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I'd like to stick a complete TeX system on a flash drive to be able to quickly demonstrate and disseminate TeX and its distributions, but I'd like to keep the total file size small since the medium would be a 4-8GB flash drive.

Goals:

  • Have at least one complete TeX distribution that will work out-of-the-box for each major OS (Windows, Mac, Linux) (That is, at least one per.)
  • Able to be installed and functional without an internet connection or non-default (and not-included, e.g. TeXLive needs and includes Perl) dependencies. (That is, batteries included.)
  • Ability to demonstrate a reasonable amount of ([Lua|Xe])(La)TeX's functionality on-the-fly regardless of OS (restriction to the major players is probably necessary here).

Since the vast majority of each TeX distribution is in fact duplicated among each one, I'd like to avoid such reduplication. That said, TeX Live should install TeX Live; MikTeX should install MikTeX; MacTeX should install MacTeX.

Is there any way to rig this up, short of putting each offline installer and live system on the flash drive (which would be way over 4GB, and probably over 8GB)?

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Have a look at Knoppix distro in an answer to Does standalone LaTeX exist? –  texenthusiast Jul 26 '13 at 14:37
    
I've been kind of mystified as to how TeX gets to be so big --- I just use w32tex, it seems to me all you'd need to add would be some .zip archives of the binaries for the other architectures and write setup scripts for each architecture you want to support. –  WillAdams Jul 26 '13 at 14:43
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@WillAdams TeX distributions are so big mainly because of the size of the documentation and fonts. For example, nearly half of TeXLive 2013 resides in the doc/ directory (approx 1.6GB) and just over a third is in the fonts/ directory (approx 1.3GB). The files in tex/ (.tex, .sty, .cls etc) take up only 6% (approx 228MB). A minimal TeX distribution that only had computer modern fonts, no documentation and no source files would be a lot slimmer. –  Nicola Talbot Jul 26 '13 at 15:28
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@NicolaTalbot I'm sure you've seen it, but a good rundown of each component's size is available here on TeX.SX. –  Sean Allred Jul 26 '13 at 15:38
    
@SeanAllred Actually I hadn't seen it, but thanks for pointing it out :-) –  Nicola Talbot Jul 26 '13 at 16:03
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I wrote a series of articles on creating a minimal LuaTeX installation from scratch (on Windows). It may be useful to you as a starting point for creating your own distribution, depending on how complete you need that distribution to be. For my own work I compile LuaTeX/XeTeX from source code and hook them up to my own minimal custom setup. If you are interested you can read the articles here: http://www.readytext.co.uk/?cat=8

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