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Why don't all Linux distributions offer disk images you can simply dd or cat to an USB drive? Are there downsides to these hybrid images?

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To be honest, this is something I hope will gain traction and be more prevalent. –  Rob Apr 6 '12 at 19:08

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USB drives usually have different sizes, if you just dd image with partition table etc, then either part of USB drive will be hidden or partition will have unreadable sectors. Exact match of size is possible, but highly unlikely.

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That doesn't stop some distros from doing it, and it is very handy. CrunchBang linux (#!) is set up this way, and I put it on my 2GB HD knowing full well that I wouldn't be able to use the rest of the space on it until I reformatted it, basically. –  Rob Apr 6 '12 at 19:08
    
I don't see that as a downside. You can, but you don't have to use hybrid images that way. You also could argue that directly writing an image to an usb drive destroys the data on the drive. Again, you don't have to use it that way. You can still burn them to a CD/DVD, or write them non-destructiveley to an usb-drive using e.g. unetbootin. I don't know, if there are also downsides, if you don't dd them, but use them with CD/DVD or unetbootin. That is why I was asking. –  Alfred Rupp Apr 7 '12 at 12:51

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