[tex-live] TexLive portable

Reinhard Kotucha reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Thu Mar 13 00:23:11 CET 2014

On 2014-03-12 at 19:51:39 +0100, Norbert Preining wrote:

 > in addition to what the others wrote, I am doubting that
 > installation of linux arch on vfat usb stick will work due to the
 > lack of symlink support.

 > But I might be wrong.

Hi Norbert,
I fear that you are right.  I can't check here but I vaguely remember
that tar ignores symlinks instead of creating regular files (as Samba
and ISO-9660 do).

 > We are actually searching for a good filesystem that can be used on
 > usbsticks on all unix and windows machines to replace the DVD with
 > usb sticks.

Well, Karl doesn't want to replace the DVD.  That would be much too
expensive.  He only considered to offer USB sticks at TUG Store for

Anyway, it's possible to use UDF.


I tried it a year ago successfully on Linux and Windows 7.  In order
to have UDF support on Linux it might be necessary to install an extra
package, depending on the distribution.  Norbert, you pointed out at
this time that UDF was not supported by OS X.  On Windows 7 the UDF
filesystem on the stick was recognized immediately.

This is what I did on Linux:

  fdisk -b 512 /dev/sdb

The partition type should be 0x06 (FAT16) in order to support
Windows.  This has no impact on Unix.

  mkudffs --media-type=hd --blocksize=512 /dev/sdb1

Please note that though fdisk created one big partition (/dev/sdb),
mkudffs expects that you specify the first partition on the device
(/dev/sdb1).  It took me some time to find it out.

In /etc/fstab set the filesytem type to "auto".

I had to use cp -a in order to copy TeX Live to the stick, tar didn't
create symlinks properly.  Maybe newer versions of tar behave better.

Benny, if you intend to go this way, be very careful when using fdisk.
It's a program which does exactly what you tell it.  You can easily
destroy your system if you specify a wrong device.

However, in this particular case I doubt that it's worth the trouble.
A portable installation is useful if one person needs TeX Live on
various machines.  It's less useful if two persons have to share the
same USB stick because they can't use TeX Live at the same time.

As far as maintenance is concerned, it's indeed better to have only
one TeX Live system which can be used on different machines.  If your
Linux machine is running while your wife needs TeX Live, the easiest
solution is to install it on the Linux machine and use Samba in order
to allow your wife to mount it on Windows.  I'm using this setup
successfully for years at work.  I'm maintaining TeX Live on a Linux
server and my colleagues use it on Windows.  It works like a charm.

Regarding UDF on OS X, it's certainly worthwhile to check from time to
time whether the situation changed.  IMO UDF is a good thing and I
doubt that Apple can ignore it for $t/to/infty$.


Reinhard Kotucha                                      Phone: +49-511-3373112
Marschnerstr. 25
D-30167 Hannover                              mailto:reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Microsoft isn't the answer. Microsoft is the question, and the answer is NO.

More information about the tex-live mailing list