It's amazing how geeky I can get.
I spent a lot of time switching from a very buggy Windows Vista install to a persistent USB install of a Linux distribution. The boot time is significantly reduced. Before I did this, my wait time for Vista was enough for me to make a cup of coffee. It was a good thing that I had an unused 4GB USB stick. The magic of the internet pointed me to Ubuntu Lucid Lynx, as well as an easy way to do persistent USB installs.
Problem is, I couldn't get the persistent installs to last. After about 5 reboots, the USB just refuses to boot. The splash screen ends and an (initramfs) prompt shows up. "Can not mount /dev/loop1 on /cow". When I exit out of it, the screen then scrolls violently to a nasty kernel panic and fails to go any further.
I got frustrated after the first three times that this happened. Imagine having to reinstall Adobe Flash, Chromium, and GStreamer plugins for XviD and MP3 multiple times. Then I thought about it and said to myself, why not try Linux Mint 9? Two out of three packages not to be reinstalled is a big thing (Chromium still needs to be reinstalled in Mint).
I also tried UNetbootin but for some reason it does not support the Gnome DVD version of Linux Mint. Tried it out with the Ubuntu ISO and I got the same error even before I was able to make it boot completely.
I used up my valuable blank DVDs to burn the ISOs. I read an old link about using the USB stick as a hard drive, so I tried to run the installer in the hope of selecting the USB as a valid partition. But before I was given a list of partitions to install to, the installer hangs. GParted exits out instantly too.
Then I found out that the installer was complaining about broken links in the laptop's main NTFS partition. According to Ubuntu's Disk Utility, I needed to run chkdsk -F in Windows twice before it touches the partition.
I tried to run the chkdsk natively, expecting to see it after I restart. But it didn't. Using a bug-ridden Vista install, four cycles of restarting can be hellishly long.
I had to scrounge around for a Windows 7 installation disc to run cmd, unmount the drive, and run chkdsk twice.
I went back to Ubuntu and saw that the installer does not detect the stick as a partition that I can install to. So I had no choice but to use usb-creator. I figured, what the heck, I'm just going to use Mint instead of Ubuntu to do this.
Ironically, the same usb-creator has an outstanding bug that might give me roughly the same problem in the future. Oh well. I would have to find out for myself if I'm lucky enough to avoid this problem. Or else I would have wasted one Saturday for nothing.