awareness raising / resources / technical info

Starting from scratch

Using Linux LiveMedia

Background

Funny, I don’t feel all that knowledgeable or experienced.  But sometimes I forget that I have a lot more experience than many people who are just switching over to Linux in order to revive old hardware.  To them, booting from a CD to use or install Linux often seems like magic.

What do you mean this is running from CD?  What happened to my Windows?

Sometimes people think they lost all their files simply because Windows quit working on them, due to an internal error (which seem increasingly rare these days, in my experience) or due to infection with malware (just as prevalent an issue as ever!).

Oh my goodness!  My files and folders!  You got them back!  Thank you so much!  How did you do it?

I didn’t get them back.  They were always there, hidden behind all the wierdness of a virus (or many) frolicking freely in the high-maintenance, overly-permissive environment that is (overly-susceptible to malware infection, ahem) Microsoft Windows.  When we sidestep that weirdness, we can have direct access to your files in a calm, sane, efficient environment and do what we need with them.

I actually think that Linux has evolved a friendlier install process than Mac or Windows because of its underdog status — Mac and Windows always come pre-installed and configured, but Linux almost always is installed by the user.  GNU/Linux has pioneered the LiveMedia environment — you can use Linux without making any changes to your system or leaving any footprint or trace of your activities behind.

From Wikipedia:

the free operating system was meeting resistance in the consumer market because of the perceived difficulty, effort, and risk involved in installing an additional partition on the hard disk, in parallel with an existing operating system installation.

Originally the answer to a marketing problem, LiveMedia have become incredibly useful for privacy, security, administrative and other logistical purposes, such as recovering data from a borked Windows install (yes, I’m picking on Windows.  If it were a child in the family of operating systems, it would be the one that always needs attention).

Linux also runs with minimal complaint on a dizzying array of hardware with minimal — if any — tweaking necessary.  With or without official support from hardware providers.  This in itself is an amazing feat, especially compared to the narrow array of hardware Mac OS X runs on (all controlled by Apple), or the immense about of jury-rigging and tweaking necessary to get Windows to run on all the hardware that it runs on.  If GNU/Linux got half that attention, the results would stagger the competition.

Options, Opportunities, Choices

There’s likely a Linux for everyone (and almost any computing-related purpose).  The choices are mind-blowing, overwhelming even.  So we simplify them and recommend Ubuntu and its derivatives for its prime hardware compatibility and support:
  • Lubuntu — a version of Ubuntu that uses LXDE instead of Unity as its desktop environment that runs well on older hardware and is familiar to Windows users
  • Linux Mint (and its derivatives) — an elegant evolution of the traditional desktop metaphor that is, again, familiar to Windows users
  • and a few other specialty distributions, based on need (such as Trinity Rescue Kit).

Getting started

Beyond that, almost any simple LiveCD is a wonderful multi-tool for the computer technician or administrator.  To make use of these amazing resources, someone need only know two things:

  1. How to boot from CD Drive into the LiveCD environment:
    1. Step-by-step process
    2. More help from Ubuntu
NOTE: Teaching people about the BIOS is a core part of hardware literacy, since it is the most fundamental interface between the computer’s hardware and software.
  1. Once you are in the LiveCD environment:
    1. Install the operating system (see our customizations) OR
    2. Use the LiveCD as a tool for system administration or recovery
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