I am window user and .net web developer. I am trying hands in ruby and "ruby on rails". Everybody suggests me to use OSx or Linux. Can i install Ubuntu on "pen drive" and use as development machine for the same. If yes please let me know how to install Ubuntu on "pen drive".

I am using laptop with windows 7 32 bit ultimate on my core 2 duo and 4 gig RAM.

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I recently started Ruby on Rails development and I find it really easy to work in both Windows and Linux. At home, I use Rails in Windows 7 and at work I use ubuntu. It works smoothly in both the places. My recommendation is development will not be hugely affected by which OS is being used.

You would not believe me if I say, people in my office work on the same project some in OSX, some on Linux and some on Windows with SVN as the source control and Netbeans as the IDE.

For books, refer this link. In the Agile Web development using Rails book, go through the DEPOT application and you would be having a fair idea of what Rails is all about and you will definitely feel confident on working on that.

  • It would be great if you please let me know related articles, books so that i can get start with rails on windows – Mahesh Jun 25 '10 at 14:12
  • Dude.. download netbeans for Ruby.. For books, refer this link.. technicalypto.com/2010/06/… You are very good to start with.. – bragboy Jun 25 '10 at 14:52

I don't think that there is any good reason to use Linux or OS X for Rails development over Windows. A lot of Rails enthusiasts -- especially including the guys who created it in the first place -- are Windows haters, but I have personally developed a pretty significant Rails application on Windows.

However, if you do want to try Ubuntu or some other operating -- for any reason -- installing it on a thumb drive is probably not as good of a choice as using VirtualBox. I run Windows 7 on my laptop, but a number of clients develop on Ubuntu, and it runs beautifully inside VirtualBox.


A lot of the Rails world does seem *nix oriented, at least in my experience. (When developing on Windows, I've seemed to bump into Windows-specific bugs. See https://rails.lighthouseapp.com/projects/8994/tickets/4295-rails-incorrectly-imposes-version-number-as-last-part-of-gem-directory-name#ticket-4295-11 ) But then again, I'm an old-school commandline junkie, so I've never tried Rails IDEs out, even on Linux/OS X. I work this way because I've found it to be rewarding. (I'm only 23, so it's not like I'm the type who has been using vi for 20 years.)

That being said, there's a "install to USB" option built into Ubuntu. On 10.04, it's under System -> Administration -> Make Startup Disk. I think you need at least a 2GB flash drive.


Here is an installer that puts an ubuntu LiveCD on a pen drive, with persistence to save settings.

However, if mobility isn't a requirement, installing ubuntu to the hard disk is just as simple, and gives you more space and better performance. Get it from here, and either install it from windows using Wubi or burn a live CD, boot it, try it out, and install it.


To answer your question shortly: You can (technically) but you shouldn't.

You have a lot of option here, but the real questions are:

  • do you want a portable development environment?
  • do you want to quickly go back and forth between Windows and Ubuntu? Maybe accessing Windows files from Ubuntu?

If you want portable, then you your options are:

  • install full Ubuntu on a pen-drive: This is the cheap way, and it will be useless, and very frustrating to use. If you haven't spent an insane amount of money on that pen-drive, it will be slow for random reads, because only sequential reads are fast on an average pen-drive. Second, wear-leveling is not working great on a pen-drive, meaning it will fail very soon. Third, you have to tweak the Linux distro to not write to the pen-drive 5 times a second even with EXT2 filesystem, and this gets you back to wear and slowness
  • install Live Ubuntu on a pen-drive, with persistent data storage. That is an almost good solution, I used it for a while: This version of Ubuntu is designed to run from CD, so it is prepared not to write to the medium it is loaded from. Some clever guys tweaked it to pen-drive usage, so it can store some data (I used it on a 16 Gb Sandisk Cruzer Micro). It is still slow to load, but then it is fine. Try Wubi to install Ubuntu to the pen-drive, it will even download the specified distro for you.
  • Invest in a small external SSD (about 32 Gb will do) with USB. You will get very fast speed and good wear-leveling. Here you can choose whether you want the full or Live install. I suggest full install.

Any of these solution is good for direct boot, or you can boot all of them into a virtual environment, like VirtualBox.

If you don't want to be portable, you have 3 options, but only one is viable:

  • install Ubuntu as a second OS on a different partition.
  • install Ubuntu as a second OS as a single file inside Windows.
    (These two are pretty much useless. you have to reboot to get into Ubuntu.)
  • Install Ubuntu in a virtual environment, like VirtualBox or VMWare Player, both are free.

And the isolated/portable combo:

  • boot into the live/full Ubuntu through Virtualbox,

I suggest to NOT store VirtualBox's .vdi file on the pen-drive/SSD and use it from there because you will be tied to VirtualBox while the previous method will allow you to decide how you want to boot it.

  • @Adam Crossland: There is a good reason to use Linux or OSX. Not because Ruby or any language, but for the command line power ('grep', 'awk', 'sed', etc). Rails IDEs on Windows try to fix what Microsoft left out from Windows. Or you buy Visual Studio, then you are good to go. – karatedog Jun 25 '10 at 21:29

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