup tools
In case disaster occurs and rollback to a previous arrangement is required.
Hard disk rescue tools suite
If for some reason a computer develops problems with booting, MX and antiX can be used to find boot directories, ‘chroot’ and fix it.
General overview of typical Linux installations for noobs
Typically most ordinary Linux operating system installations involving a thumb drive require four major steps:
1) Download the Linux distribution’s operating system image/iso file from the internet to the computer one is working from, then verify that the file’s checksum and signature match the publisher’s values to assure integrity and authenticity, respectively.
2) Copy the image/iso file to the thumb drive in special way that makes the thumb drive bootable.
3) Employ said bootable thumb drive to install the new operating system to the intended target.
4) Configure the newly installed system as necessary in light of perceived needs and intended goals and purposes.
The separate aspects of Step 1) described in detail:
In general, this typical four-step model will hold for making a ‘Writable LiveUSB’ too, but there are possible shortcuts. Step 2) is subject to considerable variation depending on whether one is installing from Windows or Linux and one’s particular set of circumstances; general outlines are presented below. For an MX or antiX ‘writable LiveUSB’ step 3) may or may not be omitted, but certainly can be, because the “live USB”/”bootable thumb drive” may be further configured so that it itself becomes a complete “writable LiveUSB”. For the benefit of the first-timer, step-by-step walk-through instructions for steps 3) and 4) follow toward the end of this article.
Installation from Windows
The preferred Windows method. Appropriate rufus use instructions don’t exactly appear to jump out at you from the rufus website, but it’s actually pretty simple to use once installed. Make sure you have downloaded the MX or antiX iso file and know where it is. If you then select it from within the open rufus window under the second line, ‘Boot selection’ and ‘Select’, and then click the little middle circle with the check mark, rufus will calculate the checksum which you can use to compare to the published value for validation of integrity (always a good idea). Thereafter, make sure the target USB device is plugged in so that it appears in the top line box under ‘Device’. At little slider for ‘Persistent partition size’ and other defaults will appear. Leave these alone and don’t do anything else. MX and antiX provide their own means for creating and sizing a storage partition. When there is a green ‘Ready’ bar under ‘Status’ just hit ‘Start’ button.
mxlinux.org/download-links See rufus link down the page a bit under Notes heading.
I have not personally tested unetbootin but am given to understand that it works.
LiveUSB via unetbootin
From within the MX and antiX pages, Etcher seems to be conspicuously absent among the recommended installation apps; but, it works great and I think it likely the easiest and least confusing of all the available options for noobs. True Linux aficionados possibly have two issues with it, neither of which should be of any concern for the first-timer. First is that the program is among the more proprietary of the available options, being released for free use as it is under an Apache license as opposed to the more democratic and community-minded GNU license. Second is that the program is an inelegantly large cross-platform Electron app which weighs in at a relatively obscene 142 MB–as opposed to 1 MB for rufus.
Installation from Linux
The cross-platform option. Provided for Linux systems as an AppImage. From the Etcher website (same as for Windows; see above), download the appropriate archive file containing the program to a folder (Downloads folder is fine). In the terminal cd to the directory where downloaded. At $ prompt type (without the single quotes) ‘unzip balena-etcher-electron-1.5.45-linux-x64.zip’, hit Enter. Then ‘sudo ./balenaEtcher-1.5.45-x64.AppImage’. Hit Enter, provide root password, hit Enter. The GUI program opens on the desktop. Seems that executable permissions are already present and ‘chmod’ command is not required. The zip and expanded program files may simply be deleted after use to uninstall.
Aka “destroy disk” command. This is the traditional generic/universal Linux installation method. Not at all difficult but potentially dangerous, especially for the novice who must be prepared to do some study beforehand. I like this tutorial make-a-bootable-usb-drive-in-linux by Marvin Tan, who I think is a great model for noobs of excellent Linux work habits.
Installation from an existing MX or antiX instance
Do NOT use ‘Installer’ from the icon on the MX or antiX desktop or ‘Installer’ from the antiX main menu. These are intended for a traditional/ordinary installation of the operating system to a host computer hard drive. If either of these are used to install MX or antiX to a USB device, important features unique to MX and antiX Writable LiveUSBs described above will not be created; confusion and frustration will ensue. Instead, go to the main menu icon and hunt for, or use the handy search box (‘App Finder’ in antiX), to locate ‘MX Live USB Maker’ (or ‘antiX Live USB Maker’). Use this.
This is the MX or antiX ‘Live USB Maker’ app packaged as a stand-alone universal Linux program. It looks and works exactly the same way. Except it doesn’t. Apparently the developer is unaware that the disk encryption capability is broken. This is a shame because an MX or antiX writable LiveUSB by nature has a relatively high probability of being exposed to potential theft or loss. Having such a device with no encryption and any personal information on it is dangerous. So if you use LUM appimage, you will want to use the first device created, which will have no encryption, to create a second device (via the included ‘Live USB Maker’ app) which will. To save money, you could use an inexpensive USB 2.0 drive for the first device. live-usb-maker-tool-now-available-as-an-appimage
Booting the LiveUSB
Special considerations for noobs
Booting a live USB to any computer for the first time usually involves plugging in the USB device with the computer completely turned off, pressing the power button, then very shortly thereafter intentionally interrupting the boot process in order to select the correct device that the computer should boot from. This occasion, or a subsequent one, will also present an opportunity to reset the default boot device precedence–this so that thereafter whenever the USB device is plugged in, it will become the default and the computer will automatically see it first before booting from the internal hard drive.
On a Linux machine, shortly after pressing the power button, a message of some sort usually appears at the bottom or the lower left corner of the screen that tells you what key to press in order to make such such changes, often the ESC or F12 key.
Windows machines, on the other hand, especially new ones, tend to make the possibility of making changes a bit more obscure so that one is forced to have to have prior knowledge of what key to press and when. (Out of sight, out of mind; Microsoft doesn’t want to let you out of its clutches.) You can research which key is the right one to use, but it is probably easier to discover by trial and error: Plug in the LiveUSB. Press the power button. A few seconds later as the manufacturer’s logo appears, press F12. Or probably F10 or F8 if that doesn’t work and you have to start over. If during the brief allotted period you happened to select the correct key, a short text message of some sort likely briefly appears and pretty soon you’re landed in a low-level text-menu environment. From here you may have to poke around a little to find exactly what else you need. Somewhere during an initial boot process a newer machine will probably suggest that you want to boot via UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) rather than BIOS (Basic Input Output System). That’s usually best. If this doesn’t happen, you’re probably running on an older machine and you want BIOS. MX and antiX are both comfortable with either.
Unlike with some other Linux distributions and live USBs, it is not necessary to disable Secure Boot in order to get MX or antiX LiveUSBs to boot on a Windows machine.
On most Linux systems, the first stop in the boot process is the Grand Unified Bootloader, more commonly known as the “grub menu”. This is a lowly but essential utilitarian place that is often just as unglamorous as such a name might suggest, an undecorated text menu. The default choice is at the top of the list and will usually execute automatically after a few seconds delay.
Unique MX and antiX boot menu system
A subject in itself
Because MX and antiX Writable LiveUSBs can be configured and used in many different ways on many different machines, the unique MX and antiX LiveUSB boot menu system is provided as a necessary efficient staging area from which to conduct a variety of preliminary and corrective activities. Many of these are unnecessary to go into here and are better dealt with elsewhere. But for a number of edge cases that I personally have only a minimal grasp of, know that there are a number of sub-menus and related introductory Dolphin Oracle YouTube help videos that merit examination. Additionally, as I suggested previously, a bit of important explication that, so far as I know, remains either hard to find or undocumented elsewhere is given below:
Booting the ‘LiveUSB’ on machines other than the one it was created on
For the most part, MX and antiX seem to auto-detect and make adjustments for the hardware of the machines they run on. After a user performs a first custom configuration via the MX/antiX boot menu second line, ‘Customize Boot’, MX and antiX remember settings for software packages and various other data and session information and then associate these with the particular custom configuration. This configuration is thereafter identified by a unique menu line which is titled in the form of ‘Custom…creation date’. As long as you run the LiveUSB on the same machine, or apparently also other machines of similar configuration and vintage, this new title now replaces the original second line of the boot menu–and this line is what you will normally see and use to get back to where you were before so as not to wind up in a session from which you do not have access to your prior app settings and other things you probably want and need. However, if you boot the LiveUSB from a different vintage machine, one that boots from BIOS as opposed to the prior UEFI (or possibly vice versa), this familiar title vanishes and the second line of the boot menu now says ‘Boot from Hard Disk’–not what you want. Select the last line, ‘Switch to Grub Bootloader’. This takes you to a traditional Linux ‘GNU Grub’ boot window where the former custom-configuration-of-date title line you want now resides, albeit in smaller print. When you start this configuration on the different computer, everything should be as exactly as you left it before from working on the machine of origin–especially if upon previously exiting you checked the little box in the logout window that says ‘Save session for future logins’.
Sometimes when booting your custom configuration on a different machine, the display whitens or garbles quite a bit and chokes or hangs for a little while as, presumably, a different display driver is located and loads. There are special ‘safe mode’ booting options available through the boot menu for problem situations worse than this, that I know from prior experience with versions 17.4, could conceivably develop. Perhaps these are among the reasons why MX is offered in the new “ahs” version. Maybe someone who understands such behaviors better than I can leave a comment.
First-time step-by-step walk-throughs
The help videos by Dolphin Oracle are highly recommended, but a few things are unclear. I present what follows in case a checklist is desired.
The following steps were taken and noted during a two-stage MX install. First, a bootable USB was created on an inexpensive USB 2.0 stick using the Linux dd command, then that device was used to create the final MX live USB on a better quality, larger capacity USB 3.0 stick. Slight variations will apply for antiX or if, as noted above, a single-stage install is performed or if the device is later to be converted directly into a ‘Writable LiveUSB’.
Creation of a LiveUSB with MX or antiX built-in ‘Live USB Maker’ app
Important preliminary safety note*
Device names change. Be certain you know how to properly distinguish Linux device names. Open a terminal window. At the $ prompt type (without the single quotes) ‘lsblk’, hit Enter. Your system devices and partitions appear. Note the letter names and capacities shown. Your hard disk is probably ‘sda’. If you are running from or have already inserted a USB device, that device will probably be ‘sdb’ and will reflect a smaller capacity. Insert your target USB device and, before doing anything else that your computer might prompt you for, perform the ‘lsblk’ command again. Note the name of the new device that appears. It will be different, likely one letter higher, depending on what you’ve recently plugged in, than the one you just looked at; in any case, the capacity will match the target device and you will see what the associated letter is. Now you know which to look for as correct when making a live USB.
Per ‘Booting the LiveUSB’ above, and, depending on whether you came from Linux or Windows and what you have to work with, or if you have not booted and configured MX or antiX before:
Boot the MX or antiX LiveUSB
In MX boot configuration menu hit the up and down arrow keys to to pause the boot process and familiarize yourself with the titles of the several options.
Select the default, i.e. the top line option,’MX-19.2×64 (date of creation)’, hit Enter.
Patiently wait for arrival in the desktop environment that shows the MX Welcome window.
Note and remember at bottom of Welcome window:
Default username: demo
Default demo password: demo
Root Password: root
Close Welcome window.
Insert target 64GB USB 3.0 SanDisk Ultra Flair thumb drive (or similar.)
Click desktop main menu icon in lower left corner.
Type ‘USB’ in the top line search bar of opened main menu, hit Enter.
Select ‘MX Live USB Maker’, hit Enter.
Authenticate ‘Password for root:’ with “root”.
MX Live USB Maker window appears.
*Verify in top line, ‘Select Target USB Device’, that correct target device from above is selected. (It should already be correctly auto selected but you want to be absolutely certain that it is, in fact, properly distinguished from the device you are running from; and, more importantly, that it is not your host computer hard drive that is selected, so that you DON’T DESTROY YOUR EXISTING SYSTEM…)
Under ‘Options’ check ‘Encrypt’ box, check ‘Clone running live system’.
Under ‘Mode’ check that Full-featured mode – writable LiveUSB radio button is selected.
Label ext partition: (optional)
Installation proceeds and requires usually only about three minutes (depending on how fast your host machine is.)
After reboot into and further customization during initial boot of new ‘LiveUSB’, an opportunity to create a password for the encrypted file system will be presented. Be sure to scroll through all the text output of the Live USB Maker window again to take note of or make sure that no error messages are present. (For example, if you have performed these steps using the LUM appimage program an error pertaining to a missing cryptsetup module will be present; something you need to know.)
Shutdown the computer (green icon in upper left of screen is handy.)
Unplug the “bootable USB” installation device, but not the new LiveUSB (assuming you are working with two devices.)
First-time custom configuration of MX or antiX “live USB”/”bootable USB” to fully convert it into a ‘writable LiveUSB’
Reboot the host computer into the new LiveUSB.
Upon appearance of the MX boot options window move the up/down arrow keys to pause the timed countdown to default boot. Have a look at the menu.
Select second line ‘MX-19.2 x64 Customize Boot (text menus)’. Hit Enter.
Accept defaults until ‘Select Timezone’. Select 7) Denver*. Hit Enter.
At ‘Select Option”Only one option can be selected’, select ’14) dostore Enable LiveUSB-Storage feature’. (Note that upon any future boot ‘Customize Boot’ may be entered and ’12) password Change passwords before booting’ may be selected. Also note that upon NEXT BOOT ’15) savestate Save some files across reboots’ should be selected.
At ‘Select Persistence Option’, select ‘4) persist_static save root and home on disk with home separate on disk’. Alternatively, select ‘5) p_static_root Save root and home on disk together’. (The first option permits more flexibility when/if “remastering” operations are performed.)
At ‘Begin create rootfs persistence file’ select 2) create custom and set to, say, ’23) 20GB’ to allow comfortable room for ‘remaster’ after software packages of personal preference have been added.
At ‘Create a live-usb swap file?’ accept yes default and set to appropriate size, say, ‘7) 1.00 GiB’.
At ‘Save these changes?’ hit Enter for Yes (default).
At ‘DANGER! INSECURE PASSWORD! reset root password? Accept, and provide a suitable one.
System now boots to desktop environment.
Click Ethernet icon (MX only; lower portion of of panel/dock) to find and connect to your router or WiFi access point.
After some brief period, Package Manager icon (lower portion of panel/dock) indicates updates are available. Click to open and update; or, alternatively, use super key (Windows key); or, click main menu icon; or, right-click empty area of desktop to find and open ‘Terminal Emulator’. At terminal $ prompt enter (less single quotes) ‘sudo apt update && upgrade’, then hit Enter to make everything current and available before locating and installing any additional desired programs.
From main menu (icon in screen lower left corner) locate and open ‘Package Installer’. Have a look around in the categories. Unlike with vanilla Debian distros, many of the latest versions of popular programs or groups of associated programs are offered.
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Change the MX Xfce desktop to better match your eyes and display
If you use the same Writable LiveUSB on machines with different screen sizes and resolutions you might need to adjust things to better match your eyesight.
Adjust default font and text sizes: Main menu > Appearance > Fonts tab > DPI (might be hidden below bottom edge of window.)
Adjust the background colors scheme: Main menu > Appearance > Style tab (I like Adwaita-dark.)
Adjust the panel and icons: Right-click a blank region on the panel > Panel > Panel Preferences > Display tab > Row size.
Adjust Desktop and Panel icons size: Right-click empty area of desktop > Desktop Settings > Icons tab > Icon size.
MX Xfce desktop
Additional command-line programs
hunspell (dictionary required for installed Featherpad text editor spell checking to function)
tldr (too long didn’t read; community provided man page synopses/cheats)
neofetch (concise system info synopsis)
speedtest-cli (find out if your internet connection really is slow)
At the terminal $ prompt, type (less the single quotes) ‘sudo apt install hunspell tldr neofetch speedtest-cli’, hit Enter.
For offline reference download and move to your desktop folder:
The Linux Command Line by William Schott (free; please purchase a hard copy or make a donation if you feel so inclined)
Miscellaneous hints for noobs
Brutal but essential intro to onboard Linux command-line help resources: In ‘Terminal Emulator’ at $ prompt type (without the single quotes) ‘man man’. The manual page for using manual pages. If you installed tldr per above try also $ ‘tldr man’. By now you know the drill.
Try right-clicking on anything and everything.
Out of sight, out of mind. Remember that sometimes important options may be or become hidden below the bottom edge of a window, especially if any adjustments have been to the default fonts DPI resolution.
Sometimes things get strange for no reason anyone will ever figure out. Reboot the computer and start over.
Left-click and drag to copy, press middle wheel to paste. Works across everything. Like you don’t actually have to type all those complicated terminal commands people suggest.