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Operating Systems Software Linux

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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  • by corebreech ( 469871 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @07:59AM (#8080420) Journal
    Remember to tell people that before you evangelize them on Live CD's, or they'll come away thinking that it's Linux that's slow.

    Sadly, it's a mistake I made at the apartment complex where I live. They have two computers connected via cable modem to the Internet for use by the residents. One's running Win2K, the other Win98. Needless to say, the Win98 machine started crapping out after every single piece of spyware on the planet was eventually installed. They knew I was into computers, so they asked me to take a look. I sold them on the idea of using a Live CD (Knoppix) on the premise that never again would they have to worry about residents screwing around with the system.

    For awhile, this worked, but eventually people started getting frustrated. I think the speed in loading applications was the major factor (another was fear that one of the residents would walk away with the CD.) They've since gotten management to buy another copy of Win2K.

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

    In hindsight, I should have exploited Knoppix's ability to be installed to the hard drive. It would have given them most of what they wanted, and it would've run at an acceptible speed.

    (yes, I know, *all* Linuxes can be installed to the hard drive, but the Knoppix install is basically the CD image sitting on the hard drive as read-only, which for this application had its virtues.)

    It's tragic in another sense... the apartment complex has a large number of people from all over the world who generally end up staying for relatively short periods of time, so their English isn't first rate. Good--and easy to use--i18n support would be a great help to many of them to be sure. I could have actually gotten interested in working on this aspect of Linux (really, KDE) as I've torn out quite a bit of hair trying to come to terms with this problem set, and having people who actually *use* foreign languages as my testers would have been invaluable, to say the least (I don't know a foreign language.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 25, 2004 @08:09AM (#8080444)
    I had an old PPro 200 running Win98 that I brought back from the dead with Linux.

    I tried Knoppix, but Christ, that thing ran slow, perhaps because it keeps going back to the CD.

    Then I decided to take the plunge for real, and holy crap, SuSE is the greatest EVAR. First time I'd ever tried to install Linux of any sort (besides the aforementioned Knoppix) and everything just worked. And despite some dire warnings I got from friends, KDE runs fine on a PPro 200. I love KDE - its similarity to Windows means that I find things where they are supposed to be.

    Propz to SuSE and KDE!
  • by radicalskeptic ( 644346 ) <> on Sunday January 25, 2004 @08:11AM (#8080449)
    Has anyone had luck getting a Live CD for PPC to work? I've tried Gentoo's [], and it didn't boot properly on my PowerBook--but oddly enough booted up in my roommate's CD drive just fine... which is really odd considering we both have the exact same model PowerBook!
  • by turkeyphant ( 648612 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @08:21AM (#8080481) Homepage Journal

    The article only seems to mention using these distros as a means to introduce oneself easily to Linux. While this is an obvious use of Linux-on-CD type distros, it's by no means the only one. Personally, I've found these things to be fast enough for the difference to be barely perceptible from proper installs.

    I've been using Knoppix [] for a while now and have found it to be really rather awesome. The possible uses are almost limitless and this will improve even more if the ability to write to NTFS volumes is ever introduced.

    For example: Recently a friend managed to fuck up his Window XP install beyond repair. I burned him a copy of the ISO and Knoppix sorted it out in minutes. It's blisteringly fast, the hardware auto-detection has to be seen to be believed and the amount of software on that one disc is mindblowing. It's certainly worth keeping a CD copy handy...

    However, I'm intrigued as to why MandrakeMove [] wasn't included in the article. I much prefer to use Knoppix because of its ability to mount hard drives, but MandrakeSoft have been very perceptive in their implementation of USB keys. By carrying around configuration options and personal data on a USB storage device, anyone equipped with a MandrakeMove disc can convert any CD-bootable PC around the world into an equivalent of their home desktop. Many people have predicted that this could become a lot more commonplace in the future where computer users would have to rely a lot less on a home workstation-centric lifestyle. I haven't investigated, but I would guess that persistence can be gained in Knoppix by somehow copying the contents of the ramdrive somewhere more permanent.

  • Gnoppix review (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 25, 2004 @08:22AM (#8080482)
    So their beef with Gnoppix was that they couldn't get to the Internet. And yet, they could get to a local Samba share? I don't know, this doesn't sound like Gnoppix's fault to me.
  • Re:Morphix (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Elektroschock ( 659467 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @08:39AM (#8080522)
    Games? Try Dosbox:
  • Giant leap forward (Score:5, Interesting)

    by saphena ( 322272 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @08:57AM (#8080560) Homepage
    The ability to run linux straight from the CD with no low level hard disk interference may not be enough of itself to encourage investigation and/or take up of linux by Windows users but it certainly represents a leap forward.

    Most Windows users are not computer nerds, they're just people who *use* computers - installing an operating system onto a hard disk, with or without risk to their existing setup, is just way beyond their skills or desires.

    Speed issues can be helped out if not resolved by use of RAM disk as demonstrated by
  • by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @09:21AM (#8080592) Homepage Journal
    Mildly off topic, but one use for these live CDs is hardware detection and kernel configuration.
    I'd like to try out some of the source distributions, or even do Linux from Scratch [], but wading through kernel configuration is rough on an FNG.
    Not sure how to extract the kernel parameters from a live CD once booted, though.
  • by Trailwalker ( 648636 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @09:27AM (#8080600)
    I suspect that there are a lot of people like me who work long hours and don't have time to do a lenghty install. Knoppix allows me to enjoy and explore Linux in the little time I have available.
  • java desktop? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by roqetman ( 217708 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @09:28AM (#8080601) Homepage
    I got a copy of sun's java desktop from the linuxworld expo. It is basically a gnome desktop that boots from a CD; not too bad although I haven't played with it much.
  • by halfnerd ( 553515 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @09:36AM (#8080622) Homepage
    IIRC Knoppix does _not_ install the image on the hard drive. Instead it lets the user partition the hard disk and copies over the files from the cd. Once installed on the hard drive, Knoppix is as read/write as any other "normal" GNU/Linux. Knoppix can even be up/down-graded to an ordinary Debian installation using apt, because it's Debian-based.
  • 2.6 Kernel Live CD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 25, 2004 @09:37AM (#8080625)
    Is there a Live CD which uses any version 2.6 kernel?

    For that matter, (I am quite new to Linux, like using it a lot but don't know much about the underlying code), how does one go about compiling a LiveCD ISO image with specific software?

    Ideally, I would like to take Knoppix, take out a lot of the stuff I don't use much, add in a couple of specialized progs, and get some config options which suit me more than the defaults, and then continue using this as a read-only LiveCD. Anyone to point me in the direction of a decent (beginners level) tutorial?

    I realise this isn't Ask Slashdot, but its not too far OT. Sorry anyway.
  • by dargaud ( 518470 ) <> on Sunday January 25, 2004 @09:53AM (#8080650) Homepage
    I use knoppix a lot for testing hardware. In 2 minutes you can tell what's wrong with a PC, if it's worth keeping and more.

    I also learnt about Quantian right after I finished building my 24 processor cluster []

    But how can you work with one of those ? You can surf the web but that's about all. You cannot write to NTFS partitions, so that precludes their use on a Windows machine as an alternate OS. If you can't save files it's useless as far as I can tell.

    Please, please, disprove me.

  • by digitalhermit ( 113459 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @10:10AM (#8080696) Homepage
    Knoppix and many of the others allow persistent data, either by saving to an existing partition or things like USB drives. Knoppix in particular allows you to mount FAT and NTFS, though I have not tried writing to NTFS.

    MandrakeMove, another LiveCD, has support for USB drives so you could maintain your working environment (settings, documents, etc.) across any PC.

    You can also configure some to automount an NFS home partition.
  • by axxackall ( 579006 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @10:19AM (#8080743) Homepage Journal
    700MB is certainly not enough for modern system, even if compressed. But where to get Live DVD? I understand that mostof linux distributing sites still afraid bandwidth problems, but what about live dvd making instructions at least?

    Right now it looks like Linux community stack to CD. Is it because nobody needs Live DVD and I am the only one here with DVD-ROM hardware?

  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @10:22AM (#8080765) Homepage Journal
    Given that pen drives are now at the 256M to 512M range, and a CD is 680M, how long until we see USB pen-drive distros?

    And given that READING flash is pretty quick, if the drive supports 480M USB2.0, then it *should* be pretty quick, unlike an older, slower CD drive.

    Of course, a modern CD drive should be pretty fast on read time (though seeks are still slow), so maybe a pen drive wouldn't be much better (except for being read/write).

    Anybody have any experience in this?
  • MandrakeMorph? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Frodo420024 ( 557006 ) <henrik&fangorn,dk> on Sunday January 25, 2004 @10:33AM (#8080833) Homepage Journal
    As others noticed, omitting MandrakeMove is strange. It's very slick, even the beta was solid as a rock, and I got a lot of work done.

    Now, this and Morphix ("Unfortunately, noone can be told what the Morphix is") got me thinking:

    It should be technically feasible to automate the creation of customized .ISO files for live Linux distros:
    Suppose MandrakeSoft sets up some heavy servers with a shop frontend (pricing just an example):

    1. $20: Choose packages and have ISO created for download.
    2. $10 Have a CD burned and mailed to you.
    3. $10 Reconfigure your package choice and get a fresh ISO.
    4. $10 Have a fresh ISO made out using the current kernel/KDE/OpenOffice/whatever.
    5. $20 Upgrade to DVD size image.
    6. $?? Support (not much to do here)
    7. $20 Printed manual
    You'll have your name put somewhere into it so you won't have to type it in (thus you won't like to redistribute it wildly, either), and you'd set the default language, permanent storage options etc.


    • Never install or update applications manually.
    • Update whenever you feel like it - often or rarely.
    • Never have a failed dependency or inconsistent versions after getting an update.
    • No product activation or other licensing hassle.
    • You can't mess up your install (except by physically destroying the CD :).
    • Hackers can't put backdoors on your machine.
    • Virus infection not possible.
    • Even a harddrive crash doesn't destroy your install.
    • You can even run without any hard drive in the first place.
    A public library could run their computers off a stack of these and not have to worry about people hacking the config - nothing to hack. Even a stolen CD is not a problem, you just bring out a backup copy. It's all Free Software anyway, you can let anyone steal it.

    The selling of individual ISO's is automated, the distributor merely maintains the packages on the server and collects the money. Sends a donation to OSDL once in a while :)

    Any reason this should not work?

  • Re:wow. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Visualocity ( 68770 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @10:51AM (#8080959) Homepage
    "Obviously the sysadmin for the webserver is some sort of psychic and chose to take the site down than receive a slashdotting."

    With some great foresight too;)

    The domain's pending deletion from the PIR registry, so it's likely been off for a couple of months. Often when a domain is expired, its DNS is inactive. Domains usually are not deleted at the registry level for 70+ days after expiry.
  • by Tommy Boomfiger ( 650916 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @10:57AM (#8080999) Homepage
    you can load the entire knoppix cd to ram and run it from there. it leaves around 300 megs for usage and runs a lot faster. unfortunately thats a pretty big if since a gig of ram isnt common yet.
  • by Some Dumbass... ( 192298 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @11:50AM (#8081276)
    I had an old PPro 200 running Win98 that I brought back from the dead with Linux.

    Pentium Pros are definitely far from obsolete. Remember, they ran 32-bit code significantly better than 16-bit (some sort of design tradeoff), so they'll seem much faster and more useable with any newer 32-bit OS.

    I installed Mandrake Linux (version unknown, but it used KDE 2.2) and Windows 2000 on one a couple of years ago. The system had one PPro 200 with 256k cache, 128MB EDO RAM, and a 4Gb Fast SCSI hard drive. Both OSes and most applications took a while to start, so I changed the hard drive to a 13Gb IDE drive, one with (at the time) modern specs (8.5ms seek, 2Mb cache, about 20Mb/s continuous read speed). I tell ya', putting in a fast hard drive made all the difference. Wait times for starting apps went from ridiculous to reasonable, and once everything was in memory, apps were quite responsive -- much better than I thought they'd be. So stick a fast hard drive in one of those, make sure it has enough RAM, and it'll run just fine. Even moreso for dual PPro systems or one with one of those 333MHz/512k cache overdrive processors.
  • by Jagasian ( 129329 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @01:24PM (#8081770)
    If you don't want all that bulk of Knoppix, then try two of its derivatives:

    1. Damn Small Linux [], which is 50MB and fits on those business card CDs. Keep a few in your wallet, so you can pass them out to friends.

    2. Flonix [], which is 60MB and fits on those small CDs and also has another distro that fits on bootable USB Flash pen drives. I have a combination of DSL and Flonix on my 64MB keychain USB flash drive, along with DOS, and the Redhat network installer (all bootable from my syslinux menu). Talk about a useful keychain :)
  • by carlmenezes ( 204187 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @01:36PM (#8081829) Homepage
    Funny you mentioned this. How about distributing Knoppix at primary schools to the parents with specific instructions about the educational games on it for their kids? Might even get some parents interested and it would certainly spread the word. Most of all, it would make the kids comfortable using Linux and they'll grow up appreciating it's stability, flexibility and the amount they can do with it. If done right, it could pretty much have a snowball effect.
  • try synaptic (Score:2, Interesting)

    by timothy ( 36799 ) on Sunday January 25, 2004 @03:56PM (#8082571) Journal
    I have hard-disk-installed Knoppix on two machines (a Duron desktop and a Celeron laptop).

    On both of them, I found that apt-get dist-upgrade broke (I forget the exact error) as your describe. However, by apt-getting the excellent package manager synaptic, and using the upgrade feature from there, it worked fine.

    Why this should be is beyond me, since as I understand things, synaptic is nothing more than a pretty wrapper, and is calling the same commands. However, it's hard to argue with success, and all I can say is that this mysteriously worked. Perhaps it would work for you, too :)


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