Linux

Six ways to use Linux Live CDs in your business

Running a Live Linux CD or USB is a convenient way to perform a number of tasks when an installed OS is not necessary.

Do you think an operating system should always be installed on the hard disk of a computer?

It was true for me up until a certain point. Things changed when Knoppix Live CD was released by Klaus Knopper in 2000.

Knoppix was a pioneer in Live CD for Linux, and it still remains one of the most respectable Linux distributions. Of course, Knoppix is not alone. There are many more Linux distributions available on the market now that can run in Live mode.

There are basically two types of media which you can use as your Live Linux: CD/DVD or USB. Some distributions allow you to have Live USB, some only work from optical media. In both cases, some distributions allow you to save changes you've made. This feature is called "Persistence."

Here are the main ways in which Live Linux can help your business.

#1 Evaluate the features and compatibility of new releases

This is the main reason why most Linux distributions currently have the ability to run in Live mode. You can check new features, hardware compatibility, and get a general feel for a Linux distribution right away without the need to install it on your hard drive.

If your company runs Linux on desktops or servers, Live run can help you with the initial evaluation of new releases. Of course, thorough testing should be done when the OS is installed, but running Live can help you in your decision-making.

#2 Test the security of your network

There are some specific distributions on the market which aim at the niche of security specialists. The most famous and most powerful of them is Backtrack Linux. It is a Live CD which hosts lots of tools for security specialists. Even if you have no security specialists on staff, it is worth it to periodically check your network vulnerability using the most common testing tools.

Of course, you don't need these tools in your everyday life, that's why having Live CD is the most convenient way to run the checks.

Another purpose of Backtrack Linux could be forensic research if you need to investigate any suspicious activity of users on your systems.

#3 Perform one-off tasks

Do you plan your office party? Do you want to invite a professional DJ or maybe just prepare your in-house mix? Or maybe you want to make a short video to show your customers or vendors, but don't have enough budget for a professional team of multimedia creators or editors.

Live Linux can help you here. There are distributions which are oriented to the multimedia market: running your own DJ set or editing video is easier when you have the proper tools.

Of course, usage of multimedia-oriented Live Linux CDs is not the only area. There are many more niche-oriented distributions which host useful software for specific tasks.

Because these are one-off tasks, you don't want and don't need to install additional software onto your hard drive. Run it from Live CD!

#4 Secure your transactions

It is not true that you can use only pre-built Live Linux distributions. Some of them like SLAX or Puppy have a persistence option or the ability to add your own configuration steps. It can help you, for example, to secure your financial transactions. Pre-configure your SLAX, save changes as an additional module and run this operating system from a CD or from USB without saving further changes. What do you have in this case? A stable, secure system that prevents an intruder from being able to change it and activate malicious code. You may use it, for example, during access to your online bank.

#5 Impress your customers (or suppliers)

You just have finished a very important meeting with a potential customer. It's time to say goodbye and leave a business card. Stop! Who says your business card has to be paper? You can have it on plastic with your name on one side and a recorded CD or DVD on another. Yes, modern technology allows you to record information on almost any piece of plastic.

So, your customer puts your business card into a CD reader (sounds funny, isn't it?) and starts...your own operating system! It is branded with your name. It brings full-featured copy of your website right to the customer's desktop. It lists all the marketing materials which you usually send by post or hand out during presentations - and all of them are in electronic format.

It's just another application of Live Linux...

And yes...customers can install it on their own desktop or laptop computers, if they want.

#6 Use for low-maintenance computers

How many times do you see powerful computers with huge hard disks being used for trivial tasks? Let me give you some examples: print servers, routers, Internet kiosks. Do they actually need hard disks? Almost surely the answer is no. Then, why do they boot from a hard disk?

Let's start them off Live Linux CD or USB instead. As a bonus, you have stable system which can be easily restored to initial state (and nothing else) in a matter of seconds. It is well-protected from external intruders, hackers and silly users -- there is no place to record malicious code. It is easy to maintain as the only operation you may need there, if any, is reset/reboot. It is quick, because most of the time it runs from memory. It's low in resource requirements, because Linux distributions like TCL, DSL and Puppy were built with low-resource computers in mind.

Dust off your old computer and make it a print server instead of a current quadro-core monster!

As you can see from above, there are lots of places where every company can employ Linux, and not only Linux working as a normally installed operating system, but also as small and modest Live Linux systems.

Do you use any of them in your company right now? How do you like to use Live Linux in your workplace?

This guest post was written by DarkDuck - the author and owner of the blog, Linux notes from DarkDuck.
17 comments
stephen.sandifer
stephen.sandifer

...more times than I can count. It includes a ton of networking and anti-virus tools. But the feature I've used the most is Winpass, a utility to blank forgotten Windows administrator passwords. http://trinityhome.org

mickey
mickey

i use a few live Linux CDs according to issue when recovering crashed Microsoft OS PCs. Rebuilding file systems, fix corruption, security checking, virus / malware scanning are just a few of the recovery processes Linux can do for MS. Ironic how often the best repair tools for MS are on Linux.

bootz15
bootz15

I'd like to learn more about #5 -- how do I bundle up a custom-branded Linux?

pgit
pgit

I use Slax and Knoppix to retrieve files from windows systems that won't boot. There's even tools for recovering files on systems where the file system itself is broken or has inadvertently been deleted/overwritten. (foremost, pcrec etc)

delh
delh

I have successfully used these live cds to recover user data/documents from irreparably corrupt/malware windows boxes. Mounting a usb drive and transfering the needed files. Nice and Quick! They do have a place in my IT arsenal.

petercooper
petercooper

There are many more uses than this. Some of them apply to AOL CDs as well. #6 - Coasters. Linux CDs can make ideal coasters for your tea or coffee mugs. #7 - Frisbees. Need to let off a bit of steam at lunchtime? CDs make good frisbees for intra-office shenanigans. I mean, I could go on..

pgit
pgit

...remember that one? ;) MS quietly running windows update off of IBM Linux servers?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The last thing I'd want is one of our buyers calling me to say, "A vendor gave me this CD, but my system is trying to boot off it!" With no knowledge of what it could be doing, I'd feed that sucker to the shredder. My buyer would sit unproductive while I ran a full scan for malware.

darkduck
darkduck

You can use any CD/DVD for this...

itadmin
itadmin

There's a much bigger chance of a customer reading a business card that's easy to hand than inserting a CD and looking at one's details. They just couldn't care less.

darkduck
darkduck

You can have special machine for the test, if your buyer still wants to get access to data on the disk. Like sandpit. Then, close access to CD-ROM booting on users' machines. Or even better - remove all optical drives from the machines at all. Another solution is to encode hard drives of user machines. Whatever malware [may be] on CD-ROM, it won't touch the HDD data. Finding shortcut to the shredder is excuse for your lack of wish to be flexible.

darkduck
darkduck

Name/phone/e-mail, logo are on one side, CD/DVD on another.

pgit
pgit

I don't think handing a customer an entire live OS on optical media is a good idea. It takes too long to get to a desktop, and there may be problems with default settings preventing a desktop at all without user intervention. A disk that pops up a web interface preloaded with your 'business card' on the other hand is a good idea. You can provide all manner of links the client may find useful, eg a link to download MBAM, a link to a Microsoft alert, links to cost/benefit analysis information... limitless possibilities that a paper business card just can't provide. But a live OS? Recipe for a plethora of potential disasters, one of them certainly being doubt about your opinions and capabilities.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Seek out IT for a test system, or just stuff the CD in the drive? Unless you're a consultant in Linux systems, what's the advantage over a traditional business card?

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