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Langa Letter: Getting the Right Linux FootprintLanga Letter: Getting the Right Linux Footprint

It's never been easy to install Linux, but Fred Langa explores the best available tools and finds reason for hope.

Fred Langa

March 4, 2003

3 Min Read

SuSE Live-Eval tries to avoid one of Knoppix's major drawbacks, the inability to save session- or configuration data, by setting up a modest 100 Mbyte swap- and data-file on any available hard drive. SuSE Live-Eval will happily set up the file on a Windows FAT-type drive, but also can use a Linux standard (Ext2) or journaling (Ext3 or ReiserFS) file system, if one is available. This file constitutes the total impact of the Live-Eval setup--no other changes are made to the host. (Hence the small footprint moniker.)

Having the configuration data saved to the hard drive makes repeated use of the Live-Eval CD faster and easier: On subsequent boots, the Live-Eval setup will read the system data from the configuration file instead of re-detecting everything from scratch. Likewise, your user preferences (e.g., mouse sensitivity, window arrangements, etc.) can be stored from session to session, so you can get back to work rapidly. Saving the configuration data also lets SuSE show off some of its other strengths: For example, it's one of the few Linux distributions that allows you to switch video resolution and refresh rates on the fly, like Windows, instead of via logout or reboot, as is still required in too many other Linux distributions. Whatever changes you make in SuSE Live-Eval take effect instantly, and also are saved in the configuration file for use on the next reboot. In all, I think SuSE Live-Eval's small-footprint model may give you the best of two worlds--the ease of installation and ease of use of some zero-footprint distributions (like Knoppix), but with some of the power and flexibility of standard versions of Linux. It's very, very nice! Many Other Options
As is typical in the Open Source world, once a good idea crops up anywhere, it rapidly spreads, and zero-footprint, small-footprint, and hybrid versions of Linux are now proliferating. For example: See the discussion of "Linux Inside Windows" here http://www.langa.com/ newsletters/2003/2003-04-14.htm#1 and here http://www.langa.com/ newsletters/2003/2003-04-14.htm#2 . Check this Google listing of "Live CD" http://directory.google.com/ Top/Computers/Software/Operating_Systems/ Linux/Distributions/Live_CD/ versions of Linux on self-contained bootable CDs. See this online library of downloadable CD images http://www.linuxiso.org/ distro.php?distro=2 Check out UWIN http://www.research.att.com/ sw/tools/uwin/ , a mechanism for building and running Unix applications on Windows 2000, Windows NT, Windows XP, Windows ME, Windows 98, and Windows 95 with few, if any, changes necessary. Take a look at Peanut Linux http://www.ibiblio.org/peanut/ , just a 340 Mbyte download. Or see the many other small- and zero-footprint versions of Linux discussed here http://www.langa.com/ newsletters/2003/2003-04-21.htm#3 . As Linux gets easier to test and install, the last major barriers to its widespread use will fall away. And then--it'll be a whole new ballgame! What's your take? Have you tried any of the zero- and small-footprint Linux distributions? If you have, which ones, and was your overall experience good or bad? If you've shied away from Linux in the past, will you now try one of the versions that won't affect your current setup? Which Linux versions look most appealing? Join in the discussion!

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