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10/02/2005 Archived Entry: "Live CD Linux"
A few weeks back I wrote about using Knoppix, a Linux that runs from CD-ROM, to make an Internet kiosk. A friend wrote and asked me about Ubuntu Linux as an alternative.
I have a copy of Ubuntu Linux, and it includes two CD-ROMs. One is the "install CD," for normal installation on your hard disk, and the other is the "Live CD," which runs entirely from CD and doesn't use the hard disk. I haven't tried Ubuntu yet, but the "buzz" about Ubuntu has been favorable. Currently it's #1 on DistroWatch. So I think I'll try that for my kiosk experiment.
But there are many others. DistroWatch has an entire web page listing them. I've only seen Knoppix and Mepis in action, so here's what I know:
Knoppix - Based on Debian Linux, it has a truly impressive ability to automatically detect and configure your PC's hardware. You can install it permanently to your hard disk, but it's not an easy job -- gurus only.
Mepis - Also based on Debian, it's not as pretty as Knoppix, but seems to be just as effective. I've seen it boot successfully on a variety of laptop computers. One big advantage is that it can be easily installed to hard disk if you like it. For some reason this is missing from the DistroWatch Live CDs page.
Some of the "big name" Linux distributors, such as SuSE and Linspire, are also offering Live CDs, but I get the impression that these are really "trial" CDs really intended for product evaluation, and not something you'd use in its own right. According to DistroWatch SuSE's Live-Eval CD does use your hard disk...so it's not a true "run from CD" Linux in my book. (A pity, because I think SuSE is an excellent Linux.) Linspire's product seems to be more useful, but I do recall that Linspire demands a broadband Internet connection, so I wouldn't use it for a kiosk.
Distrowatch shows the 5 most popular Live CDs as Knoppix, Mepis, PCLinuxOS (based on Mandrake Linux), SLAX (based on Slackware Linux), and Damn Small Linux.
Even if you're never going to use Linux, it's worth having one of these CD-ROMs in your toolkit. I've rescued defective hard drives with them, and others have recovered files from crashed Windows systems.