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Introduction to Linux - A Hands on Guide
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A live cd is a linux distro that boots from and runs completely from a cd. There is no need to install anything with a live cd and nothing is written to your hard drive although you can usually access the hard drive from most live cds. There are numerous linux live cds but the granddaddy of them all is knoppix. Here's a link that attempts to catalog the current ones available:
Many, if not most, live cds can also be installed to your hard drive if you see what you like when running directly off the cd. System performance will be slower when running off a cd as opposed to a hard drive linux install. However, live cds are a good way for someone new to linux to get a feel for what linux is all about without having to go through a hard drive install.
Gosh ... The liveCD concept is great! I recently downloaded Knoppix, and found that it has all sorts of capabilities, all right on the CD! What does this mean? Basically I've got a mobile system on CD. Plop it into just about any CPU, and run my desktop apps, Internet, mail, etc. Also use it as a tool for data recovery or whatever! Though I haven't tried it yet, I'm thinking a combo LiveCD and memory stick would work great together.
@SlowCoder: Yep! Knoppix saved my bacon when my hard-drive went to Valhalla. Plus I had it installed for about 3 months for evaluation. It's a top distro; that LiveCD should be any Linux users tool box.
Okay-I'd heard the term but didn't know what it was. In fact, I think Ubuntu is live also but I didn't what to do with that. (I do have it installed.) But for when I work offsite, it sure would be great to take the CD with me and just use it and then save the information on the USB stick. And as you say, you never know when a hard drive might go bad. It sounds like you all are pretty happy with Knoppix; I'd like to look into that. It's nice to know you can install some distros from the usb also.