December 28, 2005

Porting your Linux desktop

I've mentioned before that I'm test-driving several(okay, 11) LiveCD Linux distros, trying to determine which one I'd like to use as a counterpoint to the ubiquitous Microsoft product. However, as some people have noticed, you have to be a bit geek savvy to work with even the most user friendly Linux OS. Installing a printer is just not that intuitive. For the record, I've worked in assorted Unix/Linux operating systems for more than 15 years, so I'm not a novice at such things. If it's giving me trouble, it's bound to be pissing most everyone else.

Anyway, if getting rid of Windows isn't really in the cards for you, but you'd like to have a portable Linux OS that you can take and use anywhere, even on older computers that choke on XP. then this article at Desktop Linux might be what you've been looking for. Excerpt:

Why would anyone want to use a Linux liveCD as a basic day to day desktop? Here are some thoughts:

  • Easy to load and update -- Easy, because your data (including configurations) are separate from the operating system (OS). The idea of separating data from the OS has always appealed to me. It seems like a very logical and smart thing to do. Even when I partition a system for a hard drive Linux install, I create a separate partition for /home. Doesn't everybody?

  • It's portable -- You can take it with you and securely boot up from just about any PC. Also, Linux liveCDs can often be installed and booted from a USB drive (thanks to some excellent standards around booting from USB drives). This really beats lugging a laptop around (especially when airport security is involved). The downside is that your Live-CD might not boot on all hardware. The distro might not detect the hardware correctly or the hardware might not be able to boot from CD or USB.

  • Most run on older PC hardware -- Not only do they run, they usually run quite fast! (Did you ever notice that you usually cannot upgrade old PCs from Windows 95 to Windows XP?) Some of the older PCs don't support booting from CD or USB. In such cases, you can usually copy the CD to the hard drive and create a boot floppy to load the image from the hard drive.

  • Security -- It's hard for someone to violate your OS when it resides on a read only CD. And, you can always reboot to a pristine state. This is kind of like going to communion and being forgiven for all past sins. Linux by design is a very secure OS. This just improves on it. Amen.

  • It's just plain fun! -- You can remix if you like. You can do your own. This is one of the great things about open source. I am waiting for the next version of Windows XP liveCD. Don't get me wrong here, Microsoft does allow generating DOS 3.1 boot disks so you can network stage new XP clients. But that is more of an enterprise moment...

If you're in the mood to give Linux a test, but have no intention of getting rid of your Windows machine, this option might be for you. A portable, personalized OS that goes where you go. All you need is something like a USB flash drive for data storage and you're good to go.

Posted by: Physics Geek at 11:11 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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