I made a reply to a topic recently, and one of my solutions to someone's dilemma had to do with "Live Disks." This rose a little interest, so I thought I'd give some more info on the idea.
With a live disk, you can run an entire operating system from a CD-ROM. Imagine being able to carry your OS of choice with you, whether your on your way to fix a computer or writing a report on whatever computer you can find. Hacking on the go? Not used to new operating systems and you would like to try it first? Then a live disk may be your answer.
This is not a new concept, but it's growing popular in recent times, as it is becoming more practical and usable. I feel some of these may become almost neccesary. Many include important security, system recovery, and forensic tools Some of these Linux and Unix Live Disks boast read and sometimes writing capability on an NTFS partition.
Here are some I've found:
A Slackware based Linux Live Disk capable of booting from an 8cm compact disk without losing functionality or performance.
A Slackware and Knoppix based live disk. Coming in two distros, in a sense, there is a pakage with limited capability and customization, and a fully loaded package that seems to have all one needs to see the capabilities of Linux, including Word Processors, IM, Multimedia, Graphics and Development Programs. STUX can also automatically load and save main configuration and personal files on a writable partition.
Morphix is a derivative of Knoppix and Debian, another live CD distribution. Morphix is modular; this means that it consists of a number of parts which together form a working distribution, thus making it very customizable. Morphix should still be considered experimental in nature. No guarentees are given, use Morphix at your own risk!
A Mandrake based live disk. A complete Linux distro allowing for general desktop use or to serve as a system rescue disk all from CD. PCLinuxOS is a community based non-profit distribution initially based on Mandrake Linux. Just think of it as Mandrake Linux enhanced by Texstar on a single bootable live CD with 1.5GB of desktop applications and the ability to install right to your hard drive with everything ready to work out of the box.
Cool Linux CD
Cool Linux is part of the LINUX EMERGENCY CD project and is based on Red Hat Linux. It is a bootable, live Linux CD with NVidia drivers, Blender, VMware (trial), OpenOffice and plenty of other software, both free and demo.
RPM Live Linux CD
An RPM based Linux live disk. A CD based "server capable" distro that is small, runs on almost all hardware, supports clustering and can easely be (re) built and/or extended using ready to use software packages. It should also run either completely from cd on systems with small amounts of ram and in a "full-ram" mode if enough is aviable. Useful for dedicated servers, routers, emergency systems, cluster nodes and such, it does not contain an X11 Server.
Basically a bootable media player. You may wonder why you could have to boot on another operating system to play your media files, but just think about the Mini-ITX plateforms like VIA Epia/Eden or Shuttle barebones. It's now affordable to bring DivX to your home cinema, pluging this kind of computers directly to your TV !! At the time of the first development release (December 2002), it was only able to play DivX movies, but for now, nearly every kind of media files can be played from GeeXboX.
Professional Hackers Linux Assault Kit. PHLAK is based on Morphix, and is a modular live security Linux distribution. PHLAK comes with two light gui's (fluxbox and XFCE4), many security tools, and a spiral notebook full of security documentation.
Knoppix Security Tools Distribution. STD focuses on information security and network management tools. It is meant to be used by both the novice looking to learn more about information security and the security professional looking for another swiss army knife for their tool kit. The tools are divided into the following categories: authentication, encryption utilities, firewalls, penetration tools, vulnerability assessment, forensic tools, honeypots, intrusion detection, packet sniffers and assemblers, network utilities, wireless tools, password auditing (crackers) and servers.
Forensic and Incident Response Environment. FIRE is a portable bootable cdrom based distribution with the goal of providing an immediate environment to perform forensic analysis, incident response, data recovery, virus scanning and vulnerability assessment.
System Rescue CD
SystemRescueCd is a linux system on a bootable cdrom for repairing your system and your data after a crash. It also aims to provide an easy way to carry out admin tasks on your computer, such as creating and editing the partitions of the hard disk. It aims to be very easy to use: just boot from the cdrom, and you can do everything. The kernel of the system supports most important file systems (ext2/ext3, reiserfs, xfs, jfs, vfat, ntfs, iso9660), and network ones (samba and nfs).
Damn Small Linux
A distro made to run from a business card size CD. It provides almost a full desktop environment with many tools for more than just fuctionality, allowing work to get done and have some fun.
A mini distro based in China. It aims to be a handy administration/rescue tool for system administrators as well as general users. I haven't tried it, but the stable release is only 18M. That's less than half that of Damn Small Linux.
A Free BSD based live disk. This is the first Unix live disk I found. Unix speaks for itself. What isn't based on Unix, in some way? ;-) It's stable and some say it's best for servers, but it's what Linux is based on! For Windows users, it may seem to involve too much command line. Now you can see for yourself without the need for installing it.
A Unix live disk based on the FreeBSD kernel. ClosedBSD is a firewall and network address translation utility capable of booting from a single Floppy or CD.
From what I understand, the kernel image is unpacked and loaded to memory where a virtual hard disk is created and and the rootdisk image is unpacked to it and mounted as the root filesystem. Many small directories are mounted using scripts, and large directories typically work from CD, making them read only. Some distros have options where you can load the entire disk image to RAM (if you can spare it), freeing the CD drive.
Now, you may ask how can I save my work if I'm working from disk. The distros aren't the same, but you can save files and configuration to floppies, and some include the capability to write CDs, to another freed drive no doubt. Another feature of the live disks is, if you decide that you like that distro, you can always install to the hard disk. However, not all are made to be used as standard desktops. Some are strictly for security and recovery use.
Okay, I'm not a huge linux user. I'm very used to Windows, and any of the disks I've tried, I haven't exactly mastered. There are countless things I don't know about Linux. I just wanted to spread the word, and give a little bit of backround. Experiment people! :-) I will post more links to more live distros in later posts.
-- Xero Grid --