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Small is beautiful

With the commercialization of Linux increasing rapidly and the divide between Free and pay-for offerings widening, minidistributions reminds us about the "good old days" of Linux distributions.

The number of large full-scale distributions for Linux is too big and they are too bloated and complex to understand. Red Hat is bloated pig that is not that different from Microsoft Windows. It is just incomprehensible and can be used only the way Microsoft Windows is used: installing and periodically patching the distribution. Forget about the fact that it is open source. It just does not matter. I am convinced that Red Hat is harmful for educational purposes because of excessive complexity.

Minimalist distribution are very valuable as "guerilla" OS on corporate PCs as well as as "safe" OS for browsing Internet.

Therefore I decided to devote this page to minimalist Linux distributions only. Most material is not current so you need to use it as a starting point for your own search on the net ;-).

The largest class of minimalist distributions are so called live CD. They are limited to the total size of less then one gigabyte. Knoppix was the first truly useful 'live CD' and still might have an edge in comparison with derivatives. It has a very good hardware detection. Due to on-the-fly decompression, the CD can have up to 2 GB of executable software installed on it (over 8GB on the DVD "Maxi" edition).

Now almost every major distribution has live CD option and some of them like OpenSuse are of high quality.

There are also minimal distributions that approach the limits of CD, for example LUbuntu 11.1.

Now SystemRescueCD became popular as an imaging and recovery tool on both Linux and Windows. In the current version it is around 350MB. It is based on Gentoo. It does not have graphic shell and I have found that the same tasks can performed more easily using Knoppix.

Puppy linux is probably the cutting edge minimalist linux distribution. Unlike live CD distributions Puppy boots into a ramdisk. All applications are loaded into RAM so they start amazingly fast and the system is very responsive and is a pleasure to use. The image is just 129 MB in size.

You can do the same trick with Knoppix and other distributions but it requires some work.

Please note that for any minidistribution it's nice to have an access to FAT32 filesystems and most minidistributions provide this. That means that minidistributions can be extremely useful for windows troubleshooting, as a filesystem repairing instruments, as a second OS on laptops, etc. Actually selecting or even creating your own distribution for an old laptop can be a great learning experience too. That's why I recommend to student is to buy an old cheap laptop and install minimal Linux (command line mode only) on it. That's a great learning tool. If you have a Windows desktop nearby, you do not need KDE or Gnome to learn Unix, they can just distract you from mastering the classic Unix shells, languages and utilities.

It's amazing how much Unix knowledge you can get on an old Dell C600/C610/C810 laptop with 256 or 512K which can be bought for slightly more then $100 on eBay.

For information about FAT32 partition support, see

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[Oct 23, 2011] Weekend Project Rescue Failing Drives With SystemRescue

When a hard drive, CD/DVD, USB stick, or any digital storage media is on its way to the Great Bitbucket in the Sky, GNU ddrescue is my favorite data recovery tool. GNU ddrescue is included in the default SystemRescue image. Before we dive into the fun stuff, there is some vexing naming confusion to clear up. There are two ddrescue programs in SystemRescue. GNU ddrescue, by Antonio Diaz, is the one I prefer. The version on the current SystemRescue release is ddrescue 1.14. There is also a dd_rescue, version 1.23, by Kurt Garloff. dd_rescue is nice, but it's slower than ddrescue and doesn't include as many features.

Just to keep it interesting, Debian Linux adds its own bizarre naming conventions. The Debian package name for GNU ddrescue is gddrescue, and the package name for dd_rescue is ddrescue. But the binary for gddrescue is /sbin/ddrescue, and the binary for dd_rescue is /bin/dd_rescue. Fortunately, SystemRescue doesn't mess with the original binary names, and calls them /usr/bin/ddrescue and /bin/dd_rescue.

Enough of that; let's talk about what makes GNU ddrescue my favorite. It performs block-level copies of the failing media, and so it doesn't matter what filesystem is on the media. You're probably thinking it sounds like the venerable dd command, and it is similar, with some significant improvements. dd works fine on healthy disks, but when it encounters a read error it stops, and you have to manually restart it. It reads the media sequentially, which is very slow, and if there are a lot of bad blocks it may never complete a full pass.

GNU ddrescue is fully automatic and fast for a block-level copy program, and you want speed when a drive full of important data is dying. It seeks out good blocks to copy and skips over the bad blocks. It optionally records all activity in a logfile, so you can resume where you left off if the copying is interrupted for any reason. It is best to always generate a logfile, because every time you power up the failing drive the more likely it is to die completely. Using a logfile ensures that ddrescue will not repeat operations, but will move on and look for new good blocks to copy.

When you are rescuing a failing drive, the first step is to copy it with ddrescue. Then take the original offline, and perform any additional recovery operations on the copy. Don't touch the original any more than you have to. You can copy the copy as many times as you need for insurance.

You need a healthy drive to copy your rescued data to. I prefer USB-attached media such as a USB hard drive, USB thumb drive, Compact Flash, or SD cards. Of course a second internal hard drive is a good option, or this might be your chance to finally use that eSATA port that always looked like it should be cool and useful, but you never found a reason to use it. Your second drive should be at least 50% larger than the drive you're recovering. The troubled drive must not be mounted. The simplest invocation looks like this:

# ddrescue /dev/sda1 /dev/sdb1 logfile

Here, /dev/sda1 is a partition on the failing drive. Everything on /dev/sdb1 will be overwritten, and the logfile will be written to /dev/sdb1. You can name the logfile anything you want. You can rescue an entire drive if you prefer, like this:

# ddrescue /dev/sda /dev/sdb logfile

Note that if there is more than one partition on the failing drive and the partition table is damaged, you will have to re-create it on the rescue drive. I copy one partition at a time to avoid this sort of drama.

You can have ddrescue make multiple passes with the -r option; sometimes you can make a more complete recovery this way. You can go as high as you want; I use 3-5:

# ddrescue -r5 /dev/sda2 /dev/sdb1 logfile

Sometimes ddrescue is nearly magical for rescuing scratched CDs and DVDs. The first command copies the disk, and the second command copies it to a blank disk:

# ddrescue -n -b2048 /media/cdrom image logfile
# ddrescue -d -b2048 /media/cdrom image logfile

You can give the image file whatever name you like. While I've never needed to go beyond the basics in this article, ddrescue has a whole lot of other capabilities that you can learn about in the GNU ddrescue manual.

[Oct 23, 2011] LinuxCon Europe 2011 KNOPPIX Live GNU-Linux System Linux Foundation Events

LinuxCon Europe 2011

KNOPPIX: Live GNU/Linux System KNOPPIX is a GNU/Linux live system running off DVD, USB flash disks or over the network, focused on productive mobile working on different computers with a personal, customized system. It was first presented at the Atlanta Linux Showcase 11 years ago. Now based on Debian, it has undergone several changes and extensions to keep it useful for many purposes, including "Microknoppix" as base for custom derivatives. The talk gives an overview of the various technologies used in Knoppix, the Knoppix build process, and some possibly lesser known use cases will be presented.

Klaus Knopper, KNOPPER.NET Klaus Knopper holds a masters degree in electrical engineering, works as freelance consultant and software developer in his main profession, and is teaching software engineering at the department of business administration at the university of applied sciences Kaiserslautern/Zweibrücken. His current projects are the KNOPPIX live GNU/Linux system, the ADRIANE desktop for blind computer users and a few other related projects like LINBO. He has been speaking at LinuxAsia/OsiWeek India, LinuxTag, Atlanta Linux Showcase and CeBIT.

[Oct 23, 2011] Abandoned Zone

It's again a while ago I wrote my review about lightweight Linux distribution. In my very first review of 2008 I took a look at the following distributions: Those days I concluded TinyMe was the best choice, followed directly by Zenwalk. Now lets see how those distributions have evolved in a couple of mini reviews...

First of all at this moment TinyMe isn't the way to go; on the 6th of April 2011 the developer decided to 'hibernate' the project for undetermined length. This is in my opinion not very good news and I expect TinyMe to die. The last stable release was almost three years ago!

Zenwalk is still under heavy development, this year in may version 7 was released...

Also Puppy Linux is alive and kicking; at time of writing version 5.2.8 is only one month old.

I won't re-review Arch, however it's still under full development and it is a great distribution it does not really fit in this category. You can make Arch lightweight, but then you have to do it yourself. Damn Small Linux as it is too lightweight, and XUbuntu as it lost mostly of its lightweightness (according to 'reliable' sources on the web, to be honest I have no personal experience anymore on XUbuntu)

Newcomer is : LUbuntu, also based on Ubuntu, but lighter ('the old XUbuntu'?)

So, the battle will go between:

Of course these are not all lightweight Linux distributions there are out there, but according to these are more or less the most popular ones.

[Feb 24, 2010] Xfce Desktop Less Lard, Less Bling, More Usability - Fast and User-Friendly


This is the first in a series of articles looking at some lightweight, but still fully-functional, desktop alternatives to KDE or Gnome. First up: Xfce. Xfce is designed to be lightweight and fully-functional, providing a full desktop environment whilst using minimal system resources; and it's modular, so you can choose exactly what you want to run.

The current Xfce umbrella package in both Debian stable and Ubuntu 9.10 is xfce4 (version 4.4 in Debian, and 4.6 in Ubuntu). After you've installed it, log out of X. If you're running gdm or a similar app as your login manager, check the bottom left of the screen for a "Sessions" option, and you can choose Xfce for your next session. When starting the session, you'll then be asked if you want to make this your default window manager.

First Impressions

The first thing I noticed was how fast it started up compared to Gnome. Admittedly my desktop is reasonably old, so the difference might show up less on a newer, faster machine, but it was a very pleasant surprise to be started up so quickly. I also tried it out over VNC on my local network, and running inside a virtual machine, and for speed alone, I'd rate it significantly better than Gnome or KDE. Once running, the speed and usability increase continued; things like the system menus and settings were noticably faster to come up than on Gnome or KDE.

[Feb 24, 2010] 10 Best Minimal - Low-Footprint Linux distros

They list Damn Small Linux, Puppy Linux, Tiny Core Linux, Antix, Vector Linux. SimpleLinux, SliTaz


It is a mini GNU/Linux distribution and live CD designed to run fast on hardware with 128 MB of RAM. It is light, speedy and fully installable on a hard drive. SliTaz was distributed from of LiveCD that can be easily burned to CDROM and boot form. The Live system offers a fully-featured, working graphical distro. It allows you to keep your data and personal settings on persistent media. SliTaz features BusyBox, a recent Linux kernel and GNU software. SliTaz allows you to keep your data and personal settings on persistent media.
The system can be extended using the Tazpkg package manager and security updates are provided for the cooking and stable versions.

Key features

[Sep 19, 2008] A Comparative Look at Compact Sysadmin Distributions

Things go wrong. Hard disks fail and whole servers crash. Luckily, many Linux-based distributions are available to help systems administrators handle minor catastrophes. We looked at four of the most portable, all of which fit on a 210MB mini CD -- SliTaz, Parted Magic, GParted, and RIPLinuX.

Each of these distributions is easy to use -- just insert the CD or plug in the USB drive on which it's installed, then boot. Each gives you access to a variety of open source tools that you can use to manage disks, partitions, and files and perform diagnostics and network troubleshooting. These distributions provide most of the tools that you might need in an emergency situation.

To choose the most appropriate sysadmin distribution, you have to consider several factors. One is the supported boot devices. Most distributions can boot and run from a live CD, but you may want the flexibility of being able to boot from a USB device or even network Preboot eXecution Environment (PXE). Another factor is size: can it fit onto a 128MB USB drive or a mini CD, or do you need a DVD? If you like a smaller distribution, make sure that it holds all the tools and utilities you need. Lastly, consider usability. Does the distro offers tools that have a GUI, or only those you can use from the command line? The CLI may not pose a problem for system administrators, but a GUI may expedite the solution and increase the user base of the distribution, often resulting in greater support and more frequent updates.

Parted Magic

,,, ,,, ,,.

Parted Magic is a Linux From Scratch (LFS) distribution, and only 45MB in size. The latest version, 3.0, runs on the 2.6.26 kernel. You can boot and run it using a live CD, USB, or even PXE. It features an aesthetically pleasing GUI based on Xfce. However, be wary of its memory requirements. The latest version removed the live boot option, so the whole distribution is loaded into memory. You must have at least 300MB of RAM. Failure to meet this minimum requirement will result in problems loading Parted Magic. You may not be able to load all the programs, and even if you can, you might not have access to the graphical desktop.

This distribution's primary component is the popular GParted tool, but it also includes the data recovery tools TestDisk and PhotoRec, as well as a disk imaging program called Partition Image. Other tools include Xarchiver for viewing and extracting archives,

Parted Magic includes several command-line tools; most are disk related and include dd, ddrescue (for disk recovery), cfdisk, and fdisk. The variety of disk tools enables Parted Magic to support many file systems, including ext2, ext3, ext4, FAT16, FAT32, HFS, HFS+, JFS, Linux swap, NTFS, ReiserFS, Reiser4, and XFS. It includes some advanced network tools too, such as tcpdump.

Parted Magic is a great distribution for its intended purpose: filesystem and partition management, manipulation, and recovery. Its GUI makes it easy for average users and system administrators alike to perform disk-related tasks.

GParted Live

GParted Live is a Debian-based distribution from the GParted team. The latest version is 0.3.7-7, running on the 2.6.24 kernel, and is only 90MB in size. You can boot and run it via live CD, USB, or PXE, and you can even install it on a hard disk. You will need a Pentium II or higher and at least 64MB of RAM, with 128MB recommended.

GParted's boot menu is simple and mostly related to the type of video display. Like other live CD sysadmin distributions, it offers Memtest86+ as a choice in the boot menu. Upon boot, it asks you about the keyboard type you'll be using.

GParted Live's graphical desktop is simple and shows a shortcut to the GParted tool on the desktop. It utilizes a Fluxbox menu in which you can run other disk programs and editing tools. The Fluxbox menu has a limited set of tools:

As with Parted Magic, you can access other disk tools using the CLI. An extensive collection of tools enables GParted Live to support the same filesystems as Parted Magic, and a shortcut for live USB creation is also available on the desktop. However, unlike Parted Magic, GParted Live doesn't have network support. This means it's missing Internet browsers, commands like ping and netstat, and features like rsync and Grsync, because they're dependent on a network connection. Likewise, the distribution offers no CD-burning software.

With no network support or ability to burn data on a CD, GParted is designed solely for partition management and manipulation on a local machine. You can recover data, but you need a locally accessible device, such as another hard disk or an external drive, to save the recovered data.

If you're concerned only with disk partitioning and related tasks, GParted Live is easy enough to use for both system administrators and average users. However, if you're able to meet its higher memory requirements, Parted Magic may be a better way to go.

[Aug 4, 2008] TECH SOURCE FROM BOHOL 20 Most Nimble and Simple X Window Managers for Linux

JWM (Joe's Window Manager) is a window manager for the X Window System written by Joe Wingbermuehle. JWM is written in C and uses only Xlib at a minimum. Support for the following can be added as compile-time options:

* PNG and/or XPM icons
* Xft
* Xinerama
* FriBidi
* The Shape extension

JWM is the default window manager used in Damn Small Linux, System Rescue CD, most versions of Puppy Linux, and the ultra-lightweight distribution Slitaz.


Sawfish is a window manager for the X Window System. Formerly known as Sawmill, the name was changed because another software program had the same name (a commercial web log analysis program). Distinctively, Sawfish uses a Lisp-like scripting language, rep, for all of its code, making it particularly easy to extend. For example, it can incorporate keybindings for XMMS.

Sawfish does not come with a panel and was used with the GNOME desktop environment until it was replaced by Metacity in GNOME 2.2.

Scwm or Scheme Constraints Window Manager is a window manager for the X Window System. Its main features are dynamic configurability and programmability via a language based on GNU Guile and the embedded arithmetic Cassowary constraint solver. Other features include flexible GUI-driven customization and per window decoration settings (per window 'themes'). The primary developers were Greg Badros and Maciej Stachowiak.

dwm is a minimalist dynamic tiling window manager for X11. It is externally similar to wmii, but internally much simpler. dwm is written purely in C and, for simplicity, lacks any configuration interface besides editing the source code. This is not as inconvenient as it sounds, however: one of the project's guidelines is that the source code will never exceed 2000 lines, and options meant to be user-configurable are all represented by macros and contained in a single header file. According to the author, it is optimized for high resolution laptop and widescreen displays.

ratpoison is a free minimalist window manager for the X Window System primarily written by Shawn Betts. Its user interface and much of its functionality are inspired by the GNU Screen terminal multiplexer. Its name comes from the fact that it lets the user manage windows without using the mouse (rat).

Its intended successor is Stumpwm; ratpoison was growing increasingly large, and Betts decided to largely reimplement its functionality in Common Lisp.

[Jul 21, 2008] Recovery Is Possible! 6.1 (Stable) by KRobotti

About: Recovery Is Possible (RIP) is a CD or USB boot/rescue/backup/maintenance system. It has support for many filesystem types (Reiserfs, Reiser4, Ext2/3/4, HFS+, ISO-9660, UDF, XFS, JFS, UFS2, CIFS, MS DOS, NTFS, and VFAT) and contains several utilities for system recovery. It also has IDE/SCSI/SATA, RAID, LVM2, and Ethernet/DSL/cable network support.

Changes: The kernel was upgraded to 2.6.26 and other software was updated. WiFi support and a 64bit kernel were added.

[Jun 11, 2008 ] Damn Small Linux 4.4

About: Damn Small Linux is a business-card size (50MB) Live CD Linux distribution. Despite its minuscule size it strives to have a functional and easy to use desktop.

Changes: Lua and Fltk were refactored for enhanced performance. The Fltk library is now available for C/C++ programs. The fldiff program, a file diff GUI viewer, was added. rsync was updated to 3.0.2. mydslBrowser was updated. The "Download Only" feature was added. The "X Window Snapshot" was modified to save an image file with a date. dfm association was added for easy display of "X Window Snapshot" images. .torsmorc was updated for more consistent "used/free/total". The Firefox default search engines were restored. Comparing Linux USB flash disk distros

Small is beautiful

Both DSL and Puppy Linux are small and don't have huge system requirements. DSL can run on a 468DX with only 16MB of RAM, although this feature is of dubious utility because it would be hard to find a 486DX machine that could boot from a USB device. These two distributions aim to be small yet versatile with flexible boot and install options. They're also fast, because they load the whole OS and applications into RAM.

DSL is a 50MB download and boots from a live CD. Once booted, you can install it to a USB drive using the Pendrive install application (Apps -> Tools -> USB-HDD Pendrive). The text-based installer runs in a command window. DSL detected and installed to my flash drive without any problem.

DSL is handy as a recovery tool that enables you to boot a broken machine and copy valuable data from it. It uses the lightweight JWM window manager, which should be easy to learn for those who are used to a "Start" button (labeled DSL in this case). DSL tries to be feature-rich and contains many standard types of applications, such as a music player, a couple of Web browsers, a word processor, and a spreadsheet. With the exception of Firefox, they're all specialized, small applications, but DSL is extendable using the myDSL Extension Browser. With the packages in its community repository you can add some of the more popular software to DSL, including DSL is a marvel to look at, has potential for expansion, but it isn't as strong as some alternatives as a serious, portable desktop.

Like DSL, Puppy Linux is a small download (less than 100MB) and boots from a live CD. Once you boot the CD, you're up and running with the whole OS and file system loaded into RAM, which means that Puppy isn't always pulling files off the CD. To install to USB flash, use the Puppy universal installer, which can cope with almost any USB flash disk, regardless of whether it's unpartitioned or using the wrong boot flags. However, the downside is that the installation process can be quite complicated. The installer does a good job of trying to explain what's going on, but you will need to know how to work with disks and partitions if the need arises; for example, if the flags are wrong on a partition, the installer will fire up GParted for you to fix it rather than correct the problem automatically.

The recently released version 4.0 is a great improvement over its predecessor and using the JWM window manager it offers AbiWord 2.4.6 as a word processor, the Gnumeric 1.7.13 spreadsheet, Sylpheed 2.4.7 for email, and Mozilla SeaMonkey 1.1.8 for Web browsing and other integrated Internet applications. Puppy Linux also has a package manager called PETget that automatically connects to the official Puppy repository and offers additional software to install. Currently the 4.0 repository doesn't offer but I was able to install it from the version 3.0 repository.

One possible problem with Puppy Linux is that your data isn't immediately saved to the flash drive. As you're working, the files you create and edit are saved to memory, but that memory copy is only written to the flash disk periodically or during the shutdown process. There is also a Save button on the desktop to force a write to the flash disk. This intermittent saving can leave a window for losing files.


Pendrivelinux is both a Linux distribution for USB flash disks and a comprehensive Web site with lots of articles and information on getting Linux running from a flash disk.

Amongst the articles on the Web site are a couple on installing Pendrivelinux from Linux and from Windows. Pendrivelinux doesn't come as a live CD; instead, you need to be up and running in Windows or in Linux. The installation process involves downloading a .zip file and then making the USB flash drive bootable (either with a batch file supplied for Windows or by using syslinux on Linux). I originally tried installing it from Linux, but it wouldn't boot, so I switched to using Windows, and things went better, with one minor wrinkle. I was using Vista, and I had to run the batch file to make the USB flash disk bootable under the Administrator account. If you run it under a normal account, even one that has Administrator rights, the batch file will fail.

Pendrivelinux is comprehensive. The .zip file is just under 500MB in size. It includes many of the popular Linux programs, and such as a full KDE desktop. Based on Mandriva 2007.1 (via the folks at MCNLive), it comes with persistent file changes (using a 256MB loop file), KDE 3.5.6, and Firefox It doesn't come with, but relies instead on KOffice. It includes support for 3-D desktop effects; with a few clicks, you can get a 3-D cube representation of your virtual desktops, wobbly windows, and transparency.

The lack of could be limiting, as KOffice's ability to import and export to popular Microsoft and file formats is limited, but otherwise, Pendrivelinux is an excellent USB flash-drive Linux distro that you could use daily.

[Feb 24, 2008] FreeNAS 0.686.1

About: FreeNAS is a minimal FreeBSD distribution that provides NAS (network-attached storage) services: CIFS (Samba), FTP, NFS, RSYNC, local user authentication, and software RAID. It may be booted and run from compact flash or CD-ROM. It also features a full Web-based configuration interface.

Changes: The "Guest account" and "Null passwords" attributes were added to "Samba Settings". WebGUI and rc-script were enhanced to define additional group memberships. uShare UPnP Mediaserver was replaced with MediaTomb 0.10.0. The kernel was patched to support ATi IXP600/700 PATA/SATA. SSL/TLS support was added to FTP service. and support were added to the "Dynamic DNS" service. The OS install and upgrade procedure was refactored. NFS share configuration support was added. NFS server processes may be configured.

[Feb 20, 2008] Linuxseekers - Parted Magic 2.0 - Firefox Included!

Parted Magic 2.0 is a 42MB Live CD/USB/PXE with the main goal of providing disk drive partitioning software. This new edition of Parted Magic 2.0 is designed for use on x86 hardwares and was released two days before this year's Valentine's Day. This GPLed specialized Linux distro is currently ranked at number 60 at It originates from the U.S. and it is based on the Linux From Scratch. The easily noticeable new features, besides the new Linux kernel, Xfce 4.4.2, X.Org 7.3 and various other software updates , are the availability of Firefox and the simple but capable Start Network tool. You need to run the Start Network tool in order to fire up you LAN interface before you can run Firefox or proceed to the online Parted Magic and Test Disk documentation.

[Jan 6, 2008] Project details for FCCU GNU-Linux Forensic Bootable CD

FCCU GNU/Linux Forensic Bootable CD is a bootable CD based on Debian-live that contains a lot of tools suitable for computer forensic investigations, including bash scripts. Its main purpose is to create images of devices prior to analysis, and it is used by the Belgian Federal Computer Crime Unit.

Release focus: Major feature enhancements

The CD is now based on the Debian Live Project. There is a graphical user interface by default (xfce4). A new graphical tool, GuyMager, is used for forensic copy. GuyMager supports Encase ewf images (through libewf), and it makes intelligent use of multi-core CPUs in a way that compressed copies will be done faster than uncompressed ones. A new low interaction honeypot, Amun, was added.

D-fence [contact developer]

Small Linux Distros For Every Occasion

October 15, 2007
Carla Schroder

One of the (very many) areas in which Linux has pulled ahead of the pack is with live, complete Linux distributions on every form of removable media. Tiny Linuxes to full-blow kitchen sink Linuxes boot and run from USB sticks and drives, Compact Flash cards, CDs and DVDs; so they never need to touch the hard drive, or even have a hard drive present. Some of them run entirely in memory. Some are smart enough to use the swap partition on the hard drive, if one is available. There are different ways of preserving data and configurations, the main point being you can still save data and configurations. This presents a wide array of useful possibilities: test new systems before purchase, every computer becomes your personal PC, or today's topic, portable rescue media for all the major platforms: Linux, Unix, Macintosh, and Windows. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different rescue Linuxes, so we'll take a tour of my favorites.


We all know and love the Debian-based Knoppix. Knoppix supports a vast array of hardware—if something doesn't work under Knoppix, chances are it's not supported in Linux. Knoppix gives you GUI tools for nearly any task you want to perform, and includes applications for every imaginable task. You're not limited to rescue operations, but you get a complete distribution with productivity applications. It is very popular and has excellent community support, including good articles on re-mastering Knoppix to customize it for yourself. Knoppix is for Pentium systems with a lot of RAM, the more the better: 32 MB for text mode, 128 MB and up for KDE.

Start at the Knoppix Wiki, and especially the Cheat Codes. These are boot codes for dealing with funky hardware, or turning on special tasks. For example:

The first keyword is always knoppix, like knoppix desktop=fluxbox toram.

Knoppix also comes in a DVD edition, if the CD version isn't enough for you.


SystemRescueCD is my favorite rescue CD. It's based on Gentoo and contains a stripped-down set of applications for system rescues. So it doesn't include OpenOffice or the Gimp or all of the other productivity applications that Knoppix has. You can get ISOs for x86, Sparc, and PowerPC. The x86 version is a mere 155 MB.

Even better: You can boot and run SystemRescue from a USB stick. Newer systems support booting from USB devices; usually you need to go into the system BIOS to turn this on. It's not completely reliable, however; some systems seem to be allergic to booting from USB devices, so be sure to test it before you need it.

With SystemRescue you can copy files over the network, do serious network troubleshooting, read and write all the major filesystems including NTFS, manage partitions and filesystems, and do secure deletions. SystemRescue comes with my favorite data recovery tool, GNU ddrescue. This is the best utility for grabbing data off a failing hard drive. It is fast for a dd-based command, and smart enough to skip over bad blocks and keep going, looking for good blocks to copy.

The most surefire method I know requires a second local hard drive of equal or greater size; either SATA/PATA or USB. Then boot up SystemRescue and copy the first drive to the second drive. Of course you must replace the drive names in the example with your own drive names:

# ddrescue /dev/sda /dev/sdb

You may copy partitions instead of whole drives. Then run fsck on the second drive to check for and fix errors. Make sure it is not mounted, then run this command:

# fsck /dev/sdb

Add the -a option to tell fsck to automatically fix all errors. Use fsck only on Linux filesystems. For other filesystems you'll need their own native filesystem-consistency-fixing utilities.

Don't confuse GNU ddrescue with dd-rescue. They do the same thing and both do it well, but I think ddrescue is faster and more reliable.

GParted is the best partitioning and filesystem-creation application there is. Put it on a bootable medium and you can manage most Linux, Unix, Mac OS X, or Windows partitions and filesystems. Add the dd-based Clonezilla for cloning, and you have the ultimate power tool for new installations, restores, and replications. Clonezilla is an intelligent partition or disk-cloning program that works on any filesystem, because it operates at the block level. On supported filesystems (which are pretty much the same batch as GParted) it copies only used sectors. On unsupported filesystems it can't tell which ones are used, so it does a block-by-block copy. Either way you get your clones.

Download the torrent from TuxDistro. (The other download sites don't seem to exist.) Visit GParted LiveCD for instructions on creating a bootable USB stick. This uses the same download.

Our Excellent Ancestors: Tomsrtbt and SuperRescueCD

Tomsrtbt, "the most GNU/Linux on one floppy disk" was the first bootable live Linux on removable media. After all these years it is still useful. True, most computers these days don't even bother with a floppy drive, but for machines that still have them it's a great rescue diskette. It needs only 8 megabytes of RAM. It comes with everything you need for networking and copying files over the network, which is probably the #1 job for a rescue device. It has filesystem utilities, including Windows filesystems, and basic networking troubleshooting commands, so you can perform a surprising number of tasks from this tiny ancestor of bootable live Linuxes. Tomsrtbt has saved the day for me more times than I can remember.

H. Peter Anvin's SuperRescue CD was the first live Linux CD. Mr. Anvin is the primo bootloader guru, as well as a significant inventor or contributor in a number of projects. Super Rescue CD is based on Red Hat 7.2, so it's of limited usefulness on modern systems. But it's a nice tool for older systems; it only needs 24 megabytes of RAM and it handles older hardware without hassles. If you want X Windows, just type startx at the prompt and you get KDE. It's a funny-looking older KDE, but still the real deal.

SuperRescue CD pioneered on-the-fly compression/decompression, which is how you stuff 1.7 gigabytes of operating system and applications onto a single CD.

Fixing Horked MBRs

When you're multi-booting or installing a new operating system onto a used system, sometimes the MBR (Master Boot Record) gets all messed up, so you need to wipe it out and start over. You can do this with the dd command. Be sure to use your own drive name for the of= value:

# dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda bs=446 count=1

That preserves the partition table. If you also want to zero out the partition table, do this:

# dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda bs=512 count=1

[Oct 9, 2007] The best Linux system repair distribution gets better by Steven J. Vaughan Nichols

Oct. 05, 2007

If there's a better system repair kit than the Gentoo-based SystemRescueCD Linux distribution, we haven't seen it yet.

The new 0.4 version of SystemRescueCd was released on Oct. 4. This new edition focuses on disk partitioning, Vista support, and data rescue tasks. In the past, we've found SystemRescueCD to be the best of the best when it comes to repairing troubled systems. We see every reason to believe that this version will be even better.

... ... ...

If you're a Windows user, don't let the fact that this is a Linux-based repair tool keep you away. SystemRescueCD has long excelled at repairing Windows systems. With new support for the Vista “Offline NT Password & Registry Editor” and improved support for NTFS drives, SystemRescueCD is better than ever for what ails your Windows PCs.

Another major improvement is that you can now use PXE network booting. With PXE, you can boot a troubled PC remote over your LAN into SystemRescueCD. This is great, for example, for a help desk repairing systems scattered over an office or campus. To get this to work, the PCs will need to be set to use wake-on-LAN and network boot. That's been a standard PC feature since 2001, but it usually must be made active in the BIOS before you can use it.

The distribution is also just easier to boot up, period. In the past, you often needed to manually set boot parameters for a successful boot-up. It wasn't difficult, but it could be time-consuming. Now SystemRescueCD is much better at analyzing its hardware environment and automatically booting with the appropriate configuration and drivers.--

[Sep 9, 2007] Project details for Partimage Is Not Ghost

Partimage Is Not Ghost (PING) is a live Linux ISO based on LFS (Linux From Scratch). It can be burnt on a CD and booted, or integrated in a PXE/RIS environment. Several tools that make it the perfect choice for easily backing up and restoring whole partitions are included. It supports backups to and from SMB shares, backup of BIOS data, the ability to blank the local admin's password, creation of bootable restoration DVDs, the ability to partition and format a disk before installing Windows, and more.

Release focus: Minor bugfixes

This release upgrades dhcpcd. It asks before overwriting BIOS settings with those of the source image. It's now possible to pass parameters to PING through isolinux.cfg/pxelinux.cfg's APPEND line (easier than /etc/ping.conf). Mkfs.vfat has been added to the distribution (this is a bugfix, as PING needs it when it has to split a disk's unique partition to store an image locally). The kernel has been updated to

[Sep 9, 2007] Absolute OS

"The final kernel image is 2570k and can install on a Pentium Classic with just 48MB of RAM."
Absolute OS 12.0.5
by Paul Sherman - Sat, Sep 8th 2007 17:29 PDT

About: Absolute is a lightweight Slackware Linux derivative distribution that uses an Icewm, ROX-Filer window/file manager combination. It comes with Firefox, The GIMP, MPlayer, K3B, kTorrent, Gaim, Frostwire, Gftp, StarDict, Skype, and many other titles all set up and ready to run. Several utilities are included to ease configuration and management. It is compatible with all Slackware 11 packages and can be installed just like a Slackware disk, except that you cannot choose which packages to install or remove, as it just installs everything.

Changes: Kernel woes have been put to rest. The final kernel image is 2570k and can install on a Pentium Classic with just 48MB of RAM. Any lingering patent-encumbered software has been removed. Several UI tweaks have been made and source code diffs included for customized KDE-LIBS and abs_fdisk used by linHDD. An ISO is now available from SourceForge, as well as a zip file containing ISO and HTML installation instructions.

[Apr 25, 2007] Puppy Linux

Yes, Puppy Linux is yet another Linux distribution. What's different here is that Puppy is extraordinarily small, yet quite full featured. Puppy boots into a 64MB ramdisk, and that's it, the whole caboodle runs in RAM. Unlike live CD distributions that have to keep pulling stuff off the CD, Puppy in its entirety loads into RAM. This means that all applications start in the blink of an eye and respond to user input instantly. Puppy Linux has the ability to boot off a flash card or any USB memory device, CDROM, Zip disk or LS/120/240 Superdisk, floppy disks, internal hard drive. It can even use a multisession formatted CD-R/DVD-R to save everything back to the CD/DVD with no hard drive required at all!

[Apr 20, 2007] SystemRescueCd 0.3.5 by François Dupoux

About: SystemRescueCd is a Linux system available from a bootable CDROM that provides an easy way to perform administrative tasks on your computer, such as creating and editing the partitions of the hard disk or backing up data. It contains a lot of system utilities (such as parted, partimage, and fstools), and basic programs (such as editors, midnight commander, and network tools). It also includes GParted, a Partition Magic clone that makes editing partitions easy with its graphical user interface. This CDROM aims to be very easy to use and accessible to everybody, and it also provides advanced personalization features.

Changes: This release updates the kernel to with Reiser4, sys-fs/ntfs3g to 1.417, and X.Org to 7.2. It adds sys-apps/dmidecode and sys-boot/ms-sys. The new X.Org has hardware autodetection and will be more reliable.

[Apr 5, 2007] Mandriva Flash 4GB Released

April 5, 2007 ( Mandriva Flash is a pre-installed Mandriva Linux distribution on a 4GB USB key. Plug in the key, take your Linux system everywhere with you, save and exchange your data in up to 3GB of free space!
It is not only practical, easy and pleasant to use but also high-performing and innovative. Mandriva Flash will surprise you whether you are already a Linux user or not.

With Mandriva Flash, you can now prove to the world that size does matter!

Buy it

Flash is the latest innovative product from the Mandriva labs:

Discover Linux in a Flash

Impress your friends with your mobile 3D desktop

Stay connected wherever your are

Offer Linux to the one you love

Discover Linux in a Flash

Ever wanted to try Linux for real? But never got through because you were afraid to format your disk?
Mandriva Flash is the key!

Just plug Mandriva Flash in your PC and discover a complete personal Linux desktop in a few seconds.

No need to install anything on your disk, no fear of a messing with your other operating system, no need to format or repartition anything, no heavy manuals or complex documentation : just plug the key and boot into the world of Linux.

Mandriva Flash is a complete and real Linux desktop: you can save your documents and preferences on the key, use all your favourite Internet, multimedia and office applications. You can even install new software and download updates, just like a normal Linux installation. Order Mandriva Flash now and discover Linux during the holiday season.

[Mar 29, 2007] Open Source Desktop Xfce’s Advantages

Most GNU/Linux users choose GNOME or KDE for desktops without thinking. However, many alternatives exist, ranging from minimalist graphic environments in window managers like IceWM to entire alternative desktops, such as ROX. Of these alternatives the best-known and most polished is Xfce. Now at version 4.4, Xfce resembles a stripped-down version of GNOME, with carefully selected customization options and utilities, as well as a few thoughtful features of its own.

As detailed on the download page, Xfce is available in many distributions. In fact, a growing number of distributions, including Xbuntu, Dream Linux, and Zenwalk use Xfce by default. Alternatively, you can build Xfce from source code, or use its graphical installers. However, if you choose the graphical installers, read the documentation first to make sure you understand what you are doing, and the extra steps that you might have to take if you missed a cue from the installation wizard.

[Sept 5, 2006] grml - Linux Live-CD for sysadmins / texttool-users / geeks

grml is a bootable CD (Live-CD) originally based on Knoppix and nowadays based on Debian. grml includes a collection of GNU/Linux software especially for users of texttools and system administrators. grml provides automatic hardware detection. You can use grml (for example) as a rescue system, for analyzing systems/networks or as a working environment. It is not necessary to install anything to a harddisk; you don't even need a harddisk to run it. Due to on-the-fly decompression grml includes about 2.1 GiB of software and documentation on the CD. You don't have to pay anything to use grml because it is free software! Read more...

[Jan 14, 2006] All about Linux Xfce 4.2 - A light weight window manager heavy in features.

Xfce was when I tried out the Belenix Live CD. Xfce was the only window manager bundled with it so I had no choice but to use it though my personal preference was Fluxbox. But after playing around in it for some time, I just couldn't stop admiring the usability and design of Xfce as well as the responsiveness of the applications when run in it.

So the first thing I did was to install it in Linux and take it for a test drive. And the things I found out were really interesting. For one, Xfce is not just any window manager out there but it is a desktop in its own might. It comes bundled with applications like its own light weight xterminal, a file manager, desktop configuration utilities, a light weight mail client, a media player and optional utilities like a calender similar to those that pop up in KDE and Gnome when you click on the clock in the panel and a very cool lightweight text editor.

But what sets Xfce apart from the more popular heavy weights like Gnome and KDE is its very low memory foot print. In fact, in the developer's own words, the aim of Xfce is to be a simple, light and efficient environment which is easy to use and configure, stable, fast and at the same time visually appealing. And not to speak of a clean desktop. In fact, I found out that the desktop is a separate utility which goes by the name xfdesktop and the user has the option of not running it in Xfce if he chose to.

Another aspect which endeared me to this light weight window manager cum desktop is that when you install or uninstall any software in Linux, the menus in Xfce are automatically updated to mirror the change which is a comfortable feature which is lacked by other light weight window managers including popular ones like Fluxbox.

In my opinion, it would be a good idea to install another light weight file manager called 'Rox' along side Xfce which I believe integrates quite well with the Xfce desktop.

If you are using a Debian based Linux distribution, installing rox is as simple as executing the command:

# apt-get install rox
I recommend using Rox file manager with Xfce because it is quite easy to associate file types with the applications of our choice in rox and it is blazing fast.

Software bundled with Xfce

And if you are usually booting into run level 2 or 3 and then starting a window manager using the startx command, then you may make Xfce the default window manager by creating a hidden file by name .xinitrc in your home directory and entering the command startxfce4 in it as follows:
$ touch .xinitrc
$ echo "startxfce4" > .xinitrc

$ startx
One thing that I found really annoying though is that when I start nautilus (the Gnome file manager), it overlaps my xfce desktop and I stop getting the xfce menus when I right click on the desktop. I figured a work around here in that by using the --no-desktop flag, I was able to circumvent this problem.
$ nautilus --no-desktop
After using this light weight window manager (version 4.2.2) for a week now, I am so impressed by it that I have made it my default window manager in Linux.

posted by Ravi @ 8:58 AM 10 comments


At 12:26 AM, Anonymous said...
I am also using Xfce as my primary desktop and I am very much satisfied with it. I really wonder why people fight over Gnome and KDE. It looks really foolish when there are scores of window managers and desktops around.

Interesting review. :)
At 4:05 AM, Iain said...
I tried Xfce when I used Vector Linux and I was impressed as well. It's not quite as slick as KDE or Gnome, but the low system requirements more than make up for that.
At 10:38 AM, Carthik said...
The last time I tried XFCE on a Ubuntu machine, I had a huge memory leak problem that would just keep growing if I left my desktop overnight without logging out. That turned me off of XFCE some.

The biggest problem with leaving gnome is that you will then miss out on some integration, and some panel applets which I possibly can't do without like the networkmanager applet.
At 6:26 PM, Anonymous said...
You can even get desktop icons w/ XFCE4 by letting ROX to manage the desktop.
echo rox -p desktop& > ~/Desktop/Autostart/autorun
chmod +x ~/Desktop/Autostart/autorun

Looks like this:
At 10:38 PM, Anonymous said...
Actually, XFMail is not part of the XFCE Desktop - The name is just a coincidence. You can tell by the look: XFMail is kinda ugly, unlike the rest of the desktop :o)

It might be interesting to note that XFCE will sport a brand-new File Manager called 'Thunar' on the upcoming 4.4 release, for people like me who don't like xffm nor the rox-filer.

At 2:06 AM, Anonymous said...
Carthik - You can use NetworkManager just fine under Xfce.
Make sure you select under the Startup prefs/Advanced options to start Gnome services (you need this for the gnome-keyring-manager that NetworkManager uses to store WEP keys),
then just run 'nm-applet' and it should appear in the systray in your panel (If you addded one) or the taskbar.

Works fine here.

- (fedora-extras Xfce package maintainer)
At 5:53 AM, TC said...
I just recently switched from Gnome to KDE, and I gotta say I think I prefer KDE. XFCE is not bad, but I don't feel it has enough features. One really (relatively) easy config in KDE is the bluetooth setup. I needed a bluetooth headset to work with Skype and KDE was the only one I could get it working under.
At 7:39 AM, Anonymous said...
Just some corrections:

"[XFCE] comes bundled with applications like its own light weight xterminal"

Well in fact it does not. I assume you are reffering to Terminal - this is the XFCE terminal app, but older versions of XFCE just launched xterm (which is hardly XFCE own). So Terminal is XFCE application but it is hardly lightweight. :) In fact it is very heavy due to use of vte widget which sucks in my opinion (it is like 12x slower than f.e. xterm).

"[XFCE] comes bundled with applications like (...) a light weight mail client"

No it does not come with an email client. Unless of course you call mailbox checking panel applet an email client.

"But what sets Xfce apart from the more popular heavy weights like Gnome and KDE is its very low memory foot print."
"Another aspect which endeared me to this light weight window manager"

If you think it is lightweight - try WindowMaker. I don't mean to be flaming but compared to wmaker (which is not the lightest BTW) it is not light on memory and on X11 usage by any means. This is due to few facts - XFCE4 uses GTK which is known to be slow. By saying X11 usage I mean that given window manager is well optimized/designed to work with X11 protocol (over network FE). In fact this is IMHO more important factor than CPU usag

Using a liveCD as your Linux Desktop

Most of the "Desktop" Linux liveCD distributions (distros) are meant to to be used for trying out or demoing Linux before installing them to your hard drive. Popular distros like Ubuntu, Mepis, and PCLinuxOS are good examples and in my mind are some of the best offerings. I've been there and done that. These are great distros, and there are many more! If you're looking for a Linux distribution to install on your hard drive, these are all great distros, and you won't be disappointed. Test drive the liveCD, install to your hard disk, and enjoy.

However, many liveCD distros can be used as a day to day desktop without ever installing them to your hard drive. Huh? Wait a minute, everyone installs the OS to a hard disk! Well yes, that's the way it has always been done, but I am not sure why we should continue in that direction... "ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now" (Robert Allen Zimmerman).

Why would anyone want to use a Linux liveCD as a basic day to day desktop? Here are some thoughts:
  • Easy to load and update -- Easy, because your data (including configurations) are separate from the operating system (OS). The idea of separating data from the OS has always appealed to me. It seems like a very logical and smart thing to do. Even when I partition a system for a hard drive Linux install, I create a separate partition for /home. Doesn't everybody?
  • It's portable -- You can take it with you and securely boot up from just about any PC. Also, Linux liveCDs can often be installed and booted from a USB drive (thanks to some excellent standards around booting from USB drives). This really beats lugging a laptop around (especially when airport security is involved). The downside is that your Live-CD might not boot on all hardware. The distro might not detect the hardware correctly or the hardware might not be able to boot from CD or USB.
  • Most run on older PC hardware -- Not only do they run, they usually run quite fast! (Did you ever notice that you usually cannot upgrade old PCs from Windows 95 to Windows XP?) Some of the older PCs don't support booting from CD or USB. In such cases, you can usually copy the CD to the hard drive and create a boot floppy to load the image from the hard drive.
  • Security -- It's hard for someone to violate your OS when it resides on a read only CD. And, you can always reboot to a pristine state. This is kind of like going to communion and being forgiven for all past sins. Linux by design is a very secure OS. This just improves on it. Amen.
  • It's just plain fun! -- You can remix if you like. You can do your own. This is one of the great things about open source. I am waiting for the next version of Windows XP liveCD. Don't get me wrong here, Microsoft does allow generating DOS 3.1 boot disks so you can network stage new XP clients. But that is more of an enterprise moment...

If you like the idea of using a Linux liveCD on a daily basis, there are several features that need to be present to make this an enjoyable experience:

  1. Saving and restoring configuration data from one session to the next. Specifically, changes to /etc, /usr, /root, and...
  2. Saving and restoring your home directory. This includes the configuration files for applications like your browser or word processor.
  3. Adding additional persistent software packages without remixing/re-mastering the CD. Using tools like apt-get or rpm do not meet this need. I cannot download and install applications each time I boot up.
  4. After boot, freeing up the CDROM for other use (like ripping a CD or just playing CD/DVD). This can be accomplished by loading the entire OS into RAM or by copying the CD image to your hard drive and booting and running from there. Loading your OS into RAM creates a very responsive PC. LiveCD distros without this option do not get much playing time in my space.

Four four-star liveCD Linux distros

Considering the above, if I were to award a star for each feature, how many four-star Linux distros would there be? Of the more popular distributions (per Distrowatch hit count), I would like to highlight four four-stars liveCDs -- Puppy Linux, Kanotix, Damn Small Linux (DSL), and SLAX.

I really like and use all four. They are all capable of saving and restoring system configuration data and home directories. They also each have an easy mechanism to add persistent software packages and they all can be loaded entirely into RAM. One caveat: Kanotix requires a gigabyte or so of memory to load into RAM; however, memory is cheap, and after you get Kanotix loaded into memory, it screams!

  • Puppy Linux -- developed by Barry Kauler, this small 60MB distro is loaded with applications and is one of the easiest distributions to work with after initial setup. When you boot it up for the first time, it looks for a place to put it's default 250MB file and just does it. It saves everything in this file -- configurations, home directory, and added software packages. Next time you boot up, everything just happens. Software packages are downloaded and installed with PupGet and DotPup tools. Really easy with a good selection of packages to choose from. For the size of this distro, it is really surprising how much you get. Also, it loads and executes in RAM by default. That's a default I can live with!

    Puppy has the option of Booting from writable CD or DVD and saving everything back to the CD/DVD. No hard drive or USB drive is needed to save your data or added packages. I have not tried this feature, but it sounds very interesting. This method seems to create an audit trail of everything you do. When the CD/DVD fills up, it copies your current state to new media and continues.

    One security concern that I have with Puppy is that you boot up as user root. I would prefer booting up as user doggie or fido and using sudo for commands needing root privilege. Ubuntu has implemented their distros in this manner.
  • Kanotix -- developed by Joerg "Kano" Sdhirottke, this distro is somewhat larger (~700MB) than the other distros discussed. It is full featured based on Knoppix and Debian-Sid. It contains many of the latest software applications and is optimized for the i586 architecture. It has the backup/restore and persistent home directory features found in Knoppix.

    In addition, Kanotix comes with a software management tool called Klik that allow for easy persistent installation of additional software applications. The Klik agent is installed and ready to use. Each software package from the Klik website consists of one compressed image file (.cmg). After you download this file (of course you put this in your persistent home directory), all you have to do is click on it to load and execute. Simple. If you want to delete the software package, you delete the one file and you are done. The solution is quite flexible and most of the downloaded applications actually work.
  • Damn Small Linux (DSL) -- a small (~50MB) distro developed by John Andrews and Robert Shingledecker. DSL's backup/restore methods are unique in that the user can specify the files or directories to backup and restore. Once done, backup and restore are done automatically by default. A cheat code is provided to allow you to override this feature. In effect, this cheat code allows you to be pure again. Amen. It's optional to load the entire image into RAM. Needless to say, it's an option that I always select.

    The DSL philosophy is to start small and add any additional software that you need. To do this there are "extensions" or modules that can be loaded at boot time or when needed. All you have to do is download these extensions to your persistent area and they are there for you use at every boot. Very easy! Actually, you can load extensions at boot with cheat codes or manually after boot.

    DSL has a very small footprint that can then grow to fill your needs... a great Linux distro.
  • SLAX -- this distro is based on Slackware, one of the oldest linux distributions. Developed by Thomas Matejicek, it provides scripts (Linux Live Scripts) for others to create their own liveCDs. And, there have been many takers -- STUX, Goblinix, Buffalo and Mutagenix to name a few. Note that many of these hacks provide four-star features, as outlined above. Note: if you like gnome, Mutagenix is a worthy distro.

    SLAX uses "modules" to load system components and applications. This is all done at boot time. So, it is very easy to add additional persistent applications. This same module methodology is used to backup and restore user data and configurations. Very clever.

The bottom line

There are many Linux liveCD distros that are not really meant for installation to a hard disk. They can be booted from CD or USB and used as your everyday desktop. They are easy to update, are portable, work on older hardware, are very secure and are great fun. Party on!

About the author: Frank Richards is a graduate of the University of Illinois (EE) and has worked in research, product development, product validation and information technoplogy at Ford Motor Company for the past 35 years. He is currently an Infrastructure Architect in Ford Enterprise
Technology (IT), Dearborn Michigan.

Damn, I like Damn Small Linux

DSL, for those of you who don't know it, is one of several "mini-Linux" distributions. Of the set, it's probably the most well thought of since it actually manages to pick a GUI into its goodness and, having turned version 2.0 recently, it's the most mature of the mini-Linuxes.

So how small is it? You can run it on as little as a 33 MHz 486 PC with 32 MB of RAM. I know, because I've done it.

The site says you can do in as little as 16 MB of RAM and I see no reason not to believe this.

At a mere 50 MB of operating system and programs, you can load, and run, DSL off business-card CDs, USB pen drives... whatever. Heck, if it holds more data than a floppy diskette, chances are you can run DSL off it.

Don't think that because DSL only takes up 50 MB of space you're getting a bare-bones Linux system with a command line as the only interface and only a handful of utilities for programs. No, you actually get the FluxBox GUI, and pretty much all the basic applications you'll ever need.

FluxBox drives some users crazy because it doesn't have a taskbar and start button. If that's you, you can just grab a copy of IceWM, another small GUI that does include those screen luxuries, and use it instead. For directions on how to do that, visit Steve Litt's DSL guide.

No matter which GUI you end up using, you've got some nice applications to work with.

For example, for Web browsing you can either use Firefox, or the far more obscure but amazingly fast Dillo. For word processing, you have flwriter. If all you need is basic text editing, there's the editor I always use anyway, vim, plus two others.

The list goes on and on. Email, ftp, DHCP, the kitchen sink. If it can fit snuggly in with everything else and still total under 50 MB it's in there.

If you have more than enough computer to run DSL, you can also use it to add other programs that will never fit into its 50 MB limit like 2.0. If you want, you can use it to install a full-featured, full-sized Debian/Knoppix style Linux on your system.

OK, so that's all very nifty, but so far it probably still sounds more like a clever trick than something useful. What takes DSL from the realm of neat toy to useful program is that you can use it as the foundation for a dandy system repair operating system.

With programs like Midnight Commander, one of my favorite file and directory toolkits, and Bash Burn, a CD Burning application, you can dig into a dead box's hard drive and pull out useful data.

For more on the basics of how to do this, may I recommend this older, but still useful, article on using Knoppix to find lost data in the smoking wreckage of dead machines by Carla Schroder.

In short, DSL makes a fine PC rescue system that you can literally keep in your wallet or shirt pocket.

And, that my friend, makes DSL one damned useful distribution -- and far from being just a toy.

[Dec 7, 2005] NewsForge Opening Solaris opens door to community, derivative distros

Since the OpenSolaris community was launched in June, at least three derivative distributions -- SchilliX, BeleniX, and Nexenta -- have been created and released. Parts of OpenSolaris are also making their way into other operating systems. A port of DTrace is in the works for FreeBSD.

SchilliX, an OpenSolaris-based live CD, was the first OpenSolaris derivative released, only days after Sun's release of the OpenSolaris code. OpenSolaris can be installed from the SchilliX CD to a hard drive or USB memory stick.

NewsForge Linux to the rescue A review of three system rescue CDs

We've all had this nightmare. You turn on your functioning Windows/Linux PC, and all you get is a blank screen, or a message telling you that certain files are missing, or the kernel has panicked for some obscure reason. Nothing works, and you need the data on your machine. Yes, now's the time to whip out that trusty backup disk, and heave a sigh of relief that all the important stuff is backed up, right? Well, think again.

Most people do not back up on a daily, or even a weekly basis. Some people do not back up at all. Yes, there are uber-geeks with scripts that back up all their work on an hourly basis to offshore servers, but in a small business scenario, there are times when you have to get data off a computer that has crashed.

Here's where you can use the Source, Luke! The world of open source has many wonderful tools for just such a life-or-death situation. Think of them as paramedics for your computer. While they may not be able to restore your machine to full functionality, they are a quick way of running tests and diagnostics on the disabled machine. In a pinch, you can use them to save important files on a different machine on the network, or burn a CD, before sending the machine off to be fixed.

This article reviews three open source rescue CDs: System Rescue CD, LNX-BBC, and CDlinux. These are all small downloads, ranging from 17 to 110MB, specifically designed to perform system rescue. To test the three, I used a recent AMD Athlon 2400+ machine with 256MB RAM, onboard LAN, and a Nvidia graphics card. The test machine had Windows XP Professional loaded on an NTFS partition on a SATA drive and Centos 4 on an ext3 partition on a PATA drive.

I tested the three for basic rescue features: mounting partitions to read and write data, disk management (format, partition, etc.), network access, CD/DVD writing, and virus scanning. These are the most important rescue disk features, and if they work well, you are well on your way to getting your machine working again.

System Rescue CD

System Rescue CD is the largest download at 110MB. It includes:

  • Linux-kernel-2.4.27-xfs
  • GNU-Parted-1.6.11 -- This reliable text-based partition editor is the best Linux partition tool.
  • QtParted and PartGui are regarded as the best free PartitionMagic clones for Linux, and you can use these two graphical partition tools without XFree86. They work with QtEmbedded and allow you to see a chart of your hard disk, create, format, delete, and modify partitions.
  • Partimage-0.6.4 is a Ghost/DriveImage clone for Linux.
  • GRUB-0.94 / LILO-22.5 -- These tools are the most common bootloaders used with Linux. You can restore your bootloader from this System Rescue CD. For example, if Windows removed GRUB, you can run GRUB from this CD and reinstall the bootloader.
  • File system tools
  • Evms 2.3 is a powerful logical volume manager.
  • Archiving tools tar/gzip/bzip2 are provided for Unix users. Zip/unzip, while rar/unrar/unace are provided for Windows users.

In addition to these components, System Rescue CD includes editors, partition table tools, CD/DVD burning tools, network admin tools, security tools, an anti-virus package, and many other tools that are useful in rescuing your system.

System Rescue CD provides good documentation on its Web site, including a 46-page PDF/HTML manual that gives step-by-step guidance to help you through common tasks. If you have little or no experience with Linux, it's a welcome addition.

After burning the ISO image to a CD, I rebooted my test machine with the CD in the drive. The machine presented me with a boot screen, where I could choose to boot with the default settings, look up help, or access a menu. I chose the menu, which led me to an ncurses-based screen where I could change the graphics mode, disable the framebuffer, and choose between various keyboard layouts and other kernel parameters, such as enabling or disabling DMA and APIC. Even though you can manually give all these parameters to the kernel before starting it, many users will appreciate not having to look up the commands. The interface is easy to navigate and lays out the options in an intuitive manner.

After choosing a sensible set of options for my machine, I booted the System Rescue CD. The standard Linux console messages scrolled by, and after hardware detection, the system dropped me into a console.

I first checked Internet and network connectivity. The system took an address from my router, and I was able to ping other machines on my network, as well as connect to the Internet using Lynx.

I could easily mount partitions, but the NTFS partition was mounted read-only by default. System Rescue CD includes Captive, a program that mounts NTFS partitions with full read/write access, which is useful for situations where NTOSkernel.exe or other important Windows system files get corrupted. To mount NTFS partitions using this, you need to have Windows installed on your machine. You have to mount the partition using the standard Linux drivers, then run the Captive program, which copies some files from your Windows installation and tells you how to mount the partition. I found it fairly easy to use, and it worked like a charm. I created, copied, and deleted files and directories without a single problem.

The next step was to recover data from the computer by copying files to a different machine over the network. I used the SMBFS support to mount a shared directory and copy files into it. It worked without any problems. Burning a CD was easy through the command line.

I tried initializing a new drive and resizing a NTFS partition with QtParted. Both operations worked without any problems. The NTFS resizing functionality is especially useful if you need to install a Linux distro but don't have sufficient free space. Some distros come with a built-in resizing functionality, but it's nice to have this feature handy.

In case you need to clone a hard drive or partition, System Rescue CD includes Partimage. Its interface is easy to learn. The trio of QtParted, GNU Parted, and Partimage take care of all the disk management-related tasks.

An anti-virus scanner is another welcome inclusion. ClamAV scans your drive for viruses, and if you have mounted your NTFS partitions with Captive, it will remove them. The manual details the steps needed to update the virus definitions and start a scan. You need a functioning Internet connection to get the latest definitions. Once the definitions are downloaded, ClamAV scans the specified partition for viruses. This is useful when you are stuck with a virus that Windows-based virus scanners are unable to remove. I wish some sort of spy/adware removal software were available for Linux, so that scanning and removing spy/adware could be this easy.

System Rescue CD works well for a huge number of rescue-related tasks. Experienced sysadmins can even create their own versions of it. The documentation is simple and clear, and contains step-by-step instructions for the most common tasks.


The next rescue CD that I tried was CDlinux. This is a much smaller download at only 17MB, and the feature set is correspondingly smaller as well.

CDlinux boots up with a help screen telling you about the various kernel options. You can choose your graphics mode and configure a CD writer.

The normal Linux bootup process proceeds, following which you can log in as root. The first thing I tried was mounting my SATA drive, only to discover that CDlinux doesn't support SATA. It may be possible to enable support by loading kernel modules, but you'll need to know the exact kernel module, or download the source and compile it -- a time-consuming process that may not work. In an emergency situation, you don't have the time to sit and figure out stuff like this. Without SATA support I was un able to test any of the NTFS mounting and copying features. The Centos installation mounted right up, however, and I was able to copy files to and from it.

Internet and network access worked right away. Mounting an SMB partition worked, and copying files across the network was easy. CDlinux includes GNU Parted, so disk management is covered. Gpart lets you restore a damaged partition table. The only thing missing is some documentation. Unless you really know your way around Linux, you'll need to get some help from the Internet, or an experienced user. The Web site is rather sparse, but it does offer a little help to get you started. Don't expect too much from the Mini-HOWTO; be prepared to do some reading on the Net, and you'll be fine.

CDlinux is aimed at a different audience than that of the System Rescue CD. While the latter tries to be the perfect recovery tool, and largely succeeds, CDlinux provides the bare minimum to get you up and running.

CDlinux is a good a choice when you need to quickly get some data off a non-functioning PC. Its 17MB download size works for dial-up users and is trivial for broadband users. You can quickly boot up, copy data to another machine on the network, a secondary hard drive, or a CD. The lack of SATA support is a letdown, but future versions will probably include it. It is possible to create a customized CDlinux distribution, which includes only what you need.

CDlinux can help you perform more complex tasks, but you'll need to be an experienced Linux user. A Windows user would be well advised to stick to the System Rescue CD.


LNX-BBC is a Linux distribution optimized to fit onto a CD that is the size of a business card. At 48MB, it falls neatly in between CDlinux and the System Rescue CD. A Bootable Business Card (BBC) is easy to carry in your wallet and has a capacity of about 50MB. Of course, there's nothing stopping you from putting CDlinux or a similar small distro onto a business card CD.

The bootup is similar to that of CDlinux. A help screen shows you some kernel options and various function keys leads you to information about the project. Choosing a proper framebuffer mode is important because LNX-BBC includes a functional X11 server and a few graphical tools, notably Ethereal and BrowseX.

LNX-BBC was the only distro I tested that did not automatically configure the network without my typing in a command. After I did this, I was able to ping other computers on my network and browse the Internet. SATA support was non-existent, though mounting the CentOS partition worked. Mounting a Windows shared folder using SMBFS failed with an error message.

LNX-BBC includes a graphical browser, which can come in handy. Unfortunately, BrowseX is an old browser, dating back to 2003. In fact, LNX-BBC is also rather dated, with the last version being released in May 2003. Development seems to have slowed down or stopped altogether.

I liked LNX-BBC's inclusion of Ethereal. It's handy for quick network troubleshooting and packet sniffing. I administer a large network (+400 machines), and I can think of many uses for this.

LNX-BBC includes some nice tools and can be used to perform system repair and recovery; however, the dated nature of the CD means that better alternatives exist. It's difficult to recommend LNX-BBC, but still, it does most of what it's supposed to, so it is functional. And, of course, you can carry it in your wallet.


Of the three CDs, the System Rescue CD is the best in terms of features and hardware support. Functionality and compatibility come at the price of size, though, and dial-up users may find the large file difficult to download. At 17MB, CDlinux has the size advantage, and it can quickly copy data to a diskette or across a network.

I decided to keep a copy of the System Rescue CD for its well-rounded, fully featured benefits, and CDlinux for its speed. Although LNX-BBC is functional and has some nice features, the other two CDs are more useful.

The number of open source rescue CDs are increasing everyday. A great resource for finding a live CD is Live CD List. Frequently updated, this site lists live CDs of all sorts, not just rescue CDs, so it's a good place to find a live CD tailored to your needs.


  1. "System Rescue CD" -
  2. "LNX-BBC" -
  3. "CDlinux" -
  4. "Captive" -
  5. "BrowseX" -
  6. "Live CD List" -

Backing Up And Restoring Your Dedicated Server With SystemImager HowtoForge - Linux Howtos and Tutorials

Version 1.0
Author: Falko Timme <ft [at] falkotimme [dot] com>
Last edited 06/17/2005

This tutorial is based on the tutorial "Creating Images Of Your Linux System With SystemImager" ( and where you can find the basics about how to use SystemImager.

Now let's assume you have a dedicated Linux server (rented or co-location) that is located in some provider's data center which is normally a few hundred kilometers away from your office or home. Now you want to make an image of that system so that you have a back up in case your server crashes, you accidentally deleted all you customers' web sites, etc. (I'm sure you have enough fantasy to make up some horror scenarios for yourself here...). Creating such an image is no problem, even on a remote system that is in a data center, it is all described in the "Creating Images Of Your Linux System With SystemImager" tutorial.

But how do you restore such an image? That's the crucial point. The methods described in the "Creating Images Of Your Linux System With SystemImager" tutorial all require that you have physical access to your server and that your server has a floppy drive or a CD-ROM drive. But your server is a few hundred kilometers away, and nowadays only few servers have a floppy or CD-ROM drive.

There is a solution, the only requirement is that your dedicated server has some kind of Linux rescue system which is a feature that normallly comes with dedicated servers offered by one of the big hosting companies. It basically works like this: your hosting company gives you the login to some kind of control panel where you can see a lot of information about your server, e.g. traffic consumption in the last few months, documentation, passwords, billing information, etc. There will also be a page that lets you select the boot mode of your server, i.e. normal system boot or rescue system. If you select rescue system, the server will boot into the rescue system which you can use to repair your normal system. It is similar to your Linux machines in your office or at home where you use some kind of Linux live-CD (e.g. Knoppix) to repair your system.

Now in this tutorial I will demonstrate how to restore an image on your dedicated server on the basis of a dedicated server that the German hosting company Strato gave to me 3 months for free in order to write this howto. Many thanks to Strato for their co-operation!

If you have successfully tried the methods described here on other hosters' dedicated servers please let me know! I will mention it here.

This howto is meant as a practical guide; it does not cover the theoretical backgrounds. They are treated in a lot of other documents in the web.

This document comes without warranty of any kind!

[Sept 25, 2005] Auditor The security tool collection

The Auditor security collection is a GPL-licensed live CD based on Knoppix, with more than 300 security software tools. Auditor gives you easy access to a broad range of tools in almost no time.

To get started, download the latest image of Auditor and burn it as a bootable image. Remember to use the image option -- just copying the file will not produce a bootable image. After you have successfully written the image to disc, you can start Auditor directly from the CD. It will not install any permanent software on the hard disk unless you request it to, so don't be nervous to use Auditor on a client workstation.

The structure of Auditor

Auditor's menu is divided into several "tool groups" for easy recognition:

  • Footprinting -- Applications to gain initial knowledge about a server, such as Whois and Dig.
  • Analysis -- Tools to analyze a network, such as Ethereal.
  • Scanning -- Tools to scan the network, such as Nmap.
  • Wireless -- Applications to test the wireless network.
  • Brute-forcing -- The brute-force password cracking word list holds more than 64 million word entries, according to the Auditor Web site.
  • Cracking -- Cracking tools to be used with the brute-force word lists.

Linux Help Forums - Cloning Problems Systemimager


I’ve gone through the process of cloning a machine before with no problems but for some reason I can’t get it to work again.

Machine to be cloned/golden client, (Works as it should)

Partitions: IDE1 standard 80gig hardrive
Hda1 linux – FILE SYSTEM TYPE: reiserfs
Hda5 linux swap

Distribution: Debian Sarge
Boot loader: Grub v0.95
Kernel: 2.6.8-2-i386

Systemimager version 3.4.0

My cloning process, dhcp is set up on a internal network.

On golden client:
# prepareclient –server

On the image server:
# si_getimage -golden-client -image kioskv3.0 -updates-script YES
# si_addclients -host node -domainname -host-range 1-10 -script kioskv3.0 -ip-range 2>/dev/null
# si_addclients -host node -domainname -host-range 1-10 -script kioskv3.0 -ip-range

I then created a boot floppy for a new machine identical in hardware on the golden client.

I put in the boot floppy and the cloning process completes successfully.

But when I reboot the machine it stops at

Loading DMI pool data… or something like that it says

Loaded the machine from live-cd and ran the following commands

Anyhow I tried to fix this by booting clone machine 1 from knoppix live-cd

root@0[dev]# mount -t reiserfs -o rw /dev/hda1 /mnt/hda1
root@0[dev]# grub-install --recheck --root-directory=/mnt/hda1 /dev/hda
Probing devices to guess BIOS drives. This may take a long time.


took out cd and rebooted. got passed the grub loader properly this time and started loading
up debian but early on it got this error message

/sbin/init: 426: cannot create /dev/null : Read-only file system
/sbin/init: 427: cannot open dev/console : no such file
Kernel panic: Attempted to kill init

can anyone spot anything I’m doing wrong here?

I cloned a machine using the above process which worked perfectly.. the only difference being it was a ext3 filesystem instead of reiserfs.. ideally I’d like to keep reiserfs if possible.

I have 20 machines to clone.. and if I don’t sort this soon I’ll have to install each one of them individually which will take a long time since there is allot of special configuration.

Can anyone shed any light on this?

Anything at all even give me other suggestions how I might do this.

Derek DS2K3 Posted: Mar 20 2005, 05:22 AM
RMS is my Hero

Group: Support Specialist
Posts: 622
Member No.: 4165
Joined: 14-November 04
Looks like the /dev/ filesystem isnt correctly configured. The "Loading DMI Pool Data..." is just a BIOS messsage while it scans the Floppy-Drive for botable media.

I dont have any experience with a) cloning machines, or b ) debian, though

DSL - 50 MB of Linux

DSL is a powerful and versatile yet extremely small Linux distribution with a lot of potential. This distribution provides an avenue of freedom to those who have been limited by size and age of their computers as DSL works extremely well on older hardware.

My Experience:
I was originally drawn to DSL because of the small size (50 MB for a complete system). The concept of fitting an entire OS on 50 MB was not only interesting but also challenging in many ways. This distribution allowed you to carry a 50 MB business card CD and start a Linux distribution on virtually any computer. This was great, but honestly, there are other Live CDs, with more features, like Knoppix. So because I only initially saw DSL as a live CD is was great, but I lost interest and moved on.

However, ...there came a time when I was teaching Linux to an elite group of grade school students. These students were part of a club I built around the best technology students in 2nd to 7th grades. Without a budget we were limited in what we could provide students in terms of technology they could keep and use on their own. I wanted to teach them to build computers as well as install the operating system. Then I ran into donated computers that were basically trash. Pentium 166s with 32 RAM. So I started experimenting with Linux distributions that would work well on these limited resources. I tried a number including Deli and Slackware. When I installed DSL I found not only a functional operating system but also a fast operating system on these computers. The kids helped me install the DSL and I did 10 hours of instruction and they took the computers home for themselves. This was a huge success in not only training students but teaching the community abut Linux and the values of Open Source.

I have played with many Linux distributions but none like DSL, it fits a unique position in the whole scheme of things. I think one thing that attracts me to DSL is that the developers are actively making positive contributions to the system. DSL can revitalize old systems that would normally be thrown away. The amazing thing is that it makes these systems so fast!!! Most Linux distributions are clogged programs that are not used but DSL is finely tuned to be all that you need. Finally, the versatility of DSL is amazing:

Desktop System
Business card System
Embeded Systems
Compact Flash
Thumb Drives

There are a lot of ways to use DSL. DSL may not be fancy but it certainly gets the job done effectively

Slashdot News for nerds, stuff that matters

The Debian-based live-cd Linux distribution Knoppix has been updated to version 3.9. Among the most notable changes are the update to kernel 2.6.11 and the inclusion of OpenOffice 2.0 BETA and KDE 3.4. This is likely the last single-CD version of Knoppix before the split into 'Light' and 'Maxi' versions. Torrent links here."

NewsForge My Workstation OS Damn Small Linux

Damn Small Linux is much more than the business-card LiveCD that it originated as. It is a desktop computing powerhouse. Damn Small Linux` boasts an impressive and useful software collection while maintaining a slim 50MB footprint. It offers several options to run or boot the system along with simple configuration. Top it all off with a custom extension system, as well as apt-get, and you can begin to see why Damn Small Linux` is my workstation GNU/Linux distribution.

I run Damn Small Linux` on an old Pentium II with 128MB of RAM. With every new release I reinstall the operating system to the hard drive, which admittedly kind of sucks, but since my initial install I have began saving most everything to CD-RW. Running from LiveCD would make the update process easier, or eliminate it all together, but I must put my old 1.2GB hard drive to use somehow.

Damn Small Linux`'s default window manager is the ultra efficient Fluxbox. It's lightweight, very customizable, and a perfect match for Damn Small Linux`. No, it doesn't include all the bells and whistles of KDE or GNOME, but the minimalist approach is beneficial to some. I now run Fluxbox on every desktop I use for the added performance benefit.

Want apps? Dig this. Damn Small Linux` includes Beaver for text editing and Xpaint for basic image manipulation. It contains Flwriter, a tiny but useful word processor, as well as equally necessary Word and PDF viewers. You can listen to your MP3 collection or stream audio from the Web with XMMS. All the Internet access applications, including Telnet, FTP, and VNCviewer, are there too. You can browse the Web with Dillo or Links, chat with clients for IRC, ICQ, and AOL Instant Messenger, and exchange email with Sylpheed.

Damn Small Linux`'s control panel is one of its coolest features. It lets you easily start your Web, FTP, or SSH server, back up and restore your LiveCD settings and files, set up and configure your Ethernet, modem, and printer hardware, and more. Of course, you could do all this configuration from the command line, but the GUI makes it so easy. Damn Small Linux` has great support for wireless LAN cards too, including wlanconfig, ndiswrapper, and Prism2 support.

I saved the best feature for last. The Damn Small Linux` extension system provides "click and run" access to a ton of great stuff. Simply click on the MyDSL icon on the desktop and Dillo opens to a page with all available stable extensions, with a link on the bottom of the page that takes you to the newer experimental ones. A few of my personal favorites include K3b,, and the GIMP. Recently, many gaming extensions have begun to show up in the repository, including the classic Wolfenstein 3D. To use them, you'll need Xfree86 and the kernel source in order to recompile the kernel, both of which are available via MyDSL.

Desktop distros are the current frontier in Linux computing. Sure, there are plenty of bloated distros full of commercial software, but that's overkill. The average home user doesn't need more than Damn Small Linux has to offer, and it's a great starting point for the Linux noob. It helps you get comfortable with the bash shell while still providing a "safe" graphical desktop. The small size of the whole OS makes for easy downloading too, which is good because Damn Small Linux`'s developers are constantly cranking out new versions.

As far as community goes, the group can seem a little snooty at times, as is often true of software with a high geek factor.

Damn Small Linux` is small, but dynamite comes in small packages. Easy, powerful, accessible, and fun -- sounds like some of the things that got you interested in the Linux revolution to begin with.

What's your desktop OS of choice? Write an article of less than 1,000 words telling us what you use and why. If we publish it, we'll pay you $200. So far, we've heard from fans of FreeBSD, Mepis Linux, Debian, Xandros, Slackware, Windows XP, Lycoris, SUSE Professional, NetBSD, Ubuntu, FreeDOS, Libranet, Mandrakelinux, Arch Linux, Mac OS X, Knoppix, Linspire, Gentoo, PCLinuxOS, Yoper, Fedora Core 3, and Windows 2000 Professional. Coming soon: VidaLinux, Kanotix, and Scientific Linux.

[Apr 25, 2005] "The latest release of Knoppix (3.8.1) has arrived"

[Mar 26, 2005] Project Frenzy - FreeBSD-based LiveCD

Frenzy is a "portable system administrator toolkit," LiveCD based on FreeBSD. It generally contains software for hardware tests, file system check, security check and network setup and analysis. Size of ISO-image is 200 MBytes (3" CD)

System requirements

Current version of Frenzy is based on FreeBSD 5.2.1-RELEASE. Compressed file system (geom_ugz) used, so there is almost 600 MB of data on 200 MB CD. Loading speed also improved.

When Frenzy boots, it creates required memory disks, automatically detects and mounts HDD partitions (UFS, FAT16/32, NTFS, EXT2FS are supported). It also mounts FreeBSD swap space as Frenzy swap, if found. If you wish you can create a swap file on mounted partitions. There is also an automatic mouse type detection (PS/2, serial, USB).

There are almost 400 applications in Frenzy 0.3:

X Window system doesn't start automatically. When XFree86 is first started by using of 'startx' script, video hardware autodetecting will begin. But you may run the detection script manually, if you expect some troubles with it. Default window manager is fluxbox. X Window also contains TTF-fonts.

There are some dialog scripts for LAN (static-IP and DHCP) and PPP (dialup) setup. You can easily backup system settings to a floppy, USB Flash or hard disk and restore them automatically when Frenzy starts.

Distribution contains essential FreeBSD documentation and Frenzy-specific help system.

Software listing for Frenzy 0.3 is here.

See also Slashdot Frenzy - FreeBSD-based LiveCD for sysadmins

An admin's savior :-) (Score:5, Interesting)
by JamesTRexx (675890) on Monday February 28, @08:43AM (#11801777)
(Last Journal: Saturday April 24, @06:55AM)
Cd's like these are very useful, even in our Windows-centric company. One laptop had a fried harddrive, Windows crashed upon starting. First I tried the recovery console which was no help because the disk was beyond repair, then I tried a BartPE [] XP cd but that wouldn't recognize neither the NIC in the docking nor a USB NIC (no, I didn't want to have to add all sorts of drivers etc. to it first). Downloaded a FreeSBIE [] cd and it worked perfectly. The guy was very happy about his saved data, the shmuck.
*goes off to browse the site*
excellent toolkit (Score:5, Informative)
by Ragica (552891) on Tuesday March 01, @02:08PM (#11814841)
This is a really great collection of software for admins and hackers (in the good sense of the word). In my opinion it is the most useful bootable kit i've yet seen.

I booted the GUI once briefly, but didn't have a mouse hooked up so it was useless. I don't really care about the GUI. The focus of this kit is mostly command line tools (though there are some gui-only tools). The system boots to a prompt; you have to start X from the command line if you want it.

It's pretty annoying the way it defaults to Russian if you don't press e within three seconds during boot up. But hey, it was made by Russians who are probably pretty annoyed by all the English they are forced to endure.

The BSD kernel is very nice for detecting hardware. They're method of automounting drives seems to work pretty well. The little help system they have included which categorises and lists all of the installed utilities to help you find your way around is indeed very helpful (it would be better still if it was searchable).

Anyhow, i love this disk. It's so useful. I tend to us it more than Knoppix now in many situations. All of the more admin-oriented linux boot disks i've tried tend to have gotten stale, not updated, and be hard to find out what tools are on them after booting. Maybe Frenzy will stagnate as well. But for now it is my favorite.

Also having a lot of BSD boxes of course I am biased. Most of the linux boot disks don't give much attention to UFS/FFS file systems.

[Mar 25, 2005] Banks eye bootable Linux CDs ZDNet Australia News Security

Australian company Cybersource says it's currently talking to two domestic banks about providing Linux-based bootable CDs to consumers to ensure Internet banking security.

The company yesterday released information about its Online Banking Coastguard solution. Coastguard is based upon Knoppix, a Linux distribution which boots entirely from CD and is known for its automatic hardware detection features. Cybersource has included Mozilla Firefox as the sole browser for Internet banking.

"We've brought it to the attention of several banks, and are in reasonably serious discussions with two of them," said Rohan Tronson, Cybersource's Coastguard product manager. Although he wouldn't say which companies were involved, Tronson acknowledged his company was talking to both national and regional players.

"One of them has considered the technology, but has already made a commitment to another technology, which is tokens. While it's [Coastguard] not incompatible with tokens, they've already made certain agreements with a certain company involved with those tokens. They've chosen at this stage not to make it something that they'll carry as a major product," Tronson said.

"However we are still in discussions with a section of that bank, to use the technology in a slightly different area, within the bank and within a project that the bank supports - we're likely to use something similar to this," he continued. He said that Cybersource would be shortly demonstrating its software to the second bank that it was in discussions with.

"We don't expect too much action at this point from the major banks," said Tronson, although his company has approached them with the Coastguard solution. "We'd probably expect some of the more regional ones or some of the providers of other financial services to be the first onboard with something like this."

However, Cybersource may find it tough going selling its Firefox-based solution to the major Australian banks. None of the larger players officially support Firefox- or Linux-based access to their systems, although various online guides exist to guide Linux users through the process of configuring their system for each particular bank. The complexity of each solution varies between banks, with those that provide Java-based Internet banking (such as St George) requiring the most tweaking.

Tronson did make it clear that if necessary, his company would customise its product to a bank's needs, saying: "There are other browsers available (Netscape, Opera, etc). If necessary we would be happy to replace FireFox with one of these (subject to licensing of course) as part of the customisation process."

Tronson claimed that the main attacks against banks and banking customers were "not necessarily solved by alternative security measures such as tokens and other forms of second factor authentication". Tronson argued that Coastguard would be a better solution for secure Internet banking because it provided "a totally locked-down, secure operating system and applications from non-modifiable media, with DNS-lookup configurations hardwired to secured servers provided by the banks themselves".

When building Coastguard, Tronson said, Cybersource recognised that Knoppix "is not particularly friendly or familiar to the majority of people". So the company took the Linux distribution and used the open source IceWM window manager to build a "user interface that had been made to look and behave much like the Windows XP that most users are used to".

In addition, the company pared down the Linux distribution so that it would supply "just the tools necessary for the single purpose of online banking". Tronson also said his company had secured the underlying Linux system and put extra development effort into ensuring that it would "function smoothly in a far wider variety of environments" than Knoppix normally would.

Cybersource plans for banks to put their own branding onto the product and make it an officially supported secure channel for accessing Internet banking services. The company envisages banks providing bootable CDs of Coastguard alongside other branded marketing material.

[Mar 9, 2005] Slashdot Puppy Linux Lets You Run From, Save To The Same CD

Now there's a live CD that can actually save data back onto its own disk! How does it work? The PC boots with a multi-session CD inserted in the CD-burner drive -- thus, Puppy Linux automatically knows which drive is the CD-burner, in case you have more than one CD/DVD drive. Then you use Puppy in the normal way. At shutdown, all the changed files in your home directory are saved back to CD. That's it. Next time you boot, all the personal files are restored!"

[Jan 25, 2005] CoolTechZone Brief Look MEPIS Linux Live CD

After last week's introduction to Linux, we shall take our first steps into the world of Linux. Many of us have thought of installing Linux, but have hesitated because the idea of installing a completely new operating system, and creating new partitions is a terrifying thought. Some of us have had bad experiences, such as accidentally destroying the main partition and losing all our data. These sorts of horror stories tend to make a new user think twice before installing a Linux operating system.

Well, for all those of you who have felt this way, a Linux Live CD might just be the answer. As the name implies, this is a version of Linux, which boots directly off the CD, without troubling your hard drives at all. You can use it to learn about Linux, or to see whether your hardware will cause problems if you do decide to install Linux on your machine. They also make a great rescue disk. In case your Windows installation crashes, it's trivially easy to boot off a Live CD, and save your files on a CD-R or on the network.

There are many, many Live CDs available. Some of the best-known ones are Knoppix, Gnoppix, Mepis, SuSE Live CD and Mandrake Move Live CD. These are all freely available, and you can use any one you like. For the purposes of this article, we will be using the Mepis variant of Live CD.

One caveat before we begin. Using a Live CD is a RAM intensive operation. Since the entire operating system runs off the memory, the more memory you have, the better. You should have at least 256 MB of RAM. Anything less would just be an exercise in frustration. So keeping this in mind, let's begin…

[Jan 1, 2005] "Knowing Knoppix

is a beginner-friendly, 134 page freely downloadable book (released under the GNU Free Documentation License in PDF format). See also Slashdot Grokking Knoppix

O'Reilly title Knoppix Hacks []

USB Flash Memory HOWTO

Google Groups comp.unix.solaris

General Protection Fault Dec 31 2004, 11:35 am show options
Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.advocacy,, comp.os.linux.misc, comp.unix.solaris
Followup-To: comp.os.linux.advocacy
From: General Protection Fault <> - Find messages by this author
Date: Fri, 31 Dec 2004 19:35:08 GMT
Local: Fri, Dec 31 2004 11:35 am
Subject: Re: mount USB flash drive on Unix
Reply | Reply to Author | Forward | Print | Individual Message | Show original | Report Abuse
["Followup-To:" header set to comp.os.linux.advocacy.]
On 31 Dec 2004 11:21:44 -0800, wrote:

> How to mount USB on UNIX. For CD, we just type mount, and cd to the
> device name. But I cannot do the same for USB flash drive.
> please advise. thanks!!

If your kernel has hotplug and automount it should Just Work. For instance,
on GNOME with Fedora Core 3 I plug it in and it appears on the desktop
instantaneously. The /var/log/messages shows that hotplug detected it,
assigned it to /dev/sda (using UFS) and then mounted /dev/sda1 onto

[Nov 15, 2004] Feather Linux The Swiss Army Knife of LiveCDs

The GNU/Linux community embraced the new LiveCD, using it in everyday tasks including showing off to Windows users. After some time, even some Windows admins began carrying Knoppix CDs to use in case of emergency. This was not enough for some developers, especially those who appreciate lean and mean systems. Thinking that 700MB is just too big, Damn Small Linux strips Knoppix to the bare minimum and builds up from there, supplying a GUI-based, self-configuring desktop plus troubleshooting LiveCD within just 50MB. Dumn Small Linux` produced the leanest, meanest Linux LiveCD.

Inspired by Dumn Small Linux`, Feather Linux concentrates on desktop workstations, including a media player capable of playing everything from MP3s to DivX movies. In 64MB (14MB more than Dumn Small Linux`), Feather also supplies more troubleshooting and emergency utilities.

With its small footprint, Feather Linux downloads in just over an hour on a 128Kbps line. It is even possible to download via a 56Kbps modem, making it the ideal emergency LiveCD for almost everyone. Its low resource needs makes it an ideal distro for recycling legacy PCs with modest hardware, even machines with 486-DX100 CPUs or 48MB of memory. There are also active Feather Linux forums.

To demonstrate how well Feather Linux works as a rescue CD, I'm going to pose a common administrative problem and demonstrate how to solve it with the LiveCD. Think of it like a MacGyver computer exercise, with a Feather CD as the Swiss Army knife. While doing this, we will practice the Unix Way, taking full advantage of its tools: bash, Perl, pipes, redirections, and the rest of the arcane Unix heritage.

(For those with low bandwidth, most of the things described here are possible not only with Feather Linux, but also with Knoppix or most of the other Linux LiveCDs you may already have. We like the lean, mean method, but using Knoppix would not be overkill.)

Reinstalling an OS, Not the Data

GNU/Linux systems have always provided good backup solutions. Suppose you want to erase your Red Hat 9 partition and install Debian Woody instead. In the common case, all you have to do is to back up /home to have all your default userspace files and configurations. /etc and /var may also be handy. Then install Woody.

This is the simpler of the two basic approaches.

Another approach is to back up the partition as a whole: the operating system, the user files, and the configurations (if they are on the same partition). In this case, whenever you want to revert to your old system, you can restore the image.

This second scheme is more delicate. First, you need a host operating system from which to restore the image. In fact, you may not be able to make the snapshot easily from the live system, so it's possible you can't do this at all from your current operating system.

Feather Linux for Snapshots

Obviously you'll have to use a boot disk or CD or another OS already installed. That's why we have this nice, tiny Feather Linux LiveCD ready. You also need a program to make an image from a disk and something that can restore an image to a disk. You can use dd to do this the pure Unix Way, but Feather Linux has a wonderful disk imager called PartImage. Written by Francois Dupoux and Franck Ladurelle, PartImage has two very nice features:

Unknowingly, you have everything ready! You can use partimage in the traditional "restore the backup image from a network drive" way, or you can use its client-server installation method. The fascinating thing is that the developers of PartImage even thought of encrypting that server-client deployment communication.

Enough theory. Let's start the first Feather Linux mission: to back up and restore an entire partition.

Backing Up a Partition

First, boot your computer with Feather Linux. Chose the "boot from CD" option in your BIOS, if necessary; insert the CD; and start. The boot prompt is the regular Knoppix one with different clip art. At the prompt, I prefer to write:

knoppix 2 toram

knoppix 2 boots Feather Linux into a black terminal screen, not the GUI, supplying the fastest boot. toram tells Feather to copy the disc to RAM and operate from there. This avoids the CD-ROM from spinning whenever you start a new program. Second, it allows you to eject the Feather CD and even burn the image to a CD. If you have more than 96MB of RAM, I strongly advise you to use this option.

Here comes another basic problem. You have booted from Feather and will take the backup image of the partition, but you need some place to put it. It wouldn't be very wise to put the backup into the same disk, so a better option is to store it somewhere on the network.

The method of transfer varies; you can use SSH, FTP, or even Samba. Let's do the hardest and presume that we have a Samba server or a native Windows share on the network. The first step is to make a mount point:

# mkdir /root/mnt/k

Next, mount the share:

# mount -t smbfs -o username=user1,password=pass //$ /root/mnt/k

This is the regular way to mount a windows share (E$) via Samba to the filesystem under /root/mnt/k.

Running partimage from the shell produces something similar to the result shown in Figure 1. From there, choose the partition from which to make the image. I advise non-English users to use the default C locale, because I experienced problems using the lang=tr option. This may be due to a conflict with the Turkish locale and partimage. Otherwise, you may not be able to use the regular arrow keys to navigate in the menus.

Linux on a flash drive

We have a special edition of Linux.Ars with two contributing authors, Rob Cook and Eric Newport. They bring the knowledge on installing NVIDIA drivers in Debian and booting a Linux distrubution called SLAX from a USB key. Thanks to both of them for their contributions and we can always use more help with Linux.Ars. If you want to contribute, drop me an e-mail me at But that's not all, this time we have a very cool app of the week: filelight. Filelight gives you a graphical breakdown into filesystem usage. Without further delay, here's volume 30 of Linux.Ars.

Is that a Penguin in your pocket?

How many times have you sat at a computer and thought, If Linux was installed on this box I could... Wish no longer. Instead of carrying around bulky Live CDs or an external hard drive, how about Linux in your pocket? The combination of a USB key and SLAX, the Linux distro used in this example, is a powerful combination when it comes to troubleshooting and spreading the word about Linux. The ability to boot the key, browse the computer's hard drive (SLAX has NTFS support built in), and then locate and burn a file to CD can be very helpful, especially with a computer that is on its last legs. So grab your key and come with me, when we're done you'll have a new tool to help out in the computing trenches. KANOTIX

KANOTIX is a Linux live CD based on Knoppix technology using Debian/sid. The included XFree86 is from Debian/experimental. The main specs are: GRUB based startup from CD, ACPI support, DMA default on, additional support for Dumn Small Linux` modems (Fritz!Card Dumn Small Linux` and Eagle USB), optimal for HD install (you get a working Debian/sid install in about 10 minutes!), kernel forcedeth (for nForce NIC), device mapper and some other patches.

Linux Today - DistroWatch KANOTIX--Putting the Pizzazz on Debian

Heitzso - Subject: would like comparison w/ mepis ( Oct 29, 2004, 09:43:21 )

On an old laptop I recently ran through slackware 10, userlinux, and ubuntu. When I loaded SimplyMepis suddenly my wireless usb/802.11b and ath/802.11a card were found and usable via an extremely simple gui config that made me sit up and take notice. I'm not a fan of KDE, preferring the simpler Gnome approach, but I'm in awe of the mepis "it just works" result. I'm curious how kanotix compares w/ mepis. The review paints a picture of having to fall back to cli to rig wireless and jump back and forth between lan and wireless.

[Oct 25, 2004] Tuxme.Com - Your Linux Information Source

This is not going to be a massive review of the different varieties available, mainly because I only managed to get one of them to work. Let's take a look at the most popular usb key distributions out there:

Damn Small Linux:

Damn Small Linux is a business card size (50MB) bootable Live CD Linux distribution. Despite its minuscule size it strives to have a functional and easy to use desktop.

Features: Damn Small Linux has a nearly complete desktop, including XMMS (MP3, and MPEG), FTP client, Dillo web browser, links-hacked web browser, spreadsheet, Sylpheed email, spellcheck (US English), a word-processor (Ted-GTK), four editors (SciTe, nVi, Zile [emacs clone], and Nano [Pico clone]), graphics editing and viewing (Xpaint, and xzgv), Xpdf, emelFM (file manager), Naim (AIM, ICQ, IRC), VNCviwer, Rdesktop, SSH/SCP server and client, DHCP client, PPP, PPPoE (ADumn Small Linux`), a web server, calculator, generic and GhostScript printer support, NFS, Fluxbox window manager, games, system monitoring apps, a host of command line tools, USB support, and pcmcia support, some wireless support. For more information check out the applications pages.

Screenshots: filetool gui, enhanced myDumn Small Linux`gui, USB install menu

Feather Linux:

Feather Linux is a Linux distribution which runs completely off a CD or a USB pendrive and takes up under 64Mb of space. It is a Knoppix remaster (based on Debian), and tries to include software which most people would use every day on their desktop.

Features: As of version 0.6.1, it includes:
Kernel 2.4.26, Ted, ABS, Dillo (patched for frames and tabs), XMMS and plugins, wavplay, mpg321, ogg123 and other Ogg Vorbis tools, Sylpheed, axyFTP, emelFM, cdrecord, mkisofs, rdesktop, tcpdump, parted, partimage, aircrack, madwifi, dnsmasq, foremost, antiword, e2undel, iftop, bbpager, utelnetd, minicom, index, gpart, socat, traceroute, SciTE, prozilla, Midnight Commander, Samba, elmo, tmsnc, apsfilter, mplayer,, chntpw, zile, tinycc, nano, Xpaint, Xzgv, Xpdf, naim, hdparm, usbview, index, recoverdm, mtr, cdparanoia, betaftpd, Mutella, Chipmunk Basic, gqcam, e3, lua, ettercap, wavemon, iptables, recover, amap, hping2, cabextract, splitvt, pciutils, LinNeighborhood, nmap and nmapfe, portmap and nfs-common, aumix, CTorrent, VNCviewer, sqlite, links-hacked, SSH and SCP, DHCP client, xtdesktop, PPP and PPPoE support, NTFS resize support, an RSS reader, stress, cpuburn, the Monkey webserver, Xcalc, Fluxbox, evilwm, the XBase apps, and the various standard console and system tools.

Screenshot: Desktop


Flonix USB Edition 1.0 is a new full-featured embedded operating system for PC running from USB 2.0 key drives. Perfect and complete for nomad office, multimedia, diskless PC stations, demos, and kiosks !

Features: The usual, plus lots more via extensions. See here.

Screenshot Tour

Flash Puppy:

Yes, this is yet another Linux distribution. What's different here is that Puppy is extraordinarily small, yet quite fully featured. Puppy boots into a ramdisk, and that's it, the whole caboodle runs in RAM. Unlike live CD distributions that have to keep pulling stuff off the CD, Puppy in his entirety loads into RAM.

Features: A quite extensive list, including Firefox. See here for more.

My very own flash puppy desktop

Flash Puppy's installation is very easy and straight forward and the only one out of the 3 that worked on the first try. You download a Live CD image, burn it onto a CD, boot into the Live CD and run a script to install the distro on the usb device. Slam dunk! Only about 15 minutes later I was booting from a 256mb usb key into a nice looking windows 95 style GUI with a 190MB home partition open for me to store stuff and have it in my pocket at all times. The only snag was getting a network connection to work but that was solved by (microsoft like weirdness coming up) NOT testing the network connection after configuring it. Go figure.

Feather Linux - About

Screenshots: 1 2 3

What is it?

Feather Linux is a Linux distribution which runs completely off a CD or a USB pendrive and takes up under 64Mb of space. It is a Knoppix remaster (based on Debian), and tries to include software which most people would use every day on their desktop.

What applications does it include?

As of version 0.6.1, it includes: Kernel 2.4.26, Ted, ABS, Dillo (patched for frames and tabs), XMMS and plugins, wavplay, mpg321, ogg123 and other Ogg Vorbis tools, Sylpheed, axyFTP, emelFM, cdrecord, mkisofs, rdesktop, tcpdump, parted, partimage, aircrack, madwifi, dnsmasq, foremost, antiword, e2undel, iftop, bbpager, utelnetd, minicom, index, gpart, socat, traceroute, SciTE, prozilla, Midnight Commander, Samba, elmo, tmsnc, apsfilter, mplayer,, chntpw, zile, tinycc, nano, Xpaint, Xzgv, Xpdf, naim, hdparm, usbview, index, recoverdm, mtr, cdparanoia, betaftpd, Mutella, Chipmunk Basic, gqcam, e3, lua, ettercap, wavemon, iptables, recover, amap, hping2, cabextract, splitvt, pciutils, LinNeighborhood, nmap and nmapfe, portmap and nfs-common, aumix, CTorrent, VNCviewer, sqlite, links-hacked, SSH and SCP, DHCP client, xtdesktop, PPP and PPPoE support, NTFS resize support, an RSS reader, stress, cpuburn, the Monkey webserver, Xcalc, Fluxbox, evilwm, the XBase apps, and the various standard console and system tools.

How was it made?

First, I stripped all the packages from Knoppix 3.4 that I didn't need - after all, who needs both KOffice and, and about five window managers? That left me with a 70Mb image, and then I removed all the locale files and documentation I could find. I also changed the standard XFree86 server to the XVesa and XFbdev servers, which are quicker and much smaller. Then I removed /var/lib/dpkg and placed it in a separate .tar.bz2 archive (which can be downloaded for remasters or hard drive installs), and I did the same for /usr/src/linux as well.
Next, I started adding some more applications which were mainly non-Debian, such as ABS and Xzgv. I also removed some files which were identical to others, and replaced them with either symlinks or shell scripts (i.e. in the case of grep, egrep and fgrep). After that, it was just a case of cleaning up some remnants of the original Knoppix - I changed the boot image to show the Feather Linux bootup screen, and I also stopped /home/knoppix being overwritten on boot.

Thanks go to Klaus Knopper for creating Knoppix, the Debian team, and John Andrews for letting me use some of the files from Damn Small Linux such as the X setup routine, and the XVesa and XFbdev servers.

Contact me at: feather {at} - technical questions should be posted in the forum. Damn Small Linux

Damn Small Linux is a business card size (50MB) Live CD Linux distribution. Despite its minuscule size it strives to have a functional and easy to use desktop. Damn Small Linux has a nearly complete desktop, including XMMS (MP3, and MPEG), FTP client, links-hacked web browser, spreadsheet, email, spellcheck (US English), a word-processor, three editors (Nedit, nVi, Zile [emacs clone]), Xpdf, Worker (file manager), Naim (AIM, ICQ, IRC), VNCviwer, SSH/SCP server and client, DHCP client, PPP, PPPoE, a web server, calculator, Fluxbox window manager, system monitoring apps, USB support, and soon it will have PCMCIA support as well. If you like Damn Small Linux you can install it on your hard drive. Because all the applications are small and light it makes a very good choice for older hardware.

ThinStation - a light, full-featured thin client OS

Thinstation is a thin client Linux distribution that makes a PC a full-featured thin client supporting all major connectivity protocols: Citrix ICA, MS Windows terminal services (RDP), Tarantella, X, telnet, tn5250 and SSH. Thinstation can be booted from network (e.g. diskless) using Etherboot/PXE or from a local floppy/CD/HD/flash-disk. The thin client configuration can be centralized to simplify management.
Thinstation supports client-side storage (floppy/HD/CD/USB) and printers (LPT/USB). Prebuilt images and a Live CD are available too! Mozilla Firefox and lighter browsers are supported as client-side browsers.

Salvare Main

Salvare (from the Latin "to rescue") is a small Linux distribution designed for small, credit-card sized CDs which typically hold around 34MB. More Linux than tomsrtbt but less than Knoppix, it aims to provide a useful workstation as well as a rescue disk.

[Oct 25, 2004] BasicLinux Can run in 4M of memory

BasicLinux is designed specifically for old PCs. It uses a small kernel and busybox to provide a low-RAM Linux, capable of browsing the web, doing email, and functioning as an X terminal. The current release of BasicLinux is particularly suitable for old laptops -- it has PCMCIA capability and includes MagicPoint (a presentation tool similar to PowerPoint).

The current release of BasicLinux is 3.32. It comes in two versions: one boots from a DOS harddrive, the other boots from floppies. Both versions have the option to install themselves to a Linux partition on the harddrive.

SystemRescueCd homepage

Description: 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 contains a lot of system utilities (parted, partimage, fstools, ...) and basic ones (editors, midnight commander, network tools). 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).

Here are the main system tools:

You can see the tools page for more details.

Now, the eagle driver is also provided. This is the driver required by several Modems, especially the SagemFast800 ADumn Small Linux` modem. It has been tested, and we can connect to the internet from the CDRom with this driver. Many french users really need it. I added a script (eagle-config) that makes aDumn Small Linux` configuration and connection very easy.

SystemRescueCd is available for blind people. Now, the linux speakup version 1.5 screen reader is working well, and the speakup keymap is installed. This feature was tested by Gregory Nowak.

It is possible to make customized versions of the disc. For example, it means you can add your own scripts, that helps to make an automatic restauration of the system. It's also possible to burn a customized DVD, with SystemRescue and 4.2 GB for your data (backup for example). Read the manual for more details.

Please, ask questions in the forums.

You can report bugs. With our bug management system (mantis), you will need to create a user account in order to file a bug report. Please, only report bugs that are really related to SystemRescueCd. Don't report a bug that you found in a package included in SystemRescueCd.

You should subscribe to the announce mailing list if you want to receive an e-mail, when a new version is released. Since this list is moderated, spam is not possible. [low-traffic]

License GPL 2 (GNU General Public License)
State for x86 version 0.2.15: stable
State for PowerPC version 0.2.0: unstable
Project leader: Francois Dupoux
Major contributors: Pierre Dorgueil and Franck Ladurelle
PowerPC version maintainer: Daniel Biehle
Operating System Linux 2.4.27 with XFS
Architectures Intel i386+

Build system: SystemRescueCd is based on the Gentoo LiveCd, because Gentoo provides an easy way to keep all packages up to date. It's built with the livecd-ng script, written by Daniel Robbins.

A comparison of Damn Small Linux, Knoppix and PCLinuxOS Linux Live CDs


Live Linux CDs allow people to test Linux or try a distribution without any hard drive installation, or carry Linux around in their pocket to use on any computer. I have picked the top ranked Live CD from Distrowatch for each of these three tasks to review/compare. Knoppix 3.4 is the "test Linux" live CD, PCLinuxOS 7a is the "try before it before installing" live CD and Damn Small Linux is the "pocket Linux" live CD. It should be noted each of these live CDs can perform every task above and that there are many other equally good live CDs - these are just the ones I have picked.

I will try each live CD on an eMachines desktop with a 2.2 Ghz AMD CPU, 512 MB RAM and a USB wireless adapter and a Compaq laptop with a 2.2 Ghz AMD CPU, 512MB RAM and onboard network card. Specifically I will look for hardware detection (including my USB key), the time it takes to get to the desktop from boot, if I can get on the internet, the software included and the overall feel of the live CD.

To learn more about the basics of Live CDs see this page.

MultiBootCD 0.1
by Stephan Walter - Monday, January 12th 2004 10:02 PST

About: MBCD (MultiBootCD) is a shell script to make a customized CD-ROM that can boot any kind and any number of image files. Currently, 4 types of images are supported: floppy images (1.2M, 1.44M, or 2.88M), Knoppix-like images, kernel-binary images (e.g. memtest86), and the Windows XP Recovery Console.

LinuxDefender 2003-12-18 by BitDefender - Monday, January 12th 2004 10:37 PST

About: LinuxDefender Live! CD is a Rescue CD based on Knoppix. It features full NTFS write support (using Captive). It also includes instant antivirus and antispam SMTP protection, which is managed via Webmin. Desktop antivirus protection is integrated into the KDE interface, using BitDefender for Linux technology.

ThePacketMaster 1.2.0 by thepacketmaster - Monday, January 12th 2004 11:41 PST

About: ThePacketMaster Linux Security Server is a CD-based security auditing tool that boots and runs penetration testing and forensic analysis tools. It is handy for security auditors. Some tools included are nessus, ethereal, The Coroner's Toolkit, chntpw, and minicom. It includes modules for any Linux 2.4.20 SCSI driver.

Changes: This release updates the kernel to 2.4.24 to address issues found in 2.4.23 and earlier. It adds new packages for forensic analysis and vulnerability testing. /usr is now in a cloop filesystem for a smaller ISO image. XFree86 is now included, as well as the Enlightenment window manager, the Mozilla Web browser, and Java. Using and Customizing Knoppix [Nov. 20, 2003]

Knoppix has fairly standard hardware requirements. It needs an Intel-compatible CPU (i486 or later) and 20MB of RAM for text mode, with at least 96MB for graphics mode with KDE. 128MB of RAM is recommended when using applications as resource-hungry as As you'd expect, it requires a bootable CD-ROM drive, or a boot floppy and standard drive CD-ROM (IDE/ATAPI or SCSI). Finally, it also requires a standard SVGA-compatible graphics card and a serial, PS/2 standard, or IMPS/2-compatible USB mouse.

How It Works

The boot process resembles a standard CD distribution, but uses virtual drives in RAM. It can boot into either text or graphics mode, requiring more memory in the latter. The OS file system is a single, compressed, read-only file that uncompresses applications and utilities as required. The rest of the CD contains documentation and the boot kernel. Boot time can be anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes, depending on your hardware.

The CD's bootloader offers you the opportunity to add kernel commands. These "cheat codes" control everything from device discovery to desktops and local language selection. You can view the options yourself by pressing F2 at boot-up time. The default booting process chooses a KDE GUI desktop environment. As the boot process continues, it creates the RAM disk, which is followed by the "hotplug" autoconfiguration process. Shell scripts automatically put in the correct settings for the services once the hardware has been identified. I was pleasantly surprised to see the ease in which my first attempt acquired an IP address from the DHCP server and had put itself on the LAN, ready to go.

Accessing 2GB of binaries from a 700MB CD is a neat trick. You'll find everything from desktops including KDE and GNOME; development tools such as gcc, kdevelop, and libraries; office suites such as, KOffice, and AbiWord; multimedia applications such as the Gimp; network and system administration tools such as tcpdump and ethereal; services such as SMTP, POP, FTP, HTTP, news, DNS, and SSH; and even games such as Frozen Bubble. There are, of course, utilities permitting you to access the Internet via Ethernet, dialup, and PPPoE. There is only one user account, called knoppix. However, the root account is automatically available on the console terminals which can be reached pressing the CTRL-ALT-F3 buttons.

Customizing the Knoppix CD (Making Your own Self-Booting CD!)

Being Linux, the real trick is customizing the Knoppix CD for your own needs.

The Need

The following instructions outline a method to setup a Knoppix-based CD development environment. I've used this setup to complete a CD that will be included in an upcoming book on PostgreSQL. Because the book covers a whole gamut of database concepts from SQL basics to normalization and entity relationship diagrams, the reader needs to be able to see real examples with properly indexed references at the click of a mouse. He shouldn't have to delve into server compilation and configuration just to see how a SQL query works.

As the reader explores the business theory of database design — how a business and the services it provides determines the structure of a database — he should have working examples to explore and experiment with. Having a working server on an OS that doesn't require user configuration overcomes one traditional challenge when writing for Microsoft, Apple, and Unix DBAs in the same book.

One Way to Bake a Cake

The basic idea of making a Knoppix CD is to gather what you want on the CD by simulating it on the hard drive. You should be able to edit installed software and test your creation by rebooting the machine from the hard drive, via a bootloader, instead of wasting time burning it to a CD. This development environment mimics the CD, except it's significantly faster. Remember, this is not a standard Linux installation! Even though you are booting from the hard drive, you are in fact emulating an OS that is installed on a CD. When booted, the filesystem cannot be changed; it is read-only.

Your Required Knowledge Base

You will need the following skills to customize the Knoppix Linux Live-CD:

The Ingredients

You will need the following ingredients to bake your CD:

CRUX is a lightweight, i686-optimized Linux distribution targeted at experienced Linux users. The primary focus of this distribution is "keep it simple", which is reflected in a simple tar.gz-based package system, BSD-style initscripts, and a relatively small collection of trimmed packages. The secondary focus is utilization of new Linux features and recent tools and libraries. CRUX also has a ports system which makes it easy to install and upgrade applications.

ARCH LINUX Documentation

PhatLINUX.COM Main Page - Now You Can Install Linux in Windows! PHATLinux eliminates the need for any type of partitioning and runs from within your current Windows partition. This is by far one of the most pleasant experiences with installing a distribution of Linux that we have ever had.

At only 180 Mb for the download this is one small Linux (comparably), but it does come with most of the essentials needed..."

"...The installation routine went flawlessly and without a hitch. At GNULinux we usually cover the installation routine in depth, but (and this was a welcome surprise) there was really nothing that needed to be done. We were booted into Linux running KDE within 15 minutes of starting."

"One of the more daunting tasks facing new Linux users is partitioning a hard drive and setting up the partitions for Linux. There are HOWTO's and whole sites setup just for this subject ( has a whole section on this as well). PHATLinux eliminates the need for any type of partitioning and runs from within your current Windows partition. While this is somewhat slower, to most users this won't be too big of a problem, and by no means takes away from the experience. Another good thing about this distribution is that it has a Windows based installer, which makes the transition even easier. The creators of this distribution are constantly striving to improve it, which shows throughout the distribution."

DistroWatch Damn Small Linux (or Dumn Small Linux` for short) Knoppix reduced to fit on a 50MB business-card shape CD.

Damn Small Linux (or Dumn Small Linux` for short) is a Linux distribution with a difference. Although it is based on the Knoppix live CD, its size has been reduced drastically to fit on a 50MB business-card shape CD. Damn Small Linux is a general purpose distribution to carry around in one's wallet; it comes with XFree86 and the Fluxbox window manager, while other light-weight applications for email, web browsing, word processing, instant messaging and playing music are also included.


"Local Area Security Linux is a small 'live CD' distribution based on Knoppix that aims at being less than 185MB so it will fit on a MiniCD. It is now 107MB with FluxBox as the window manager. It contains about 100 security (forensics, penetration testing, firewall, intrusion detection, etc.) tools including Ethereal and Nessus. See a screenshot here."
posted by Chris Bond Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Linux Journal/Bootable Business Card Nears 2.0 Release

"The Linux Bootable Business Card is a mini Linux-distribution, small enough to fit on a business card-sized CD-ROM.

"LNX-BBCs can be used to rescue ailing machines, perform intrusion post-mortems, act as a temporary workstation, install Debian, and perform many other tasks that we haven't yet imagined.

"Since the release of the last pressed version, 1.618, the LNX-BBC project has been busy adding features in preparation for an all-new 2.0 release..."

Re:Does Knoppix have an NT reg editor? (Score:4, Informative)
by exhilaration on Monday November 18, @01:03PM (#4698770)
(User #587191 Info)
1) You smell like a troll, but I'll bite

2) There's a friendly boot disk that has all the tools to reset admin passwords on a single floppy: [] - it works well, I've used it on a box at work we could not otherwise access.

3) Not that Knoppix has this, but why would this be a dangerous addition? You can reset the admin password by editing a single file - the boot disk above just makes it a snap. If we start eliminating utilities in the name of preventing "hackers" from abusing them, then we might as well disable shell, network, and disk access as well.

interview with Klaus Knopper the author/creator of Knoppix.

Knoppix is "a bootable CD with a collection of GNU/Linux software, automatic hardware detection, and support for many graphics cards, sound cards, SCSI and USB devices and other peripherals. KNOPPIX can be used as a Linux demo, educational CD, rescue system, or adapted and used as a platform for commercial software product demos. It is not necessary to install anything on a hard disk.

Slashdot Klaus Knopper, Creator of Knoppix Talks to DistroW

Knoppix for installfests... (Score:2, Interesting)
by Traicovn on Monday November 18, @01:05PM (#4698798)
(User #226034 Info | | Last Journal: Tuesday November 12, @04:28AM)
Our linux users group [] was introduced to Knoppix by a visiting member from Germany about a year ago. Last spring we held an installfest and the knoppix cd's that we gave out were a huge hit. Best of all, it means that we were able to give out a VERY nice functional test cd that we knew had an almost zero chance of harming an individuals computer. If you have anybody who you've wanted to have try linux or has expressed an interest in linux but is nervous about putting something on the hard drive, knoppix is definitely worth burning a copy of for them.
Hardware detection (Score:2)
by exhilaration on Monday November 18, @01:08PM (#4698834)
(User #587191 Info)
I know someone mentioned the excellent hardware detection found in Knoppix, but I'd like to know why other distributions don't have this level of simplicity? I mean, Knoppix is literally plug and play - pop it into the CD, walk away, and BAM there's KDE on the screen.

WHY do I have to go through xf86config to get my distro up and running???? You gotta find your monitor's documentation, double-check what video card you have, look up how much memory, blah blah blah. Yet Knoppix does this AUTOMATICALLY???? (Or is that automagically?) Knoppix has been out for a while, their hardware detection should be implemented in every distribution!!

wow, how neat... (Score:1)
by caino59 on Monday November 18, @01:10PM (#4698852)
(User #313096 Info)
SuSE has had this for a while, what they call the Live CD. I believe they had them with the all the 7.x distros. And yes, it's available [] over at their site [].

Yea, I know SuSE isn't available free to d/l anymore, but I still like the distro quite a bit...

Can't get to the original article either, anyone have a mirror? I would like to read it ;oP

I do like the fact that Knoppix can deal with 2GB of data due to on-the-fly-compression...and since it's running off a cd anyway, I'm sure it won't make a big performance difference...


Don't touch my .sig there!

Boot Scriptor 1.1.3 (Current version (binaries))
by Michael K Ter Louw - Monday, July 15th 2002 09:57 EDT

Boot Scriptor Home Page

Boot Scriptor is a program that allows a high degree of interactivity when booting from a CD-ROM drive. It provides a set of commands designed to enable users to boot a system in a number of ways, as well as provide interactive menus to choose boot options from.

More specifically, Boot Scriptor is a code module called a Comboot Image that runs on top of a specialized version of Isolinux. As such it can act as a front end to Isolinux, and take advantage of all the capabilities Isolinux has to offer. It also expands on the feature set of Isolinux to allow more complex boot scenarios, and supports a simple scripting language which enables the CD designer to implement custom boot methods. It is based heavily on concepts pioneered by Bart Lagerweij in his great program Diskemu.

Boot Scriptor is free for non-commercial use. The program and its source code is distributed under the NASM License, and the specialized version of Isolinux that supports it is distributed under the GNU General Public License.

Changes: This is the first stable release of the 1.1 series. Rescue CD

About: Simple Rescue CD is a small Linux rescue CD, suitable for booting systems that have become unbootable due to filesystem corruption or other problems. It lies somewhere between minimalist boot floppies and large full-featured rescue systems, and as such is suitable for when space is tight, such as on business card CDs.

Changes: The kernel was upgraded to 2.4.18, and minor boot script changes were made to cope better with multiple CDROMs.

ttylinux 2.1
by Pascal Schmidt - Monday, April 29th 2002 12:33 EDT

About: ttylinux is a minimalistic Linux distribution that can fit in 4 MB of disk space. It contains software needed to log into an ISP by modem or ISDN, surf the Web, and provide Web content to the world. The minimum hardware requirement is a 386SX with 10 MB of RAM for a ramdisk setup or 5 MB of RAM for a hard disk setup.

hdparm 4.8
by Mark Lord - Monday, April 29th 2002 08:42 EDT

About: hdparm is a Linux shell utility for viewing and manipulating various IDE drive and driver parameters. Most drives can benefit from improved performance using a command similar to "hdparm -qm8 -qu1 -qc1 -qW1 -qd1 /dev/hda"

Changes: The -z, -Q, and -M flags were added. The parm range for -p was expanded.

Trinux A Linux Security Toolkit

Linux Orbit - Server or desktop, GNU-Linux just works

Security: Trinux

Securing a network is one of the main jobs of any network administrator. This includes knowing what data is traveling across your network. The first Mini-Linux distribution we'll be looking at is called Trinux, and it focuses itself mainly on network security issues.

Trinux, which refers to itself as the Linux Security Toolkit, can boot from a single floppy or CD-ROM and creates a RAM disk for package storage. Trinux can load its software packages from an FTP or HTTP site (for systems with Internet access) or from a local FAT, ISO or NTFS filesystem. This allows a Windows-based system to boot Trinux without having to reconfigure any system data or partitioning.

Although small, Trinux features a well-rounded group of system security utilities. The Trinux Web site lists all of the packages available for their distribution with a ranking system for packages that have been tested thoroughly and have been found to work well with the Trinux distribution. To view all of the packages available for Trinux, you can point your browser to

A word of warning to those who want to give Trinux a spin. Some of the tools provided in the Trinux distribution are active security tools that generate network traffic for the purpose of probing network and application layer vulnerabilities. Be sure to check your company's network security policy before you begin using these tools. If you're the network administrator and you set the security policy, be sure to take full advantage of these to check for your network vulnerabilities.

The programs available for Trinux are all open source and include the following:

If you're looking for an all-purpose security distribution for Linux, but don't want to dedicate a machine on your network, Trinux is a single disk Linux distribution you should definitely look into.

Crash Recovery for Red Hat is CRK

System crash recovery is one of the main reasons that boot floppies were created for Linux distributions. Although Linux is a stable operating system, the fact is that hard drives and other hardware eventually wears out. Every network administrator should pay attention to the Boy Scout motto and "Be prepared!" In addition to creating boot/recovery disks for your installed Linux base, you might want to look at CRK; the Crash Recover Kit, a single floppy Linux distro for Red Hat administrators.

The Crash Recovery Kit for Linux is a Mini-Linux distribution with a very specific task in mind. CRK is designed to help Red Hat Linux administrators recover from disk problems that the standard recovery disk can't help. These problems include the following:

If you use Red Hat Linux, no matter which version, having a copy of CRK on hand is a good idea. To find out more about CRK and download the latest versions, visit their Web site at

tomsrtbt For General Admin

If you're looking for the all-purpose wrench of Mini-Linux distributions, you'll probably want to look at tomsrtbt. Although older than some Mini Linux distributions (features a 2.0 Linux kernel), it's still very handy. Its creator, Tom Oehser, coined the unique name for this distribution. tomsrtbt stands for "Tom's floppy which has a root filesystem and is also bootable." Although the name isn't very descriptive, this distribution can do a lot of the mundane chores that a standard Linux distribution can.

Like many single floppy Linux distributions, tomsrtbt has several crash recovery and system rescue features. The only difference is that this distribution merely provides the tools; it's up to you to know how to use them. Experienced GNU/Linux administrators will appreciate this approach, since your Linux knowledge will be challenged. As such, tomsrtbt isn't for the GNU/Linux novice. It is, however, an excellent learning device since it's a self-contained Linux distribution and can be booted from a floppy without ill effects to your hard drive.

To learn more about the packages available with the tomsrtbt Mini-Linux distribution, you can read the FAQ at the tomsrtbrt Web site, located online at

You should also look into the mail archives for answers to questions about tomsrtbt that you might have. Although tomsrtbt isn't for everyone, it's certainly a handy tool to have in your GNU/Linux repertoire.

Linux Today - NewsForge The little Linux distribution that could tomsrtbt

"Now, I can hear some people ask, "What can a Linux distribution that fits on a single floppy disk do for me?" The answer is "plenty." You won't want to run your enterprise on this particular distribution, but it might very well bail out your enterprise from time to time. Tomsrtbt can be an important tool in your toolkit.

Those of us who have been around long enough to remember MS-DOS boot floppies may be skeptical at first. After all, a single DOS floppy was lucky if it could format disks and read files from a CD-ROM. It was sorely restricted in its utility. You were lucky to get 20 usable commands, and real networking was almost always out of the question.

Not so with tomsrtbt. Currently using Linux kernel 2.0.36, Tom's manages to cram some 200 modules and utilities onto a single floppy. These range from the programs needed to mount and format disks, to support for some PCMCIA devices. There are even pint-sized versions of vi and EMACS, so that almost no one's editor religion will be offended."

Complete Story

Related Stories:
O'Reilly Network: System Failure and Recovery Practice(Dec 06, 2001) Mtools - It's all about floppies...(Oct 08, 2000)
Linux Journal: Getting Small with Linux, Part 1(Apr 01, 2000)
Ext2: A Look at Tomsrtbt(Dec 22, 1999)

Jens Scheidtmann: Installing Debian on a 4MB machine

(Aug 4, 2001, 22:45 UTC) (1465 reads) (2 talkbacks) (Posted by mhall)
Old computers (like a laptop with 4MB) make for great editing and light duty work terminals. This small HOWTO examines the issues around getting Debian installed on one.

LJ 21 Using Linux and DOS Together

LJ 23 Ext2tools--Reading Linux files from DOS

The Slackware Linux Project ZipSlack

BYTE Feature - Getting And Installing Zipslack Linux

You can download (36 meg) from
if you cannot find it on a nearby Linux distribution CD.

Copy it into the root of your DOS disk. Don't bother about the other files in the Zipslack distribution directory. You don't need them. Don't use PKUNZIP to unpack it. PKUNZIP fails to handle large files. There is a copy of a suitable UNZIP.EXE on my system that you can download. It will take at least an hour to unzip all the files. It doesn't matter how fast your CPU is, the hour is all taken storing the Linux files on your DOS filesystem. Go make a cup of coffee or play Tetris on another machine. UNZIP will create a directory called LINUX on your hard disk. Go into that directory with any DOS editor and edit the file called LINUX.BAT. You need to add a REMark in front of the configuration line saying that it will boot from a ZIP device and remove the REM from the start of the following line

REM /linux/loadlin /linux/vmlinuz root=/dev/hda1 rw

in order to tell the Linux Loadlin loader that it will look for the kernel on your default DOS hard disk.

Then give the command


and the batch file will execute, booting up Linux and dropping you to the command prompt. Log in as root, there is no password. Set a password immediately using passwd root.

Timo's Rescue Cd Set - Ver. 0.5.4

Linux Gazette Table of Contents LG #39 SuperAnt CD-ROM with Mini-Distributions

Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 17:56:19 -0800
SuperAnt is announcing that effective immediately, they will be making available a Mini Linux Distribution CD-ROM. The Mini Distribution CD-ROM contains small rescue releases of Linux and packaged Linux systems that require only diskettes to boot from. Some contain XFree for Linux, allowing graphics use on properly configured systems. Some of the included distributions are Small Linux, Trinux, Linux Router Project, muLinux, Toms Disk, and LEM. The CD-ROM contains more than 600 megabytes of files.

SuperAnt is a Linux and Open Source technology provider and packager, selling and marketing business and recreation CD-ROMS on the Internet.

For more information:
Steven Gibson,

Cd-based distributions An in-depth look at LILO

(Jan 27, 2001, 18:02 UTC) (1311 reads) (0 talkbacks) (Posted by john)
"LILO has the capability to handle a maximum of 16 different boot images. Not only can LILO be used as the primary boot manager, with LILO written onto the MBR, but also as a secondary boot loader with LILO written to the boot sector of an extended partition."

Linux Today - O'Reilly Network How Your Computer Boots; Excerpt from Understanding the Linux Kernel

"In most cases, the Linux kernel is loaded from a hard disk, and a two-stage boot loader is required. The most commonly used Linux boot loader on Intel systems is named LILO (LInux LOader); corresponding programs exist for other architectures. LILO may be installed either on the MBR, replacing the small program that loads the boot sector of the active partition, or in the boot sector of a (usually active) disk partition. In both cases, the final result is the same: When the loader is executed at boot time, the user may choose which operating system to load."

"The LILO boot loader is broken into two parts, since otherwise it would be too large to fit into the MBR. The MBR or the partition boot sector includes a small boot loader, which is loaded into RAM starting from address 0x00007c00 by the BIOS. This small program moves itself to the address 0x0009a000, sets up the real mode stack (ranging from 0x0009b000 to 0x0009a200), and loads the second part of the LILO boot loader into RAM starting from address 0x0009b000. In turn, this latter program reads a map of available operating systems from disk and offers the user a prompt so she can choose one of them. Finally, after the user has chosen the kernel to be loaded (or let a time-out elapse so that LILO chooses a default), the boot loader may either copy the boot sector of the corresponding partition into RAM and execute it or directly copy the kernel image into RAM."

"The code of the setup( ) assembly language function is placed by the linker immediately after the integrated boot loader of the kernel, that is, at offset 0x200 of the kernel image file. The boot loader can thus easily locate the code and copy it into RAM starting from physical address 0x00090200. The setup( ) function must initialize the hardware devices in the computer and set up the environment for the execution of the kernel program. Although the BIOS already initialized most hardware devices, Linux does not rely on it but reinitializes the devices in its own manner to enhance portability and robustness."

Complete Story

Related Stories: An in-depth look at LILO(Jan 27, 2001) LILO configuration and usage(Nov 19, 2000)
PC Quest: Booting Linux with the Win 2k Boot Loader(Aug 19, 2000) Overcoming LILO dual-boot problems(Mar 20, 2000) How Linux Boots(Nov 27, 1999)

Linux Today - LinuxPlanet .comment Luddite Linux; The Role of the Modern GUI has all CD roms of various small Linux distros and other low footprint systems. They have at least one package that they claim can run in 2 Megs. I have ordered from them, and the package arrived promptly. Their CD's seem to be CD-R.

Art Cancro - Subject: console-based word processing ( Jul 5, 2000, 17:27:36 )
If he wants console-based word processing, he needn't look much farther than WordPerfect 7 or 8. Before the switch to Winelib, the Linux version of WordPerfect shipped with both Motif and character-based versions of the program on the disc. Since WordPerfect is excellent about making its file format both forward and backward compatible (any version of WordPerfect from 6.1 to WP2000 can read files from any of those versions, even if generated by a newer one), he should have no trouble getting started.
Brian Brown - Subject: There are alternatives ( Jul 5, 2000, 18:33:44 )
While the author is a Linux evangelist and therefore wants a Linux solution to the question of what to do with all those old 386 and 486 computers we have lying around, there are alternatives. New Idea, Inc., for example is recycling GEOS as a small footprint graphical User Interface which can run on 286, 386 and 486 machines. It requires 640K of ram and 10 Mb of hard drive. It comes as what looks like a full features office suite.

I fully agree with his main point, which is that these older systems would run like cheetahs with programs that bypass the overhead of GUI. The chief difficulty, I think, would be to compile a bare minimum version of Linux and collect an appropriate assortment of applications -- file manager (Midnight Commander), word processor (Pico), mail program (Pine), web surfing (lynx) and a spreadsheet (?). In a way it looks like most of the text-based programs already do exist. The important thing is to built them for floppy fdisk installs because I doubt that many of those older models have CD-ROM drives.

[Feb. 24, 2000] Canada Computes!

The 'little' Linuxes
By Gene Wilburn, Posted Feb 24, 2000, 04:01 PM

A typical Linux installation these days can easily consume over 1 GB of space if you select all the options. When you load up extra language tools, office suites, graphics programs and trial software, you need a sizeable disk partition to hold it all. However, Linux can also be small. When you're installing Linux on old equipment, such as a 386, 486 or early-model Pentium system, you can pare down most distributions to fit on drives of 100 MB or less by excluding the extras and such niceties as X Window. Just a couple of years ago this was more commonplace than it is today, before large drives became really cheap, but it's useful to know that you can still install most mainline Linux distributions on older PCs.

But did you know that there are distributions of Linux that have been shrunk to fit on a single floppy diskette? It's a scaled-down Linux, to be sure, but it's Linux all the same. There are also distributions of Linux that were designed specifically for PCs with modest hard disk specs. There are even specialized distributions that you can load into a Windows partition, eliminating the need to repartition a PC in order to try out Linux. This month we'll look at some of these interesting small Linux and Windows-Linux variants.

Linux on a diskette

One of the essential tools I carry around with me is tomsrtbt, Tom's Root Boot, a miniature Linux on a diskette. It's a 1.7 MB floppy that boots on 1.4 MB floppy drives.

An amazing feat of compression and miniaturization, tomsrtbt contains more than 100 programs, in addition to a 2.0.37 Linux kernel and even some rudimentary man pages. It offers such useful tools as fdisk, fsck, mount, ls, chmod, cp, dd, vi, insmod, and even awk and sed. It also contains drivers for several network cards and SCSI devices.

It can be used as a rescue and repair disk or as a learning aid for Linux itself. You can study command-line Unix programs on any PC without installing Linux on its hard disk just by booting the floppy. The tomsrtbt Web site ( supplies add-ons that can be used to create a custom version of the diskette. You can create a tomsrtbt diskette from either Linux or Windows.

While tomsrtbt is set up for general use, other diskette-based Linux distributions have taken specialty directions. A case in point is a Linux-on-a-diskette distribution called the Linux Router Project ( LRP is a network-centric distribution used for setting up network routers, thin servers, and network appliances. A router can be created with a 386, two network cards, and a floppy disk drive.

Because Linux-on-a-diskette distributions create their filesystems in RAMDISK memory, they have a security advantage over a standard installation. The floppy can be write protected, or removed completely after booting, preventing any unauthorized changes. One distribution that capitalizes on this is Trinux ( Called a Linux Security Toolkit, it is designed to turn 386 or higher PCs into security workstations.

Because tomsrtbt allows you to mount hard disk partitions (including Windows partitions), it can be a hazard for classroom use. Enter Floppix (, a two-diskette Linux created from Debian GNU/Linux parts. Floppix, which was created as a safe teaching distribution, has hard drive support disabled. It can be used to teach introductory Unix in classroom computer-lab environments where another operating system is already installed on the PCs.

For even more Linux-on-a-diskette distributions follow the links on the tomsrtbt site.

Embedded Linux: the smallest Linux

Floppy-based Linux distributions are close cousins to a major new development in Linux: embedded Linux. While Linux advocates discuss the potential for Linux as a desktop OS, competing with the Mac OS and Microsoft Windows, embedded Linux may quietly, and largely unnoticed, become the most widely adopted form of the Linux OS. In a nutshell, embedded Linux is Linux in a nutshell--that is, a micro version of the operating system embedded into electronic devices. The controlling OS is invisible in these products.

There is already a commercial MP3 player for the automobile that is based on embedded Linux. Empeg-Car ( can hold up to 7,000 song tracks (over 500 albums) in digital format. Several commercial and open-source ventures are vying for ascendency in this burgeoning market, including the Canadian-based open-source Linux/Microcontroller Project ( and the Caldera-related Lineo embedded Linux system (

The embedded operating system market will be one of the hottest areas of computing in the first decade of the 2000s. By all signs, Linux will be a major player.

Small Linux distributions

For most of us, though, Linux means something we install on a PC. Sometimes the PC we have available for Linux has minimal resources, but we want something more than just a floppy-boot version of the OS.

Curiously, for every direction the industry takes, there always seems to be a counter direction. Just as the mainline Linux distributions are filling up hard disks with more and more goodies, some specialty distributions are headed the other way, towards small, lean installations. Some of these are designed to be installed in a Windows partition and booted into from DOS, thus eliminating the partitioning problem for those who would like to try out Linux without altering their hard disks.

One small distribution aimed at older PCs is called Tiny Linux ( It is a small, but fairly complete, basic Linux installation that can be installed from 12 floppy diskettes. You download the diskette images, move them to floppies using either Linux dd or DOS rawrite, then install them onto the target computer.

Both Debian and Slackware offer floppy-based installation for a minimal setup. With Debian, you can download floppy images to fit onto 10 diskettes and install with these. If you then have access to the Internet, either via modem or a direct network connection, you can subsequently use Debian's dselect program to layer up the installation to include additional tools and applications. In other words, you can stay at an absolutely basic level with it, or scale it up as far as your hard drive capacity will allow.

Slackware, too, has a floppy-based option. It allows you to install the "A" package (minimal essentials) from floppies. Then, as with Debian, you can get the other packages from non-floppy resources. The instructions for installing Slackware this way are on CD1 of the CD-ROM set.

If you can do non-floppy installations to your target PC (CD-ROM, direct Internet connection, etc.), you may find your biggest bang for the buck is a small but modern distribution called Peanut Linux ( This distribution is a 48 MB download that expands to about 140 MB when installed. Peanut Linux is loaded with X Window, KDE and the 2.2.14 Linux kernel. Installation instructions are located on the Web site.

Linux in Windows

There are ways of installing Linux directly into a Windows FAT16/FAT32 filesystem rather than into a separate Linux partition. Although there is a performance penalty for running Linux this way, it can be convenient for anyone who wants to install Linux into a Windows computer without repartitioning the drives. With today's fast processors and hard disks, the performance is acceptable for many tasks.

Slackware includes an installation called ZipSlack that can be installed into Windows using WinZip or another zip utility. It installs into less than 100 MB space and can be used for accessing the Net and programming in C. It is also trim enough to fit on an Iomega Zip disk, providing a small bootable Linux that is also portable. ZipSlack is located on CD4 of the Slackware CD-ROM distribution or it can be downloaded from the Slackware site (

ZipSlack was created in an earlier era when a stripped-down, command-line Linux was good enough for many users. Today's expectations are often higher, so Slackware has created a newer version of ZipSlack called BigSlack, which is on CD3 of the CD-ROM set.

BigSlack is similar to ZipSlack, but is much, well, bigger. It installs into approximately 800 MB of space in a Windows partition and has a full Slackware installation, including X Window and KDE. As mentioned, performance is not as good as a native installation of Linux, but it is acceptable on fast computers.

Slackware has also provided a set of instructions for moving a BigSlack setup into a native Linux partition should you try it out, decide you like it, then want to preserve your existing BigSlack setup when you create Linux partitions.

In addition to Slackware, there is a Linux CD-ROM distribution aimed exclusively at running in a Windows partition. Called Phat Linux (, it has features similar to BigSlack. Other Linux-in-Windows distributions include WinLinux 2000 (, which requires approximately 500 MB, and the diminutive DragonLinux (, which only requires 150 MB, and includes X Window and KDE.

Finally, for those who want to test the Linux waters without actually installing a distribution, both Slackware and SuSE Linux include a "live" Linux filesystem CD-ROM that can boot directly from your CD-ROM drive. This disc-based Linux is read-only, performance is terrible, and it can't be used for any serious work, but it allows you to look at Linux and test drive it without making a commitment.

If nothing else, these distributions demonstrate the architectural versatility of Linux. From embedded systems to supercomputers, Linux can find a home at any point in the computing spectrum.

Gene Wilburn ( is a Toronto-based IT manager, musician and writer who operates a small farm of Linux servers.

Back issues of this series are available on his Web site at

[July 3, 1999] -- new Ukrainian distribution, based on RH.

Black Cat Linux is an experimental Linux OS distribution, which is bundled together by Donbass Linux User Group members Leonid Kanter and Alexander Kanevskiy on the basis of the Red Hat Linux current version. The main goal of the project is to create a universal distribution, which would be convenient to serve both as an Internet/Intranet server and as a workplace or a home multimedia system. Special attention was paid to the Russian and Ukrainian language support and to the compatibility with the third-party commercial programs.

Black Cat Linux 6.0 contains: kernel 2.2.5; XFree86 supporting TrueType and KOI8-U; GNOME-1.0.4; KDE-1.1.1, Netscape Communicator and Navigator-4.6.

Some Features of Black Cat Linux:

The full list of improvements in Black Cat 6.0 to Red Hat 6.0 is available at: (Russian text)

[June 26, 1999] dkrud -- KRUD (Kevin's Red Hat Uber Distribution) distribution. KRUD is the subscription-based distribution($36 a year) of the latest Red Hat with all of the latest errata (currently well over 100mb) applied and a set of extra packages added. Monthly subscription makes it easy to keep up with the updates.

[June 18, 1999] Macmillan Introduces Enhanced Linux Operating System; Market Leader in Linux Software & Books is 'Complete' Linux Provider --

"Macmillan Computer Publishing USA (MCP) today announced the release of "The Complete Linux(TM) Operating System 6.0" featuring Linux-Mandrake(TM), an enhanced version of the popular Red Hat(R) Linux(TM). "Macmillan has also released a Deluxe edition, featuring the "Star Office 5.1" productivity suite, and a Secure Server edition." "These three products are part of our strategy to make Linux mainstream and maintain our position as the leading provider of all things Linux: from operating systems, to software, to books and online resources," says Doug Bennett, president."

...includes special versions of PartitionMagic® and BootMagic(TM) so Linux can be easily installed alongside Windows for dual-boot options. It offers a preconfigured KDE desktop. The ``Complete'' edition comes bundled with numerous desktop applications including word processing, graphics editing, financial and personal information management.

Recommended Links

Softpanorama Top Visited

Softpanorama Recommended


We all know and love the Debian-based Knoppix. Knoppix supports a vast array of hardware—if something doesn't work under Knoppix, chances are it's not supported in Linux. Knoppix gives you GUI tools for nearly any task you want to perform, and includes applications for every imaginable task. You're not limited to rescue operations, but you get a complete distribution with productivity applications. It is very popular and has excellent community support, including good articles on re-mastering Knoppix to customize it for yourself. Knoppix is for Pentium systems with a lot of RAM, the more the better: 32 MB for text mode, 128 MB and up for KDE.

Start at the Knoppix Wiki, and especially the Cheat Codes. These are boot codes for dealing with funky hardware, or turning on special tasks. For example:

The first keyword is always knoppix, like knoppix desktop=fluxbox toram.

Knoppix also comes in a DVD edition, if the CD version isn't enough for you.

KNOPPIX Linux Live CD is the No.1 CD-based distribution and is highly recommended. Project Info - FreeLoader Linux 2.6 kernel based.

System recovery with Knoppix

Rescuing a non-booting Linux system
This is the most common scenario. Something goes haywire, and boom, no boot. No problem: boot up Knoppix and find all your local partitions nicely iconicized on the KDE desktop. (Or cruise the file tree to /mnt.) Click on the correct icon, and there are all your files. But they are wisely mounted read-only. Again, no problem: right-click the desktop icon to bring up a nice menu with a "Change read/write mode" option. This mounts the filesystem on the partition as read/write. Now you can edit any file.

The default user is knoppix. For operations that require root privileges, you need to su to root and assign a root password:

knoppix@ttyp0[knoppix]# su
root@ttyp0[knoppix]# passwd

To mount a filesystem read/write from the command line:

root@ttyp0[knoppix]# mount -t reiserfs -o rw /dev/hda5 /mnt/hda5

To unmount:

root@ttyp0[knoppix]# umount /mnt/hda5

If you get an error message "Could not unmount device, device is busy," something is reading the filesystem. Close files and cd out of the filesystem.

How do you know what mountpoint and filesystem to specify? Just read /etc/fstab:

root@ttyp0[knoppix]# cat /etc/fstab
# Added by Knoppix
/dev/hda5 /mnt/hda5 reiserfs noauto,users,exec 0 0

Hardware detection
Before going on a mad config file editing spree, it often pays to examine hardware information. Knoppix excels at this, as it has the latest editions of Linux's excellent hardware and system utilities: fdisk, lspci, iwconfig, ifconfig, dmesg, /proc, and so forth. (Checking hardware information is also handy for testing a system for Linux compatibility before you buy it. Sound cards, softmodems, and wireless NICs are especially troublesome; manufacturers often change the chipsets without changing the model numbers, and you need to know the chipsets to determine if Linux drivers are available. The Knoppix CD also contains a number of sound files, for quick sound testing, starting with "OpenMusic" on the welcome screen.)

  • fdisk -l displays all partitions on all hard drives.
  • lspci -v gives detailed information about every device and chipset connected to the PCI bus.
  • cat /proc/cpuinfo tells exactly what CPU is installed.
  • ifconfig displays, and also manipulates, network interface settings. Most commonly Ethernet cards and ppp, the modem interface.
  • iwconfig is like ifconfig, but for wireless network cards.
  • dmesg is interesting. man dmesg isn't all that helpful if you're not a kernel hacker. Just using dmesg | grep <device> is a useful troubleshooting and system discovery tool. To see everything, run dmesg with no options.

And of course KDE provides a nice GUI to see all this; go to System > Info Center.

Rescuing data files
Usually the first rescue chore is to copy data files off of the troubled drive. This is my favorite method when there are large numbers of files to copy: install a second hard drive, then boot Knoppix, then copy files from the old disk to the new disk. Even if you don't have nice hot-swappable drives or removable drive cages, it takes just a couple of minutes to pop the case open and hook one up. Do you have a brand new blank drive, or an old one that needs to be wiped clean and reformatted? No problem, do the disk preparation from Knoppix.

Partitioning and formatting
First, install the second hard drive. Then boot Knoppix and open a root shell. If there are partitions already on the second disk, simply re-format whatever ones you need. Note that SCSI drives are designated sd, while IDE drives are hd. This command displays the existing disk partitions; be sure to use values appropriate for your system:

root@ttyp0[knoppix]# fdisk -l /dev/hdb

To format a disk partition:

root@ttyp0[knoppix]# mkfs.ext2 -c /dev/hdb1

This creates a plain-vanilla ext2 filesystem. -c checks for bad blocks. Of course, you can make it anything you like: ext3, ReiserFS, whatever:

root@ttyp0[knoppix]# mke2fs -j -c /dev/hdb1
root@ttyp0[knoppix]# mkreiserfs /dev/hdb1

What, no partitions? First, here's how to create them the command-line way, with fdisk. It's medium-safe to futz with fdisk, as changes are not written to disk until you give the command to do so. So, you can try different options and preview the partition table before committing to any changes. This sequence of commands creates a single partition:

root@ttyp0[knoppix]# fdisk /dev/hdb

Type "m" at any time to display a table of fdisk commands. Then, type "n" to create a new partition. Now, type "p" to create a primary partition. Hit Enter twice to accept the defaults. Or, if you don't want to use the whole disk, hit Enter once to accept the default starting point, then select the size you want:


Hit "p" at any time to preview the new partition table. When everything looks good, press "w" to write the changes to disk. By default, fdisk creates a "type 83" partition, which means Linux. To see a list of partition types, press "l". To change the partition type, hit "t". Want to delete a partition? Easy as pie: press "d" and follow the prompts.

Even easier is firing up KDE and using QTParted (System > QTParted). QTParted creates, deletes, and non-destructively moves and resizes partitions (even NTFS). So, you can make room to copy your data without losing anything.

Copying files the GUI way
I like graphical file managers. It's a lot simpler to drag and drop than to type out long command strings. Click on the icons on the KDE desktop that represent your source drive and the drive you want to copy them to. Each one opens in its own file manager, for fast and easy drag and drop. Be sure to make the destination drive writeable.

Copying files at the command line
Remember to create a directory to move files into:

# mkdir /mnt/hdb1/home/carla/backup
# cp -r /mnt/hda5/home/carla /mnt/hdb1/home/carla/backup

Cloning an entire drive
You'll need two hard drives the same size, or a destination drive larger than the source drive. Make sure no partitions are mounted on either drive. In this example /dev/hda is the source drive, /dev/hdb is the destination drive. The dd command makes an exact, byte-for-byte copy, including the MBR (master boot record):

# dd if=/dev/hda of=/dev/hdb

Mounting confusion
Are you losing track of what's mounted, and in what state? No problem, here comes /proc to the rescue:

# cat /proc/mounts

This displays all mounted filesystems, the filesystem types, read/write status, and other attributes. How many hard drives are on the system? One of these will tell you (and remember, SCSI drives are sd, IDE are hd):

# fdisk -l


# dmesg | grep hd


# dmesg | grep sd

Copying to CD
KDE and Knoppix make this easy. Assuming there is a CD writer on the system, simply right-click on the desktop icon for the partition containing your files, and you will see "Create Data CD with K3b." Do File > New Project, drag and drop the files you want to copy, and there you go. K3b is very good at autodetecting and autoconfiguring your CD drives; it should do it all for you. If something goes awry, please refer to the developerWorks article "Burning CDs on Linux", which also teaches how to burn CDs from the command line.

Copying to other media
Zip drives, floppy disks, and USB storage devices will be automatically recognized by Knoppix, and icons will be placed on the desktop. Simply make the drive you want to copy files to writeable, then drag and drop until it's all done.

Copying over the network
You can configure Knoppix to connect to a network, just like any other Linux. Knoppix has its own graphical configuration utility: on the main menu find Knoppix > Network/Internet. Again Knoppix's excellent hardware detection comes into play; it even works on wireless NICs (assuming it's a wireless NIC that is supported in Linux!). Simply answer a series of questions, and you're done.

It's just as easy from the command line. As root, run:

# netcardconfig

Once your network settings are configured, there are several options for transferring files. cp is fine for locally mounted filesystems. Copying files over an untrusted network should be done with scp (secure copy), and in fact Knoppix won't let you use anything else. scp uses ssh for encrypted file transfer and lets you move files without setting up NFS or Samba. You'll need an ssh server running somewhere on the network to receive the files. This command copies an entire directory:

# scp -rp /mnt/hda5/home/carla

SSH quickstart
What, you have no ssh server? If you really do not yet have ssh installed, here is a quick-start guide to running SSH. But before using it for even routine remote administration tasks, you should study ssh in more depth. Note also that there have been a number of important security patches issued recently.

OpenSSH comes with all major Linux distributions, and yours should already have it. (To find out, type locate sshd.) If not, download and install it. It doesn't need to be on a special machine; any Linux PC can run SSH. Start it up like so:

# /etc/init.d/ssh start

Then, all you need is for the same user to have accounts on both machines. Using root is easiest, but potentially dangerous. And, of course, you can create user accounts on Knoppix as needed, with useradd and passwd. Then run the scp command as in the example above, and there you go.

The first time you connect, you'll get a "The authenticity of host X can't be established...are you sure you want to continue connecting?" message. Answer "yes." It will ask for the root password of the SSH server, and then you're home free. To move files as a non-root user:

# scp -rp /mnt/hda5/home/carla carla@

Open a root shell on the host system
This lets you operate on the host system, as though you were logged into it directly. Identify the partition the host system is on, then open a Knoppix root shell and mount it:

root@ttyp0[knoppix]# mount /dev/hda1 /mnt/hda1
root@ttyp0[knoppix]# chroot /mnt/hda1

Knoppix glitches
Running programs from a CD can cause some odd troubles, especially on notebooks. It is common for power management to mess up a Knoppix session: when you wake up the machine, Knoppix doesn't respond to commands anymore. The only cure I know is to disable power management, or simply hit the power switch and start over.

Sometimes Knoppix gets stuck during boot, and hangs partway into KDE (or any X session) startup. Switch to the first virtual console (Ctrl + Alt + F1) to see the live system messages; this should tell you where the problem is. Hit Alt + F5 to get back to the default X session. For example, on one of my test systems it got stuck doing SCSI detection. Why? Who knows. I disabled SCSI detection by adding knoppix no scsi to the boot command, and that took care of it.

Knoppix creative ferment
Linux has always inspired amazing creativity. Knoppix has taken off in a big way, and there are dozens of inventive Knoppix-inspired projects, such as Inside Security Rescue Toolkit, OpenGroupware Knoppix, Damn Small Linux, and Overclockix. See the Resources section below for more information and links to how-tos for making your own customized Knoppix distribution.


About the author
Carla Schroder is a freelance PC tamer and author, administering Linux and Windows systems for small businesses and writing how-tos for real people. Carla discovered computers and high-tech around 1994, and is living proof that self-taught middle-aged persons make fine computer gurus. Watch for her upcoming O'Reilly book, The Linux Cookbook. You can reach Carla at

Flash-drive based Distributions

Linux on a flash drive Page 1

We have a special edition of Linux.Ars with two contributing authors, Rob Cook and Eric Newport. They bring the knowledge on installing NVIDIA drivers in Debian and booting a Linux distrubution called SLAX from a USB key. Thanks to both of them for their contributions and we can always use more help with Linux.Ars. If you want to contribute, drop me an e-mail me at But that's not all, this time we have a very cool app of the week: filelight. Filelight gives you a graphical breakdown into filesystem usage. Without further delay, here's volume 30 of Linux.Ars.

Feather Linux:

Feather Linux is a Linux distribution which runs completely off a CD or a USB pendrive and takes up under 64Mb of space. It is a Knoppix remaster (based on Debian), and tries to include software which most people would use every day on their desktop.

Features: As of version 0.6.1, it includes:
Kernel 2.4.26, Ted, ABS, Dillo (patched for frames and tabs), XMMS and plugins, wavplay, mpg321, ogg123 and other Ogg Vorbis tools, Sylpheed, axyFTP, emelFM, cdrecord, mkisofs, rdesktop, tcpdump, parted, partimage, aircrack, madwifi, dnsmasq, foremost, antiword, e2undel, iftop, bbpager, utelnetd, minicom, index, gpart, socat, traceroute, SciTE, prozilla, Midnight Commander, Samba, elmo, tmsnc, apsfilter, mplayer,, chntpw, zile, tinycc, nano, Xpaint, Xzgv, Xpdf, naim, hdparm, usbview, index, recoverdm, mtr, cdparanoia, betaftpd, Mutella, Chipmunk Basic, gqcam, e3, lua, ettercap, wavemon, iptables, recover, amap, hping2, cabextract, splitvt, pciutils, LinNeighborhood, nmap and nmapfe, portmap and nfs-common, aumix, CTorrent, VNCviewer, sqlite, links-hacked, SSH and SCP, DHCP client, xtdesktop, PPP and PPPoE support, NTFS resize support, an RSS reader, stress, cpuburn, the Monkey webserver, Xcalc, Fluxbox, evilwm, the XBase apps, and the various standard console and system tools.

Screenshot: Desktop


Flonix USB Edition 1.0 is a new full-featured embedded operating system for PC running from USB 2.0 key drives. Perfect and complete for nomad office, multimedia, diskless PC stations, demos, and kiosks !

Features: The usual, plus lots more via extensions. See here.

Screenshot Tour

Flash Puppy:

Yes, this is yet another Linux distribution. What's different here is that Puppy is extraordinarily small, yet quite fully featured. Puppy boots into a ramdisk, and that's it, the whole caboodle runs in RAM. Unlike live CD distributions that have to keep pulling stuff off the CD, Puppy in his entirety loads into RAM.

Features: A quite extensive list, including Firefox. See here for more.

My very own flash puppy desktop

Flash Puppy's installation is very easy and straight forward and the only one out of the 3 that worked on the first try. You download a Live CD image, burn it onto a CD, boot into the Live CD and run a script to install the distro on the usb device. Slam dunk! Only about 15 minutes later I was booting from a 256mb usb key into a nice looking windows 95 style GUI with a 190MB home partition open for me to store stuff and have it in my pocket at all times. The only snag was getting a network connection to work but that was solved by (microsoft like weirdness coming up) NOT testing the network connection after configuring it. Go figure.

KNOPPIX - Live Linux Filesystem On CD Knoppix can be used on 1G flash-cards.

KNOPPIX is a bootable CD with a collection of GNU/Linux software, automatic hardware detection, and support for many graphics cards, sound cards, SCSI devices, and other peripherals. KNOPPIX can be used as a Linux demo, educational CD, rescue system, or adapted and used as a platform for commercial software product demos. It is not necessary to install anything on a hard disk. Due to on-the-fly decompression, the CD can have up to 2 GB of executable software installed on it.

What software is installed on the KNOPPIX-CD?

The following Highlights are available in version 2.2 of this Debian-based ( CD:

Executables compression

UPX Homepage

e2compr - transparent compression for ext2 filesystem

Markus F.X.J. Oberhumer Data Compression Links

compression page - news section

Linux file compression tool guide

The Data Compression Library - Non-Commercial Programs

[agenda-user] compression of executables

I found this:

UPX is a GPl'd program which allows compression of executables at a very high 
ratio with *very* fast decompression. i'm not sure if this would negate the 
ability to use XIP (execute in place), but it says this on the page:

"UCL supports in-place decompression."

i'm not sure if this is the same thing, but looking at the *fantastic* ratios
it achieves and the lack of any large drawbacks i'm sure it would be great to
be able to make binaries 2.5 times smaller even if they then had to be loaded
into RAM for execution. unfortunately


* Decompression is simple and *very* fast. 
* Requires no memory for decompression. 
* The decompressors can be squeezed into less than 200 bytes of code. 
* Focuses on compression levels for generating pre-compressed data which 
   achieve a quite competitive compression ratio. 
* Allows you to dial up extra compression at a speed cost in the compressor. 
   The speed of the decompressor is not reduced. 
* Algorithm is thread safe. 
* Algorithm is lossless.  (duh)

one caveat, however, is it apparently only supports i386 linux binaries (along
with a bunch of other deprecated operating systems, e.g. windows, dos).
according to the webpage:

"UCL's decompressors should work on any system around - they could even get ported to 8-bit processors such as the Z-80 or 6502. (In fact I expect a 6502 implementation too happen soon in the process of extending the UPX executable packer).

"The compressors currently require at least 32-bit integers. While porting them to more restricted environments (such as 16-bit DOS) should be possible without too much effort this is not considered important at this time."

apparently all that needs to happen to get UPX on the agenda is for someone to
write a decompressor in MIPS assembly.

Robert Edmonds
Linux Frequently Asked Questions with Answers

4.3. Does Linux Support Compressed Ext2 File Systems?

The ext2compr project provides a kernel patch Information about them is located at

There is also a Web site for the e2compr patches. The code is still experimental and consists of patches for the 2.0 and 2.1 kernels. For more information about the project, including the latest patches, and the address of the mailing list, look up the URL at

[Roderich Schupp, Peter Moulder]

zlibc is a program that allows existing applications to read compressed (GNU gzip'ed) files as if they were not compressed. Look at The author is Alain Knaff.

There is also a compressing block device driver, "DouBle," by Jean-Marc Verbavatz, which can provide on-the-fly disk compression in the kernel. The source-only distribution is located at This driver compresses inodes and directory information as well as files, so any corruption of the file system is likely to be serious.

There is also a package called tcx (Transparently Compressed Executables), which allows you to keep infrequently compressed executables compressed and only uncompress them temporarily when in use. It is located at


The Linux Bootdisk HOWTO by Tom Fawcett v4.2, November 2000

This document describes how to design and build boot/root diskettes for Linux. These disks can be used as rescue disks or to test new system components. You should be reasonably familiar with system administration tasks before attempting to build a bootdisk. If you just want a rescue disk to have for emergencies, see Appendix A.1.

Floppy-based distributions

HAL91 -- one of the first one floppy distributions. 

HAL 91 - a minimalistic Linux distribution LG #59

Table of Contents

What is HAL91?
Features of HAL91
Kernel features of HAL91
HAL91 - what to do with it?
related links

Recently, I started studying computer sciences in conjunction with economics at the Technical University of
Clausthal. I met another Linux enthusiast, Christian Perle. He told me about one of his ongoing projects. And that one was maintaining the HAL91 Linux distribution. This article should be a short description of what is HAL91 and where could it be used for. Please contact the maintainer of HAL91, Christian Perle, for further information. I just want to tell you about its existence...

Floppix - Linux on 2 floppies

Floppix is a teaching tool; it is a very small subset of Debian/ GNU Linux that fits on two 3.5" 1.4Mb diskettes. The current version is derived from Debian 2.1 (slink), copyright under the GNU GPL "copyleft". It provides a platform to practice linux commands and experiment with simple system administration.

Floppix has no hard drive support; you cannot access, modify, damage or destroy anything installed on the hard drive. For this reason, Floppix works safely in the lab, at home or at work.

Floppix runs from a RAMDISK. Since the entire filesystem is stored in RAM, all changes are lost when the system is shutdown or rebooted. This makes it possible to experiment freely; if you want (or need) to start over, all you have to do is reboot. For example, if you want to know what is left after the superuser has deleted the entire filesystem, Floppix is the place to try it.

Floppix works in our environment but it comes with no guarantees. Caveat hacker. Send comments and corrections to L.M.MacEwan; send complaints to /dev/null.

Command Index

Frequently asked questions

. What is included in floppix?

muLinux Project Home Page - the one-floppy-linux of M. Andreoli from Italy. Does not include bash shell so it's not that impressive for learning. The current version is muLinux floppy Linux, v11.x Plateau Rosa

muLinux (µLinux, really) is a full-configurable, minimalistic, almost complete, application-centric tiny distribution of Linux (2.0.36 modular kernel) made in Italy. muLinux resides on a single 1722K floppy, but floppy add-on are provided. Works on PC 386-8M + swap space, and installs in RAM, UMSDOS, EXT2 & LOOP-EXT2.

Miguel Angel Alvarez Homepage

tomsrtbt - "The most Linux on one floppy disk." This single-floppy root-boot diskette is good for emergency system recovery and repair, & also as a shirt-pocket Linux. It includes about 100 utilities, supports a wide variety of hardware, and behaves in a generally predictable way. Development seems to stop in 1999...

DLX Distribution Homepage -- contains parallel ZIP-drive support. 1.44M image

DLX is a full featured linux system running on Intel PC's. The special thing is that DLX comes with only one 3,5" floppydisk. DLX boots with a kernel >= 1.3.89 and starts a ramdisk image. In addition to that DLX also has a writeable ext2 filesystem of about 130 kb on the same disk to easily store configuration scripts (survives booting, is not on the ramdisk !). Further is DLX fully prepared for the paralell-port ZIP-Drive which allows you to mount 100 mb disks. You can even put large programs like perl5 on the disk because a special directory on the ZIP-disk is mounted as /usr/local/* ! These features make DLX the ideal disk for network trouble- shooting and/or FTPing from a university pc-lab if you do not have your own PC connected to the internet or your dialup is just too expensive/slow.

Pocket Linux

Trinux 0.45
Trinux is a portable Linux distribution that boots from 2-3 floppies (or a FAT 16 partition) and runs entirely in RAM. Trinux contains the latest versions of popular network security tools and is useful for mapping and monitoring TCP/IP networks. Trinux transforms an ordinary x86 PC into a powerful network [security] management workstation without modifying the underlying hardware or operating system.
Matthew Franz @ 11/13/98 - 16:06 EST
Traveller's Linux 1.1.2
Traveller's Linux is an attempt to create a minimal floppy Linux distribution. It was developed independently of hal91 Linux (another floppy Linux distribution). The objective is to reduce the sizes of the various files (bootloader, kernel, RAM disk image, utilities) as much as possible, so that the user can get more functionality and flexibility from the same diskette.

Traveller's Linux 1.1.2 features a smaller shell (ash), a tiny text editor, as well as the integration of several common Unix utilities into the shell to save space.

Index of -brutalware

Brutalware FAQ - English version

Q: I have downloaded Brutalware, how do I install it?

A: There's no need to install Brutalware, it's diskette distribution.
   It runs entirely from floppy disk.

Q: Can I use Brutalware with my Windows98 (Redhat Linux, OS/2) ?

A: See previous answer. Enter a floppy, load system, use it, then reboot
   and you have your cool Windows back.


Q: I can't boot from the first floppy. I put it into the drive, reboot and
   nothing happens. I have to load MS-DOS in order to get Brutalware

A: This is desired since many computer labs restrict booting from floppy.
   Disk 1 isn't "bootdisk", it's a "loaddisk". You have to go to MS-DOS
   and load system via LOADLIN utility.
   If you wan't to _boot_ from a floppy, use an alternate disk image located
   in brutalware/images/direct_boot/disk1.img. This is unsupported though.


Q: Brutalware loads OK but the network doesn't seem to be working.

A: You gotta have bootp server for your network to be initialized properly.
   If you see "Bootp request timed out" you will be unable to use the
   network unless you set it up manually.


Q: Don't have a bootp server, how do I set the network up manually?

A: Since Brutalware 1.1 there is portable network configuration utility
   called "netinit".


Q: I'm unable to download Brutalware.

A: If you use Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.x, try a different browser, MSIE
   contained a bug that sometimes does these errors. If it doesn't help,
   download only those files needed for the installation:


Q: Is it possible to get modem working under Brutalware?

A: Brutalware itself doesn't contain modem (ppp) support.
   The kernel however supports loadable modules, so if you get the right
   modules and you mount some disk with ppp programs, it could be done.


Q: Is there a help for those programs that come with Brutalware?

A: Yes, on the net. Find it yourself.

 LEM -mbedded Linux and related stuff Portal -- This page seeks to be a resource for users who need a Linux Kernel that meets small memory requirements. Small Linux has been used (console based) on a 386 laptop with 2 meg of ram and a 40 meg harddrive.

Mini Distribution Toolkits

The Xdenu Home Page Xdenu is small Linux distribution kit. The guiding principles have been the ease of use, the ease of installation and small size. Main goal has been to compile an X terminal environment to Helsinki University of Technology campus area. Later serial line communications packages as ppp and term were added.

YARD Homepage -- a toolkit, that will help to create a new minidistribution

Yard is a suite of Perl scripts for creating rescue disks (also called bootdisks) for Linux. A rescue disk is a self-contained Linux kernel and filesystem on a floppy diskette, usually used when you can't (or don't want to) boot off your hard disk. A rescue disk usually contains utilities for diagnosing and manipulating hard disks and filesystems.

Yard is distributed under the Gnu Public License or the Perl Artistic License, whichever you prefer.

  • Builds rescue disk from a list of file specifications.
  • File specs allow absolute and relative filenames, symbolic links, file replacements and full shell-style globbing.
  • Automatically determines necessary libraries and loaders.
  • Allows stripping of binaries and libraries during copying.
  • Automatically regenerates
  • Checks for broken symlinks
  • Checks /etc/{fstab,inittab,termcap} for common errors and inconsistencies.
  • Checks user directories and files mentioned in /etc/passwd
  • Checks command files (eg, rc.local and .login) for missing binaries and command interpreters.
  • Provides information on library usage.
  • Checks NSS and PAM configuration.
  • Automatically performs filesystem compression and copying.
  • Can be used with or without LILO.
  • Can make single or double disk rescue sets.
  • Extensive checking of user choices and execution errors.

CD-based Distributions

A comparison of Damn Small Linux, Knoppix and PCLinuxOS Linux Live CDs


Live Linux CDs allow people to test Linux or try a distribution without any hard drive installation, or carry Linux around in their pocket to use on any computer. I have picked the top ranked Live CD from Distrowatch for each of these three tasks to review/compare. Knoppix 3.4 is the "test Linux" live CD, PCLinuxOS 7a is the "try before it before installing" live CD and Damn Small Linux is the "pocket Linux" live CD. It should be noted each of these live CDs can perform every task above and that there are many other equally good live CDs - these are just the ones I have picked.

I will try each live CD on an eMachines desktop with a 2.2 Ghz AMD CPU, 512 MB RAM and a USB wireless adapter and a Compaq laptop with a 2.2 Ghz AMD CPU, 512MB RAM and onboard network card. Specifically I will look for hardware detection (including my USB key), the time it takes to get to the desktop from boot, if I can get on the internet, the software included and the overall feel of the live CD.

To learn more about the basics of Live CDs see this page.

MultiBootCD 0.1
by Stephan Walter - Monday, January 12th 2004 10:02 PST

About: MBCD (MultiBootCD) is a shell script to make a customized CD-ROM that can boot any kind and any number of image files. Currently, 4 types of images are supported: floppy images (1.2M, 1.44M, or 2.88M), Knoppix-like images, kernel-binary images (e.g. memtest86), and the Windows XP Recovery Console.

Linux for a limited hardware/memory

[Oct 25, 2004] BasicLinux Can run in 4M of memory

BasicLinux is designed specifically for old PCs. It uses a small kernel and busybox to provide a low-RAM Linux, capable of browsing the web, doing email, and functioning as an X terminal. The current release of BasicLinux is particularly suitable for old laptops -- it has PCMCIA capability and includes MagicPoint (a presentation tool similar to PowerPoint).

The current release of BasicLinux is 3.32. It comes in two versions: one boots from a DOS harddrive, the other boots from floppies. Both versions have the option to install themselves to a Linux partition on the harddrive.

Linux Router Project

Using Linux on a Libretto - Info about Linux on Libretto and CDPD.


Linux - Small Kernel Project

The Xdenu Home Page

Monkey - Mini Linux - Monkey Linux v06, May 8 1997 English Czech Monkey Linux can be extracted to the DOS filesystem (to the FAT32 too). This is complete small ELF distribution with latest kernel on 5 diskettes. Monkey can run on this minimal HW: 386SX, 4MB RAM, 30MB on. --

ELKS is a subset of the Linux kernel that runs on IBM compatible PCs from 8086 up. There is also a 286 protected mode in the works. It is intended to get use out of obsolete old hardware, for use in embedded systems, as an educational tool.

This version contains rewritten config scripts, the latest versions of the lp and directhd drivers, support for bios console and serial console as well as fixes for major bugs in the minix filesystem code.

Alistair Riddoch @ 12/04/98 - 11:51 EST

Distribution for imaging of workstations

Phrealon Distribution

Phrealon is a bootable linux CD based on Slackware Linux 8.0 (now 9.0)designed to allow the easy imaging of multiple workstations. It utilizes the udpcast set of Linux tools to accomplish this.

Rescue Disks

Salvare Main

Salvare (from the Latin "to rescue") is a small Linux distribution designed for small, credit-card sized CDs which typically hold around 34MB. More Linux than tomsrtbt but less than Knoppix, it aims to provide a useful workstation as well as a rescue disk.

Business card Distrinutions

About Damn Small Linux
Damn Small Linux is a business card size (50MB) Live CD Linux distribution. Despite its minuscule size it strives to have a functional and easy to use desktop. Damn Small Linux has a nearly complete desktop, including XMMS (MP3, and MPEG), FTP client, links-hacked web browser, spreadsheet, email, spellcheck (US English), a word-processor, three editors (Nedit, nVi, Zile [emacs clone]), Xpdf, Worker (file manager), Naim (AIM, ICQ, IRC), VNCviwer, SSH/SCP server and client, DHCP client, PPP, PPPoE, a web server, calculator, Fluxbox window manager, system monitoring apps, USB support, and soon it will have PCMCIA support as well. If you like Damn Small Linux you can install it on your hard drive. Because all the applications are small and light it makes a very good choice for older hardware.



By Anonymous Coward on Friday June 18, @10:18AM EDT (#49) June 17, Toledo, OH: In a surprise announcement today my Mother laid out plans to introduce her own distribution of Linux, which will be derived from the Debian distribution and called, "Mom's Linux". When pressed for details on how this new distribution will differentiate itself, she replied, "It's made with a mother's love." My father, who is also working on his own distribution, could not be reached for comment.



Groupthink : Understanding Micromanagers and Control Freaks : Toxic Managers : BureaucraciesHarvard Mafia : Diplomatic Communication : Surviving a Bad Performance Review : Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime : PseudoScience : Who Rules America : Two Party System as Polyarchy : Neoliberalism  : The Iron Law of Oligarchy : Libertarian Philosophy


Skeptical Finance : John Kenneth Galbraith : Keynes : George Carlin : Skeptics : Propaganda  : SE quotes : Language Design and Programming Quotes : Random IT-related quotes : Oscar Wilde : Talleyrand : Somerset Maugham : War and Peace : Marcus Aurelius : Eric Hoffer : Kurt Vonnegut : Otto Von Bismarck : Winston Churchill : Napoleon Bonaparte : Ambrose Bierce : Oscar Wilde : Bernard Shaw : Mark Twain Quotes


Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks: The efficient markets hypothesis : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law


Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Hater’s Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

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The Last but not Least

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Last modified: February 19, 2014