I had some difficulties creating a bootable USB stick on MacOSX. Most guides use hdiutil and dd to put the image on the stick, but this failed to boot on my linux machine…

This article was very helpful, and confirms what I was thinking. The main difference is that this method makes a MBR partition table, adds MBR boot code and puts the data onto the first partition (as opposed to putting the data straight onto the disk).

As a summary (and backup in case the article goes offline):

  • (Re)partition the stick using Disk Utility with 1 FAT partition, MBR partition table
  • Unmount the disk
  • Make the partition active. In Terminal, do:
    sudo fdisk -e /dev/SOMEdisk2
    f 1
  • Get the mbr.bin file from syslinux. I used one from here (for the paranoid, my mbr.bin MD5’s to 8cb37afc263a219ebb7586f9c495114e)
  • Copy it onto the stick, without overwriting your partition table:
    sudo dd conv=notrunc bs=440 count=1 if=mbr.bin of=/dev/SOMEdisk2
  • Use UNetbootin to do the rest