Friday, July 18, 2008

Open Source OS's Bonus: Live CD

Welcome to the bonus section of the Open Source Operating System mini-series. The bonus topic for today is all about Live CD's or LiveUSB. I created this section to give everyone some information on how they can try these open source operating systems without formatting or having virtualization software. The key to doing this is the "live" concept that Linux uses extensively. So here we go:

Live CD's are versions of an operating system that don't require a full install to run. They allow you to boot the operating system from the live disk and use the features of the OS almost as if you had installed it. For those of you that feel inclined to try out one of the operating systems I have highlighted or maybe another one you have heard about, it is easy with Live CD's. I found a list of the operating systems - with download links - that have Live CD's so you can play with them: click here. To create a Live CD, you need only download the ISO (disk image) and use an ISO burning software (Nero or ImgBurn) to put it on the disk. Thats it. You just run the disk on startup or there are even version that let you run the disk over your native OS and you are set. It seems to me that Ubuntu has the most popular version of a Live CD out there so check it out.

Live USB = A live USB or thumb drive would allow you to do the same thing as a Live CD with one fundamental difference. Rather than having a live image to boot from, you can actually install the full operating system on the USB thumb drive. This means that you can insert your thumb drive into the USB port, change your BIOS settings to "boot from USB drive" and then actually boot the computer from your thumb. This is actually a tool that a lot of hackers (the bad kind) use to get access to a hard drive without accessing the native operating system. That is the illegal application of this concept. The legal application is that you can boot to an operating system, get the internet, do whatever else you need to from ANY computer (that allows you to boot from USB). It also provides you a way of experimenting with various Linux OS's without all the cost of buying an extra hard drive or formatting your existing one. Here is a Google search with links to various tutorials and other such useful information (that way I don't have to do all the leg work of explaining it).

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