the tragedy of Fedora Live USB conversion and what we can do about it

Kamil Paral kparal at
Thu Jul 31 09:04:16 UTC 2014

It's a well-known fact in our circles that third-party USB conversion tools (like UNetbootin or Universal USB Installer) can't create Fedora Live USB correctly. Unfortunately, it is not well known among our users (I see it very often on test list, IRC, or local website/forums) and even journalists. This is an article that was published yesterday showcasing difficulties of Fedora installation process (translated from Czech by google translate):

The purpose of that article is to highlight the fact that Linux has made a lot of progress in the last years, but the results are still a bit like a Russian roulette. Fedora, in this case, is shown as the negative example. The website itself is not known for high quality articles here in CZ, but they are quite popular and have a large reader base. They are mainly Windows-focused, but with the recent advancement of Linux on all fronts (mainly in gaming), they're clearly willing to provide more Linux coverage - and they picked Fedora as their second option right after Ubuntu, which is great. Provided they're able to install it in the first place...

The result of Live USB boot attempt is often this (from the article):

I wonder, is there something we can do to improve the situation?
* We have no control over third-party USB conversion tools.
* Even if we file bug reports, they are often ignored (Adam Williamson said he tried to communicate with UNetbootin, unsuccessfully).
* Third-party USB installers fail for many distributions, like OpenSUSE <> or Arch <>.
* Still, they are hugely popular, because Ubuntu and its derivatives dominate the market and those tools usually work fine for them.
* The users simply don't know that those tools shouldn't be used, and some others should be used instead.

I don't known the technical details about USB conversion process, but maybe we could collectively think of some changes that would improve the current state at least a bit?

Some ideas:
1. First and foremost, we should obviously consider whether we can make some compose changes that would make the image more compatible with third-party USB installers. That's very technical, but I hope relevant people could provide some comments here.

2. Second, we could make USB conversion instructions more visible on our pages. If you look at, there's a big Download Now! button, which gives you the ISO, but you'll never encounter any suggestions what to do with it. That's only available at in the right column (which is nice and quite visible, I think). Could we provide the same information on the front page?

3. Third, if everything goes wrong and you end up in a dracut shell, could we at least advise our users what went wrong and what to do with it? Because the current output is very scary and very hard to decipher by a general user:
So what if we detected that we failed to find a partition having "Fedora-Live" in its name (thus most probably an incorrectly created LiveUSB), and in that case printed out something like this?

* It seems Fedora Live image could not have been accessed. This often happens *
* when Live USB media is incorrectly created by a third-party USB installer.  *
* Please refer to official documentation on for proper      *
* instructions.                                                               *
(native speakers will surely make it sound better)

This would help our users a lot to understand what's wrong and how to fix it. Also, it would be much easier to google out the problem. If we included the same text on our LiveUSB instructions page <>, it could receive a very good position in online search results.

So, what do you think? From my experience, the inability to boot USB is very common and I'd even say it's one of the major problems why new users walk away from Fedora. Because, understand, they don't even know something is wrong on their end. That scary dracut error looks like a problem in Fedora, and therefore often their conclusion is "Fedora is so broken it can't even boot". If we try to mitigate the problem at least with clear explanations, we will not only discourage less users, but also decrease the number of negative reviews by journalists. 

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