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Summary:

While the majority of web workers are Windows- and Mac-based, there are a lot of good, free ways to open up to the rich world of Linux applications, too. Some people go to the trouble of using virtualization tools to run Linux locally on the same […]

While the majority of web workers are Windows- and Mac-based, there are a lot of good, free ways to open up to the rich world of Linux applications, too. Some people go to the trouble of using virtualization tools to run Linux locally on the same machine they have their primary operating systems on. You don’t have to go to these lengths, though. In this post, I’ll cover ways to get into using Linux and applications for it running from nothing more than a CD or USB key.

Knoppix is a free, widely-used Live Linux CD distribution, based on Debian GNU/Linux. It bills itself as “from zero to Linux in five minutes,” because one download gets you the distribution, complete with top open source applications such as the OpenOffice.org suite of productivity applications, AbiWord, Gimp (graphics), and more.


You can also choose to run Knoppix from a USB key, or you can load it on a partition on your hard drive to keep it separate from your primary operating system. It’s designed to be snappy, and its footprint is 700MB even with the many software applications it includes. It does on-the-fly decompression, so you don’t have to have anything installed on your hard disk. I installed it in about three minutes.

As is true for many Linux distributions, the Knoppix community contributes to documentation for it. You can find lots of help at the Knoppix wiki.  Knoppix has also given rise to many knock-off versions that also run from a CD or USB key. The one that has really caught my eye is SliTaz, which can sit on your USB key at only 24.8MB, and is fully open source. You don’t get anywhere near as many applications as Knoppix gives you, but you get Firefox, an FTP client and many other useful applications for free.

If you’ve shied away from Linux until now, these are ways to start exploring in under five minutes. You’ll have fun giving a new environment a try, and might find some applications that you’ll stick with.

Do you use any Live CD versions of Linux?

  1. I use a CD of puppylinux and duplicate USB drives for my data and back up.
    Free, truly portable (I can run on any hardware)and virus free.
    The concept of the live CD has defined the end of the traditional operating system.
    I don’t know any linux but can insert a CD and click the desktop icon for the application I want to use

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  2. I’ve used Ubuntu Linux 7.? and it’s okay, i guess. I really see no point in learning to use something different when I already own MS OS’s. I like the ease of connecting to networked PC’s in windows. If windows would dump the whole registry idea, I think that it would really be awesome. Maybe someday… probably never.

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  3. and don’t forget http://wubi-installer.org/ .

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  4. I actually use Damn Small Linux running within QEMU (similar to VMWARE). That allows me to fire it up while still running Windows. It’s actually pretty handy for accessing my Linux servers. I can SSH into the servers and open the server applications in DSL on my desktop machine.

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  5. Five minutes? Too much time for me. I can spin up an instance of a Linux box on Amazon EC2 in like 45 seconds.

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  6. “If windows would dump the whole registry idea, I think that it would really be awesome.”

    take out registry and replace it with the word proprietary and your statement makes perfect sense.

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  7. A new Cooking LiveCD ISO image, providing many improvements from the stable release, is now available.

    SliTaz now uses the minimalistic, highly configurable Openbox as its default window manager.

    Auto-mounting of removable media, such as USB flash drives, is available.

    Most of the major packages have been updated. And software packages can now be easily managed through the graphical SliTaz Packages Manager. Because there are nearly 600 packages on the repositories, there is tremendous scope for expansion.

    The cooking LiveCD now offers: Lua, the programming language; Searchmonkey, a fast, real-time desktop search engine; Hardinfo, the system profiler and benchmarker; LXTask, the lightweight task manager; password and clipboard managers; and super-fast Firefox 3.0 RC1.

    This version will be showcased at the LinuxDays 2008 Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, 21-22 May 2008.

    Please check it out. It has lots of goodies.

    Latest cooking LiveCD: http://download.tuxfamily.org/slitaz/iso/cooking/slitaz-cooking.iso
    MD5sum: ftp://download.tuxfamily.org/slitaz/iso/cooking/slitaz-cooking.md5

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