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How to use your isostick


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#1 elegantinvention

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 04:35 PM

Here I will be maintaining a quick-start / FAQ on using isostick.
Please reply to this topic if there's anything you'd like to see here, and I'll keep this post updated.

First-time use / new card setup:
Card orientation is shown here. The card must be pushed in quite far, I recommend using the rear end of another microSD card, a folded piece of paper, a coin, or similar to push it in. One push locks it in, another ejects it.
The isostick needs a couple essential files in order to do its job.

  • First, update to the latest firmware using these instructions.
  • Make sure your isostick is in read/write mode (red should be visible on the switch).
  • The card needs a FAT32 partition, since isostick can't understand other filesystems.
    The SD Formatter is recommended for cards up to 32GB, but any FAT32 format utility should work.
    Note: 64GB and larger cards come formatted exFAT, see this thread for how to set those up.
  • Next you need to create a folder named "config" on the card.
  • Within config, place isosel.bin, which you can download here.
  • Lastly, create a text file named iso_filename.txt in the config directory. For now, you can just leave it empty.
    [Known issue: isostick doesn't like Unicode or UTF-8 encoding in iso_filename.txt, please use plain old ASCII / ANSI encoding until this is resolved.]

[Note: I'm working on an app for win/nix/osx to manage your ISO images and perform the above steps for you. Until that's released, you'll have to do it manually. Sorry! :suda: ]

Where do I put my ISO images?
Anywhere! You can arrange them with folders, store them however you like.
You can store regular files anywhere as well. It works just like a normal flash drive.

After your isostick is all setup, you may want to flip the switch to read-only mode (red side hidden) to keep your data safe.
[Note: Presently, the total length of the filename plus the path cannot exceed 512 characters for isostick to put it in the optical drive.]

How do I put an ISO image in the optical drive?
Open iso_filename.txt in your favorite text editor. Just put the path and filename of the image in this file, then save it. If you're on Windows, after about a minute the optical drive will eject and then reload with the new image, no further effort required.

There are a few things to be aware of, however:

  • Use forward slash '/' as a folder separator, like in *nix. For example: /os/win/win7.iso
  • The leading slash may be omitted, so this is the same as the above: os/win/win7.iso
  • The maximum length of the filename plus the path cannot exceed 512 characters.
  • Make sure your text editor saves the file as plain old ASCII, not Unicode or anything else.

Known issue: On MacOS X and some Linux distros, you may have to eject the flash drive, then unplug and plug the isostick back in to see the new image. A fix for this is in the works and will be in a future firmware update.

What's isosel? How do I use it?
Isosel is a boot menu, similar to grub or lilo. It looks like this. To use it, simply boot from your isostick's optical drive -- not the flash drive!
Clarification: There is no need to put multiple iso filenames in iso_filename.txt, the firmware will traverse the card looking for iso files on its own.
When isosel shows up: Isosel will show up every other boot. For example: isosel shows up, you pick an image, the machine reboots - this time booting the chosen image. On the next boot, you'll see isosel again.
There is one catch: You must have a bootable image loaded in the drive. If no image is loaded, or the loaded image is not bootable, isosel will not show up. I am investigating ways around this.

A few other things to be aware of with isosel:

  • isosel can't see images where the length of the filename plus the path exceeds 246 characters.
  • Only the first 80 characters of the image filename are shown (filenames >80 chars work, but you will only see the first 80 in isosel).
  • isosel only looks 10 folders deep, beyond that it gives up. So, if your iso is at /0/1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/11.iso, isosel can't see it!
  • At present, isosel stores your choice in isostick's internal flash, not the microSD card.
    This means iso_filename.txt may not show the currently-loaded image. Any changes to iso_filename.txt, however, will change the image as you would expect. A future update will allow isosel to store its choice to iso_filename.txt if the microSD card is writable.

I'm still stuck! / Where do I send bug reports and feature requests?
First of all, try unplugging the isostick, reseating the card, then plugging it back in. If that doesn't work, keep reading:
You can use the forums here, or contact us directly at support@isostick.com
In general, if you're reporting a bug or compatibility issue (e.g.: isostick made my ThinkPad T61p burst into flames), I would prefer it be sent to the support email -- it will open a ticket which I can associate with bugs/feature requests in our bug tracker.
Feature requests go here: http://reboot.pro/forum/135/ so the community can weigh in on them.

Please reply below if there's anything you'd like clarified, added, or if you've got any suggestions -- I'm new at this! :cheers:



#2 TheHive

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 08:03 AM

Thanks for the info.

#3 Chris Weiss

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 08:18 PM

first thing I tried booting, a 10" Acer AsprireOne, would not show isosel until I put a iso file name in the iso_filename.txt file. Issue with the laptop or isosel?

#4 elegantinvention

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 10:18 PM

@Chris Weiss, sorry about that, it's mentioned in the post above but it's easy to miss:

There is one catch: You must have a bootable image loaded in the drive. If no image is loaded, or the loaded image is not bootable, isosel will not show up. I am investigating ways around this.



#5 Chris Weiss

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 11:21 PM

does "loaded" mean "copied to" or" specified in the txt file"? I took it to mean the former.

#6 elegantinvention

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 12:19 PM

Ah, I meant specified in iso_filename.txt.

#7 xaminmo

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 01:15 AM

Reminder to update #1 to show that r1612 is recommended code level to prevent blank-card crashes.
Or maybe remove the reference altogether and just make r157x unavailable in the fw tool?

#8 elegantinvention

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 01:31 AM

Took r1612 out of beta so it shows up for everyone now, not just those who have beta firmwares visible. Updated & simplified instructions.

I'll keep the older firmwares visible for now, will probably add a "known issues" field in the firmware updater and give firmwares with critical issues a red tint or something.
Hm, could have a bright red shade for the detected-installed firmware if it has known critical issues, whereas presently it's bright green (and would remain green if there aren't any critical issues).
Anyway, just tossing ideas out there, feedback is welcome of course :)

#9 happyhacking

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 02:06 AM

Hi, great device, many thanx for doing this impressive hardware piece, i just have 4 questions r8 now:

1.- Since i cant use my openSUSE 12.2 iso because its larger than 4GB, it will support exFAT someday ??
2.- Since i easily filled my 32GB SD, it will supord SDXC cards in future ??
3.- It supports just a single loaded ISO, or it can load multiple ISOs in multiple virtual cd units?
4.- Should i define just a single ISO file into config file, because nothing happens if i list 2 or more ??

Thanx, and keep the good work.

PD: The updater its super easy, it rocks !!

#10 elegantinvention

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 02:33 AM

1.- Since i cant use my openSUSE 12.2 iso because its larger than 4GB, it will support exFAT someday ??

Unfortunately exFAT licensing is crazy expensive, so that won't happen.
However, you can split the ISO file and isostick will load it as a single ISO. I'm working on software to do that automatically, but until then you can use any free file splitting utility. Under linux you can use `split', with a command such as:
split -a 1 -b 4000m -d blah.iso blah.iso.
Replacing "blah" with the ISO filename.
Don't forget the dot at the end, otherwise you end up with blah.iso0, blah.iso1, ... instead of blah.iso.0, blah.iso.1, ...
Then just specify blah.iso in iso_filename.txt and isostick will find the file parts automagically.

It just occurred to me that I haven't documented split file support here on the forums :heh: , I'll have to write something up. For now, the requirements are:
  • File extensions must be .iso.0 thru .iso.9
    For example, blah.iso.0 is valid, but blah.iso.00 and blah.iso.10 are not.
  • All file parts must be multiples of 2048bytes in size

2.- Since i easily filled my 32GB SD, it will supord SDXC cards in future ??

In fact, it already does :good:

3.- It supports just a single loaded ISO, or it can load multiple ISOs in multiple virtual cd units?

At the moment only a single virtual drive is supported, but the limit for a USB Mass Storage device is 16 drives. So, technically, it could have up to 15 virtual drives (+1 flash drive). I do plan to enable this in the future, but it's not a high priority at the moment.
If you have a specific use case requiring more than one virtual drive, please let me know.
Oh, I should also mention that future updates will enable loading hard drive images into virtual HDDs for example, instead of just ISOs into virtual CD/DVD drives.

4.- Should i define just a single ISO file into config file, because nothing happens if i list 2 or more ??

Correct, just a single ISO file should be named in iso_filename.txt. Any time isostick needs a list of all the ISOs on the card, it will search automatically.

Thanx, and keep the good work.
PD: The updater its super easy, it rocks !!

Thanks! :cheers:

#11 thaena

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 10:09 PM

I havent seen this in any blog but i believe theres a limit of 17 isos
based on that the menu doesnt seem to scroll. i gather this is more
the menu than the firmware. any chance this can increase?

#12 elegantinvention

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 10:49 PM

@thaena, at the moment there is indeed a bug limiting it to 15 ISOs in isosel (you can still have any number of them on your isostick). Within an OS though, you can still switch to any ISO you want--this limitation is only in booting from isostick.
It should be fixed in the coming weeks, then the limit will be several hundred ISOs for isosel, and still no limit for usage within an OS.

#13 Tetravus

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 11:58 PM

Oh no! I seem to be having trouble with isosel.

Basically, whether I boot from the optical drive or flash drive, it loads whatever iso I have first specified in iso_filename.txt. Rebooting produces the same effect. I've tried this with only one filename specified in the text file, and multiple names specified. All the images just live on the root of the drive, so I'm fairly positive I'm not breaking any naming or nesting conventions. Emptying out iso_filename.txt produces the effect it should - the system just skips along to the usual OS boot.

Everything works in Windows - the iso manager works smoothly, and loading/unloading images is seamless to the OS.

#14 elegantinvention

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 10:30 PM

@Tetravus, that is probably a bug with isosel. Please check the Tested Hardware List, feel free to add your computer if it isn't listed already. I will keep an eye on it and fix things as I am able. :cheers:

#15 taa

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Posted 05 January 2013 - 09:46 PM

Do isosticks normally ship write-protected? Mine did. It was necessary to make it write-enabled so I could format the SD card. Can you update the instructions above at step 2 or before to make sure it's write-enabled (the read-only switch must show "red"). While you're at it, you might want to add, as a last step, "After you add files to the isostick, you may want to write-protect it."



#16 elegantinvention

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Posted 05 January 2013 - 11:16 PM

Most are shipped write-protected, but it is not tightly controlled -- they may ship in either position. I will update the instructions as you suggested, thanks :cheers:






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