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I am begining to wonder as a newbie who planned to learn linux using Live CDs and later migrate to linux installs. To me, it seems that the live CDs that I have used so far (Slax and Ubuntu - which I like very much) are for demo purposes and are not fully functional.
No, they are fully functional operating systems which can be used on a daily basis. You can even install some live CDs such as Knoppix, PCLinuxOS and Mepis onto your hard drive or save your settings onto a usb stick so that you don't have to keep configuring things the next time you use the Live CD.
Thats too good to hear but those nice features are not available in Slax SE and Ubuntu, or are they?
I'm sure Slax settings can be stored on a USB stick and it can be installed on a hard drive. I am not sure how to do so since I have not used it for ages but you can search on the the Slax website for any documentation or send the devs an email. I am not a fan of Ubuntu so I don't know anything about its live cd.
...it seems that the live CDs that I have used so far (Slax and Ubuntu - which I like very much) are for demo purposes and are not fully functional.
I find this to be a strange question.
When I had 2 hard drives crash within a week I used Knoppix just fine until I got around to reinstalling software. Things like slower response for programs, possibly needing to reconfigure with each boot, and file storage are inherent issues with a live CD. Generally they should perform functions normally.
Why do you feel they are not fully functional?
You should be able to do almost everything that a normal distro does. Did you have root permissions when you tried to create users because some live cds automatically log you in as a normal user. Many Live CDs are also used for demonstrating Linux (but are still fully functional OSes) thats probably why the Ubuntu Live CD can be classed as a demo version of Ubuntu,
I've been using Knoppix on one of my computers for the last few weeks for some video editing stuff, because it's a faster system than my daily use Linux box. It's been working so nicely I'm now planning to install a full distro on it when I get the chance and switch over to it full-time.
Live CD distros are a little bit more limited by their very nature than fully installed versions though. One big limit is the amount of RAM in your system. Since the whole OS has to fit inside it, you may not be able to install and run a lot of large apps at one time. All user files and directories are also held in RAM only unless you manually set the system to write them to a hard disk.
Most live CD's mount the computer's hard disks read-only by default in order to protect them from any accidental changes. You can go in and remount them read-write if you need to write to them. Anything that's not written to some permanent media will be lost when you shut down because it was only being held in RAM.
(Note that the Windows NTFS file system is not yet fully supported yet and can severely damage your data if you try to write to it.)
Other limitations with live CD's are that the CD drive becomes inaccessable because it's needed by the OS. It's better if you have two drives, then you can still use one. Also, one of the bigger problems is hardware support. Live distros try their best, but they are limited in the hardware drivers they have built in. They may not be set up to handle everything in your unique configuration. In the example above, I have an on-board raid system with some disk drives that are completely undetected by Knoppix. But I do know that there is a Linux driver available; which I can set up if I install it permanently and recompile the kernel.
Other limitations with live CD's are that the CD drive becomes inaccessable because it's needed by the OS.
This is not an issue is you have a lot of ram. Many LiveCD's allow you to load the entire thing into ram (you will need 1Gb+ to be functional however). I know that Knoppix, Kanotix, and Slax support this. Other LiveCD's may also. For Knoppix and Kanotix the boot parameter is "toram", I can't remember what it is for Slax (it may be toram as well). With the toram parameter the OS runs lightning fast and the CD drive is accessible for normal use. With Knoppix and Kanotix you can save your changes to a thumbdrive, a floppy, etc. to be used on the next boot. With Slax you can save them to the web and then retrieve them from anywhere. With Slax you login as root by default, Knoppix and Kanotix put you in as a normal user - but it's simple to become root later, because there is no root password. I don't think Slax mounts your existing partitions by default (I may be wrong here), but Knoppix and Kanotix mount them readonly. It's a trivial matter to remount them readwrite. Both Knoppix and Kanotix support "captive NTFS" so that you can safely write to NTFS partitions. You have to specifically implement captive NTFS because by default you will get NTFS support as compiled into the kernel (which is safe for read access, but not necessarily for writing). Captive NTFS is included on the LiveCD ... you just have to manually invoke it.
Check out the book "Knoppix Hacks, 100 Industrial Strength Tips & Tools" by Kyle Rankin, published by O'Reilly. ISBN 0-596-00787-6 (I just happen to have a copy sitting here on my desk!) You may even find a copy at your local library. That's where I found mine. It starts off basic, but then continues on to some really cool stuff.
Some LiveCDs are basically geared toward installation, and they might not have too much more beyond what's needed to do that. But other CDs are designed to be rescue and support tools, or computer forensics, and they are very complete.
What a LiveCD buys you, simply stated, is a running Linux configuration that doesn't require your hard-drive root filesystem to be mounted. It doesn't refer to any libraries, or paths, or components on that or any other hard-drive. Therefore, it puts you in a position wherein you can analyze, or repair, or install software onto, or investigate damage or changes made to, that hard drive.
It is very important to have a working LiveCD and to know how to use it. Practice this. The LiveCD does not have to match the distro that you're running now. Many LiveCD images are available on the Internet. This needs to be a resource and a skill that you have learned how to use ... before you need it!
I have used SLAX recently - version 507 does not have a utility to install to HD yet but version 506 which is also a live CD does have a nice installer program to install to hard drive.
To install SLAX 506 to hard drive you allow the CD to boot to text login, user- root, password-toor, then type "startx" and enter. This will display a GUI desktop.
Click on "Konsole" icon and type "cfdisk" to start disk partitioning program. You need to create, a linux partition of at least 1 GIG and a swap partition (twice the size of your RAM).
Click on "Home" icon, then click "slax Installer" icon. And set install to "REAL" and click install.
Ubuntu has one CD for live OS and another CD for HD install - you must choose the correct disk.