Can anyone recommend a live cd/usb linux distro that supports persistent storage and isn't ubuntu-based?
the whole Debian-Live part is semi optional at that. i untar an image onto a usb stick, chroot in, run `bootctl install` to install systemd-boot, and it's pretty much good to go, uses the stick in read/write mode.
i've run my main desktop this way for almost 2 years before i finally got around to copying it onto the hard drive! i just rsync'ed that same OS onto a new partition on the ssd, chrooted in, and ran bootctl install again! system cloned! there's not really any need for installers in Debian. debootstrap already has a pretty ready to go image! :)