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Four Linux Live CDs, The Executive Summary 243

prostoalex writes "ExtremeTech published a review of 4 Linux live distributions that do not require installation and run off a CD. Knoppix, Feather Linux, Gnoppix and MEPIS Linux were researched, with Knoppix winning the competition (and Gnoppix not graded, since it's still in beta)." One more (of the seemingly infinite number of live distros) I've recently tried and been happy with is called Slax, and is what it sounds like -- a live Slackware distribution. Slax worked great with my finicky older Toshiba laptop. (However, appears to be down.)
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Four Linux Live CDs, The Executive Summary

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  • Re:DSL? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FePe ( 720693 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @08:11AM (#8080450)
    Im surprised they left out Damn Small Linux (
    Maybe it has something to do with its name? ;-)
  • The speed of live CDs is becoming less of an issue as RAM sizes get larger. On my 512Mb notebook, Knoppix runs just fine.

    What I find more interesting than "standard Linux on a CD" is the concept of packaging a specific application along with a live CD. For example, the systemrescueCD boots up and gives a good set of tools for doing backups/restores of your disks.

    What works for backup/restore also works for games, demos, even large-scale applications that do not require intensive local data storage. The advantage of a live CD based on something like Knoppix is that it will run on practically any PC out there, booting in less time than it would normally take to install and configure.

    There is little reason why a lot of software should be hard-installed onto PCs, and many reasons why it's a pain in lots of cases.

    The counter argument is that "yes, but I want to be able to switch back from my game to my other applications." But this ignores the huge market for single-purpose kiosk-style systems, in home, in shops, and in business.

    I would estimate that 30% or more of all PCs run only a few specific applications, and that most of the future expansion is into kiosk-style areas where live CDs are a perfect answer.

    Why is this interesting? Because Linux has a significant lead in this technology mainly thanks to Knoppix. Thus a large part of Linux's future growth may well come from a native technology, which is much nicer than trying to win market share by imitating Windows.

  • Here are some instances I can think of:

    - home entertainment systems
    - small office use (with data saved on network disk)
    - education and training (data on USB drives)
    - standardized corporate desktops (data on network)
    - cybercafe workstations
    - point-of-sale terminals
    - industrial kiosks
    - voting systems
    - automated tellers
    - DJ workstations
    - application demos (both standalone and interactive)
    - games

  • by m00nun1t ( 588082 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @09:42AM (#8080633) Homepage
    Slow is slow. Maybe they understand, maybe they don't. The windows 2000 machine is fast. The knoppix machine is slow. Reasons are irrelevant.
  • by marafa ( 745042 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @09:43AM (#8080637) Homepage Journal
    what about MandrakeMove? from
  • by ParadoxDruid ( 602583 ) * on Sunday January 25, 2004 @10:07AM (#8080687) Homepage
    I fail to see said virtues. If you are going to write to the harddrive, it might as well be a full featured Linux distro, such as SuSE or RedHat. Why the hell not?

    Knoppix installs a complete version of Debian, which I would say qualifies as a full featured Linux distrobution. I installed Debian testing via Knoppix over 5 months ago, and I've never looked back-- I left my computer dual-booting into WinXPpro, and I think I've booted into it maybe twice.

    Go Knoppix!

  • by Dr. Faustroll ( 745092 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @10:37AM (#8080868)

    At LinuxWorld last week, John "Mad Dog" Hall gave an excellent talk that, among other recommendations, made a crucial point about introducing newcomers to Linux:

    Don't overwhelm them with ten different applications to do the same thing - pick one, and pick well.

    This is the problem I've seen with distros like Knoppix - while they're great resources for experienced Linux users who want to have all of their favorite tools available anywhere, the number of apps is too much for newbies to handle. If you want to turn someone off Linux, just tell them "Well, for word processing you could use Abiword, or KWord, or OpenOffice. And look, you can use Dillo, or Mozilla, or Konqueror, or Firebird as your web browser. Isn't this great!" - I guarantee eyes will rapidly glaze over. The "let them explore the CD" approach is no better - the menus are cluttered and unintuitive to the newcomer, and the plethora of application interfaces with wildly different visual styles and conventions will finish confusing and scaring them.

    If you really want to introduce people to Linux using a LiveCD, I recommend taking the time to make a custom CD that carefully selects a subset of the available applications that will be both interesting and accessible to your audience. This is actually quite easy and fun to do, starting from Knoppix (or Damn Small Linux, or Morphix, or...), and is one of the most useful things you can do to help Linux gain acceptance by a broader audience.

  • by J. T. MacLeod ( 111094 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @10:40AM (#8080881)
    Unfortunately, the iso9660 filesystem module doesn't support writing. It wouldn't work at the last step.

    The two alternative choices for editing an ISO image are
    a) Copy all the files to another filesystem, edit, then create another ISO
    b) If you just need to change one line, you can load the entire ISO image into a text editor and search for the line you need to change. I'm not sure if you could do that in this case, since LILO compiles the options into the binary.
  • by IWK ( 20254 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @10:52AM (#8080971)
    Tut tut. The parent was right. "The Knoppix install" you are mentioning in the grand-parent is in reality as described in

    You on the other hand are pointing at what is at best a fun hack and certainly not the "default knoppix way". It' s also a rather pointless excersise. A normal Knoppix HD install is faster, can be updated through the apt-get update/upgrade routine and it also cannot be damaged when using non-root accounts (as you should). After all, in Knoppix-as-run-from-CD they have full access to their machine through the password-less root-console.....(wich you then should remove). The only advantage I could think of is that the method you're linking to will save you a little over a Gigabyte of HD space...

    In the grand-partent you write:

    "...Yes, I failed it. I assumed that they would understand that since it was running from a CD, that the experience would be slower..."

    You failed your users because you didn't offer them a solution which fitted with *their* expectations. Instead you came up with a wizz-bang hack which fittted yours (running an office environment from CD! Cool!). Your users only want to have easy, hassle-free computing. A reduction in speed *is* a major hassle.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 25, 2004 @10:58AM (#8081011)
    I think a better answer whould have been a well partitioned system with the majority of the mountpoints mounted as readonly (especially /home). Assuming that they only use it for the internet, you should also be able to trim down the system significantly.

    Well what can they expect, they asked you to do it (no pay), and I doubt that the Win2k system will last for ever either against tons of spyware. Maybe they'll come around and give it another try.

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard