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Live CDs Part IV: Specialized live CDs

July 5, 2006

This article was contributed by Michael J. Hammel

See the previous articles in this series: Part I, Part II and Part III.

The last two sets of live CDs each fell into one of two broad categories: desktop replacement or small footprint. Desktop replacement options try to be all things to all people while small footprint CDs are designed for lower end hardware or as the basis for embedded or small system computing.

This time around the set of three live CDs is more specialized, targeting a smaller niche of users. This is the ultimate use of live CDs - filling a special purpose that can't be fulfilled easily by more general purpose solutions. While the niche may be smaller, it doesn't mean the target audience is small. For example, with a games CD your audience could be quite large.

Games KNOPPIX

This special purpose CD is simply a remastered KNOPPIX LiveCD. Games KNOPPIX adds an extra set of games to the base KNOPPIX collection. It doesn't appear to complain about a lack of special purpose hardware and most of the games worked out of the box even though the test hardware did not support 3D acceleration.

I tried a number of the games, though in general I'm not much of a game player. The complete list of games is on the web site. Enigma has great graphics and an interesting Breakout-like concept. There are both full screen and windowed games, text and graphical games and arcade and 3D games. There are also demos of some non-GPL games, such as Marble Blast Gold, Mutant Storm and Space Tripper but most of the games are freely available versions.

GLTron and UFO were the only disappointments but that should have been expected since no hardware acceleration was available for the OpenGL based games.

The web site is light on useful information other than providing a list of the games provided. Remastering this CD is not covered (unless you follow the outlines for remastering a KNOPPIX CD) and at least one game requires you to get permission from the author to do a remaster if the CD will be sold commercially.

As an end user I'd like to see a CD like this one that pulls the unnecessary applications from KNOPPIX and adds a front end that lets me choose the games through a nice UI instead of a buried desktop menu.

Cleanliness:7
Originality:6
On Target:5
Extensibility:1

Ultimate Boot CD

The Ultimate Boot CD boots into a text based window of options, all accessible via the function and numeric keys on the keyboard. Each option boots the kernel a different way and runs a variety of tests, including tests against the CPU, memory, hard disk and peripherals.

Tests and tools include CPU and memory tests, partition management, CPU and graphics benchmarks, boot disks for recovery operations and system identification tools. Not all of the tools and tests run under Linux so this CD isn't a true Linux only solution. Tests like memtest86 run under DOS so they can get full control of the CPU without the context switching and memory management that Linux would need.

Hard disk tests are manufacturer specific. There are tests for Maxtor, Seagate and Samsung drives. Most of the filesystem tools are Windows specific and of little value to managing your Linux partitions. This is true, too, of the antivirus tools.

Multiple boot disks are provided, including the FreeDOS and OpenDOS open source systems as well as Tom's Boot Disk, BasicLinux, RIP and Trinux for Linux users. Each of these can be used for recovery of hard disk based systems that are failing to boot.

The Ultimate Boot CD allows user defined tools to be added. There is a help screen explaining how to get more information on how this can be done, which makes the CD very customizable.

Overall, this CD is well planned and implemented. It isn't flashy and don't expect a desktop environment. But do expect a large number of very useful tools for diagnosing computer hardware.

Cleanliness:9
Originality:9
On Target:9
Extensibility:8

KnoppMyth

KnoppMyth, also based on the KNOPPIX live CD, is designed as an easy to use version of MythTV. MythTV is an open source PVR (Personal Video Recorder). The design of MythTV allows users to have a separate backend server to record and manage videos, music, pictures and other features while using a remote frontend system to access the server. What KnoppMyth does is provide either a combined backend/frontend configuration for standalone use or allow a frontend system to connect to an existing backend server.

The live CD boots into a text based main menu where options include running the live CD as a frontend system or installing the live CD to a disk. I selected running the frontend only. After configuring the MythTV database access information and telling the system to use DHCP, the KnoppMyth CD booted directly into the MythTV frontend menus. MythTV is a graphical application running under the X Window System. KnoppMyth did see the Via graphics hardware at boot time and loaded the Via kernel and X video drivers.

An extra menu option not found on the stock MythTV distributions is available from the main menu and is titled "KnoppMyth". This allows the user to backup their configuration, say to an NFS mounted partition or burned to a DVD. Other than that the user interface for the KnoppMyth frontend is just like the stock MythTV distribution. Unfortunately, I was running an older version of the backend MythTV server on the test network. The older server used protocol version 15 while the frontend used 26. So the backend and frontend could not communicate and no further tests could be run.

KnoppMyth is exactly what it is intended to be: an easy to use MythTV system based on a live CD. The menu interface is much simpler to use than a standard desktop which makes this an ideal consumer electronics solution. But the incompatibility with older MythTV backends is a problem. There is nothing on the web site about this unfortunately.

The system loads what looks like every possible video display kernel driver along with the appropriate Via kernel and X drivers. Had I been able to connect to the backend server, video display should have benefited from the hardware MPEG decoding available in the test hardware. Like KNOPPIX, KnoppMyth uses the XFree86 distribution instead of the newer X.org distribution.

The CD is meant as an end user distribution and not intended as a customizable solution. Therefore no information is provided on the web site on how to extend the features of this live CD.

Cleanliness:9
Originality:9
On Target:9
Extensibility:0

Summary

Over the past 4 articles you've seen a variety of ways that a live CD can be used. While there are literally hundreds of freely available live CDs, the choice of which to use is completely personal. Desktop versions abound, but niche solutions are also available to help you with whatever project you have in mind.

For developers, understanding how a live CD is put together is the first step in understanding some of the issues involved with small system computing. If you need to squeeze a kernel and root filesystem down to fit on a storage limited hand held, then understanding how live CDs make use of SquashFS and UnionFS will get you started. From there, there is no end to where you can go.

Comments (4 posted)

New Releases

2X releases new version of free PXES Linux thin client

2X has announced an upgrade and new name for its PXES Linux thin client: 2X ThinClientServer PXES edition 3.0. This edition boasts a completely new architecture, which includes a server component allowing for central management of the connection settings and the thin client OS.

Full Story (comments: none)

Announcing Bluewhite64 Linux pre-11.0-beta

The Bluewhite64 Linux Project has announced the release of Bluewhite64 Linux pre-11.0-beta. "Bluewhite64 uses the 2.6.16.22 kernel bringing you advanced performance features such as the ReiserFS journaling filesystem, ext2, ext3, IBM's JFS, and SGI's XFS filesystems, SCSI, RAID, SATA controllers support and kernel support for X DRI (the Direct Rendering Interface) that brings high-speed hardware accelerated 3D graphics to Linux."

Comments (none posted)

Xbox Linux distro achieves v5.0 release (DesktopLinux)

DesktopLinux takes a look at Gentoox. "The UK-based project team developing Gentoox, a Gentoo-based Linux operating system for the Xbox featuring Linux kernel 2.4.32 and the KDE desktop, announced its latest release on July 5, Gentoox Home v5.0. It is the team's first new release since v4.0 in June 2005."

Comments (none posted)

Distribution News

Debian news

Raphael Hertzog covers the status of the python policy transition. "I know some maintainers have decided to wait before converting their packages to the new Python policy since the Python infrastructure has been evolving at fast pace before the transition announce and even a few days after. This is now over, the infrastructure is in place and will even move to testing RSN. Once that is done the new python-defaults will be uploaded (hopefully by the end of this week) and will break packages not yet updated."

Steve McIntyre provides some Bits from the 2IC, with a look at Google Summer of Code projects, the irc.debian.org move, Debconf 6 in Mexico, a new Sarge release, and several other topics.

Comments (none posted)

Fedora considering default font switch

The Fedora Project is thinking about switching to the DejaVu font family as the default font in Fedora Core. DejaVu is a derivative of the popular Bitstream Vera family, which has not seen any updates since 2003; a number of distributions are already using it. The Fedora developers are looking for feedback on the fonts and the proposed change. This is an opportunity for Fedora users to help shape the appearance of future Fedora releases, with no technical skills required.

Comments (19 posted)

More Fedora news

The Cooperative Bug Isolation Project has been announced and is available for Fedora Core 5. "What's that? You say you've never heard of the Cooperative Bug Isolation Project (CBI)? Get with it! CBI is an ongoing, award-winning research effort exploring ways to find bugs and improve the quality of open source software using lightweight instrumentation, automated feedback, and sophisticated machine learning algorithms... CBI needs *you*! The more data we get, the more bugs we can find!"

Maintenance of Fedora Core 4 will transfer to Fedora Legacy with the release of Fedora Core 6 test 2, currently scheduled for July 19, 2006.

Comments (none posted)

Ubuntu Makes Opera 9 available for easy download and installation

After the launch of Ubuntu 6.06 LTS, Canonical has announced the availability of Opera 9 for Ubuntu. With just a few clicks of the mouse, all Ubuntu users can download and install the latest version of the Opera browser.

Full Story (comments: none)

Distribution Newsletters

Debian Weekly News

The July 4 issue of the Debian Weekly News is out; with this issue, DWN editor Martin 'Joey' Schulze celebrates five years on the job. Other topics include the Python policy transition, Flash support, and more.

Full Story (comments: none)

Fedora Weekly News Issue 52

This week the Fedora Weekly News covers the Open Video Contest which is open now, Announcing Fedora Core 6 Test 1 (5.90), A Fresh Look for Fedora Core 6, Phoronix: Fedora Core 6 Preview, FC6T1 mostly running on MacTel Mini, Yum Extender Update, the Ohio LinuxFest 2006 schedule announced, Red Hat Fedora 5 Unleashed Book Giveaway, and several other topics.

Comments (none posted)

Fedora Weekly News Issue 53

This edition of the Fedora Weekly News covers Fedora Core 4 Status Update, Red Hat CEO Says Linux Could Become U.S. Standard, Request for testing: DejaVu 2.7 font family, Mailing List for K-12 Open Source Questions, DesktopLinux: Fedora Core 6 Test 1 beckons, OpenOffice.org 2.0.3 Is Here, QEMU a Virtualization System for Open Source World, Red Hat Fedora 5 Unleashed Book Giveaway Winner, and several other topics.

Comments (none posted)

Gentoo Weekly Newsletter

The Gentoo Weekly Newsletter for July 3, 2006 covers modular X.Org now marked as stable, new KBase project, Java Upgrades, Spanish Translators, and much more.

Comments (none posted)

Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter - Issue #5

This edition of the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter covers Edgy release schedule, Dapper backports is open for business, Ubuntu marketing team gearing up, Pictures from UDS Paris (and personal ramblings), Artist in Chief appointments, Weekly development meeting review, Ubuntu Dapper installfest in Taiwan, and much more.

Full Story (comments: none)

DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 158

The DistroWatch Weekly for July 3, 2006 is out. "Last week was a slow one - among the major distributions, only Novell provided some excitement with the first public development release of SUSE Linux Enterprise 10. Several smaller distributions also continued their work - the SME Server project has finally released its long-awaited version 7.0, while a new and excellent live CD edition of Zenwalk Linux also made its first appearance last week. In other news, Smart for SUSE Linux and DesktopBSD's new package management tool are the focus of the news section, while the first look part of DistroWatch Weekly brings a short review of Frenzy 1.0, an excellent live CD based on FreeBSD. Finally, we are pleased to announce that the June 2006 DistroWatch donation of US$500.00 has been awarded to Gentoo Foundation."

Comments (none posted)

Package updates

Fedora updates

Updates for Fedora Core 5: nfs-utils-lib (latest upstream version), xorg-x11-xtrans-devel (updates various components of the X Window System), libX11 (updates various components of the X Window System), xorg-x11-server (updates various components of the X Window System), xorg-x11-xdm (updates various components of the X Window System), httpd (update to 2.2.2), xorg-x11-xfs (updates various components of the X Window System), xorg-x11-xinit (updates various components of the X Window System), xorg-x11-apps (updates various components of the X Window System), libgssapi (update to 0.9), xorg-x11-server (bug fix), kasumi (new upstream release), nfs-utils (update to 1.0.8), nfs-utils (fixes broken upgrade path), libvirt (needed for new xen release), apr-util (update to 1.2.7), ckermit (bug fix), eclipse-changelog (update to version 2.1.0), qt (bug fixes), xorg-x11-server (bug fix), kexec-tools (avoid crash with kickstart kernel).

Updates for Fedora Core 4: lvm2 (update to support 2.6.16 kernel), device-mapper (update to support 2.6.16 kernel).

Comments (none posted)

rPath updates

Updates for rPath Linux 1: hplip, PyQt, sip (improved HP printer support), pcmcia-cs (include the scsi_info, ftl_check, and ftl_format utilities), hal, hal-gnome (enable the gnome-volume-manager program to show newly-mounted volumes), mutt (make system mailboxes default to read-write).

Comments (none posted)

Slackware Changelog Notice

There were only a few updates to Slackware this week. Click below for the short changelog entry.

Full Story (comments: none)

Newsletters and articles of interest

Installing a firewall on Ubuntu (Linux.com)

Linux.com covers the process of installing a firewall on Ubuntu. "We'll look at two packages that configure firewalls. The first is Lokkit, an application that walks you through a few simple steps and configures a basic firewall for you. Lokkit is dead easy to use, and requires very little understanding of firewalls to set up, but it provides few options, and it's not a good choice if you want to set up a complex firewall. By contrast, Guarddog, a flexible GUI firewall configuration program, is much more complex than Lokkit. Choose Guarddog only if you know what you're doing."

Comments (none posted)

Tip of the Trade: Pyramid Linux (ServerWatch)

ServerWatch takes a quick look at Pyramid Linux. "Pyramid Linux is descended from the wonderful Pebble Linux, which is based on Debian Woody. Pyramid comes with a newer kernel, 2.6.16, the Lighttpd Web server with SSL and PHP support, udev and sysfs, HostAP, a nice Web-based management console, and a bag of other excellent goodies."

Comments (none posted)

PC-BSD works for community center (NewsForge)

Henry Gillow-Wiles puts PC-BSD to work in a community center. "As the IT director for a non-profit community center, I face several challenges, the most pressing being the lack of money. This means our lab is filled with donated older equipment with limited capabilities. Given this state of affairs, I am always on the lookout for free, easy-to-use open source software. I chose PC-BSD as our standard operating system because of its exemplary performance on older equipment."

Comments (none posted)

Rumored death of FreeDOS greatly exaggerated (NewsForge)

NewsForge takes a look at the FreeDOS project. "Jim Hall, creator of the open source MS-DOS operating system project FreeDOS, says that while work on the project may have slowed recently, he isn't ready to throw in the towel just yet. In fact, Hall says he hopes to see version 1.0 released as soon as the end of the month."

Comments (none posted)

Installing Ubuntu training videos (Linux.com)

Linux.com has made some training videos that show how to download and install Ubuntu Linux. "About the videos: They're in AVI format, encoded with the free XviD codec, compatible with media players available for almost all popular desktop PC operating systems. If -- and this is unlikely -- your computer does not have the XviD codec installed, you can get it here or through your favorite free operating system's software repository."

Comments (none posted)

Distribution reviews

A first look at MEPIS's new Ubuntu-based Linux (DesktopLinux)

DesktopLinux reviews a release candidate of SimplyMEPIS 6.2. "SimplyMEPIS 6 is built on the 2.6.15 Linux kernel, with recent security patches. Unlike Ubuntu, which uses GNOME for its default desktop, MEPIS uses KDE 3.5.3. For me, KDE continues to be the better choice of the two."

Comments (none posted)

Watching the Evolution of Arch Linux (OSNews)

OSNews reviews Arch Linux. "Make no mistake. Arch has seen some cool new additions lately: a special mkinitrd utility, network profiles, ACPI support, NetworkManager in the "Testing" tree and more. But what really stands out compared to the user experience of the 1-2 years ago is the package stability. Fewer buggy packages make it to -Current or -Extra trees these days and the ones that do are quickly fixed by the very helpful hackers in the Bugzilla."

Comments (none posted)

Page editor: Rebecca Sobol
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