5 ways to use bootable Linux live discs

Live CDs, DVDs or USB drives let you run Linux without actually installing it. Here are five reasons why you should.

By Logan Kugler – July 20, 2010 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld – In the almost 20 years since Linux was first released into the world, free for anyone to use and modify however they like, the operating system has been put to a lot of uses. Today, a vast number of servers run Linux to serve up Web pages and applications, while user-friendly versions of Linux run PCs, netbooks, and even Android and WebOS phones.

One incredibly useful way that Linux has been adapted to the needs of modern computer users is as a “live CD,” a version of the operating system that can be booted from a CD (or a DVD or, in some cases, a USB drive) without actually being installed on the computer’s hard drive. Given the massive RAM and fast CPUs available on even the lowest-end computers today, along with Linux’s generally lower system requirements compared to Windows and Mac OS X, you can run Linux quite comfortably from a CD drive.

Live discs allow you to radically transform the nature of the machine you’re working on — without modifying the installed operating system and software at all. There are a number of reasons you might want to do this. The most obvious is to test a new version or different distribution of Linux before deploying it, saving yourself the surprise of incompatible software or nonfunctional hardware after installation. But even if your business does not plan to deploy Linux as a desktop or server operating system, there are still good reasons to have a live Linux CD or two on hand.

Live CDs are great for system diagnosis and recovery when disaster strikes; they’re also useful for securing and testing your network. And for road warriors, the ability to boot up a familiar, customized operating system on any machine, anywhere in the world, has an obvious attraction — as do specialized live distributions designed to provide security and anonymity for workers with sensitive data or communications to protect.

Live discs are read-only, which means they’re quite secure, since malware can’t make any changes to the core system. If you do get an infection, it disappears as soon as you reboot.

Here are five ways to use live Linux in your business, as well as pointers to distributions best suited to each particular task.

1. Test-drive Linux

Over the years, Linux has developed from a usability nightmare into a fairly straightforward desktop operating system. With professional-quality productivity tools like OpenOffice.org for creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations and GIMP for image editing, as well as versions of familiar applications such as Firefox, Thunderbird, Adobe Reader and Flash, most common business tasks can be done pretty easily on a Linux system.

You can see how well adapted Linux is to your business by running several of the most popular desktop distributions from a live CD. Perhaps the most refined and user-friendly desktop system available right now is Ubuntu, which includes just about every application you could ever ask for, from business productivity apps to programs for multimedia editing, Web design, running databases, serving up Web pages and chatting online.

Ubuntu, one of the most popular desktop Linux distros available, comes preloaded with the open-source office suite OpenOffice.org.

Ubuntu’s installation disk is itself a live CD, so if you decide to install the system later you can just run the installer from the Ubuntu desktop.

2. Recover aging hardware

Linux in general has lower system requirements than other contemporary operating systems, but there are a few distributions that are specially designed to take advantage of old, even ancient, computer hardware, letting you squeeze a few more years of life out of systems you wouldn’t even think of running Windows on — including machines with broken hard drives.

Both Damn Small Linux (DSL) and Puppy Linux are designed for older systems, requiring only a Pentium 486 or equivalent CPU and 128MB of RAM to run well. DSL can even run with just 64MB of RAM. Both launch a usable, if somewhat stripped down, user interface that’s perfect for tasks like sending and receiving e-mail, creating documents and surfing the Web — in other words, basic administrative tasks.

Puppy Linux (upper left) and Damn Small Linux are optimized for older hardware, turning ancient machines into functional workstations.

For the rest of Mr. Kugler’s excellent post, visit Computerworld.com

10 types of system administrators you’ll encounter in the field

  • Date: July 17th, 2010
  • Author: Justin James

The world of IT is filled with interesting characters. System administrators are human just like the rest of us, and some have such standout personalities that we remember them for a long time. Here is a humorous look at 10 types of sys admins you may encounter in the wild. You might even find yourself on the list.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Over-caffeinated Man

We all know that IT departments require caffeine as a critical resource. It’s right up there with electricity and paychecks in terms of getting things done. But a few system administrators take this a bit too far. They drink so much coffee they’re constantly changing from an unstoppable ball of energy to a morose sack of caffeine withdrawal. This type is easily spotted by the innumerable brown stains on their shirts (soda or coffee) and their wild, bloodshot eyes.

2: Rebel Without a Clue

Ever meet the administrator who acts as if the company is the enemy instead of the employer? I know I’ve met a few. These admins treat the spare parts shelf as a treasure trove to be raided whenever their personal PC breaks down. They constantly work around the rules when they don’t like them. And they badmouth management to anyone who will listen. Trying to get a project done with them makes you feel like being a character in a Hunter S. Thompson book: You keep expecting something to explode or to be deported. While it can be fun watching them at work for a few minutes, spending more than five minutes with these rebels can possibly get you fired.

3: Your Data Is My Gossip Mill

Yes, the system administrator has access to all of the data on the network. But one kind of sys admin delights in actually taking a look at data all over the network, looking for juicy tidbits to start rumors. You’ll know if there is one of these around pretty quickly. They will start using phrases from your reports and emails in conversations with you to let you know that they know what you have been doing with your PC. Your best defense is either to be fastidiously proper in your use of company resources or to embark on a ruthless campaign of disinformation aimed at exposing these admins to others for the snakes they are. Planting false evidence in a file named Super-Secret Merger Plans should do the trick.

4: The Otaku

“Otaku” is Japanese for someone who is obsessive about a particular item. It’s like a geek gone to the ultimate degree, but specialized on one particular topic. Many sys admins take the geek trait of curiosity too far and end up deep into Otaku-land. Otakus are increasingly difficult to spot. As IT becomes more and more assimilated into mainstream corporate culture, the Otakus have a harder time expressing themselves in the workplace.

5: Flower Power

An increasingly rare breed of system administrators still thinks it is 1967. And it shows. These men and women come to the office wearing bell-bottom jeans, tie-dyed shirts, and patchouli oil. Chances are, they became interested in computers sometime around the Moon Race. They can be a ton of fun to be around, with far-out stories and knowledge of the history of computers, as only someone who was there can tell it. Sadly, these hippies-turned-geeks are retiring now, and their wealth of knowledge will soon be lost for good.

For the rest of the list, visit TechRepublic.com

Create a 3-D Hologram With Your iPad

N-3D DEMO from aircord on Vimeo.

Screw video conferencing. Toss out those 3-D glasses. We just got one step closer to making portable holographic videos a reality (something we’ve all been waiting for ever since the first Star Wars flick came out back in 1977). This new demo from Japan-based creative team Aircord labo uses nothing more than a glass prism (with “special film”), a projector, and an iPad to create a 3-D display that runs on OpenFrameworks and MaxMSP (you can download the program files here). Think that’s pretty badass? So do we. But wait, there’s more! With an installed application, the program can also respond to sound, making the 3-D holovid display interactive.

The simplicity and accessibility of this design is what makes it most exciting to us. We can’t wait to see what happens when the OpenFrameworks community takes hold of this thing and takes it for a joy ride. How long do you think it’ll be before holovids are on the iPhone? We give it 5 years.

[via CreativeApplications.net]