More than a few people wrote in to let me know about other interesting "live" distro's of Linux after our post on using LinuxDefender Live CD to Fix NTFS problems ran. I've been a bit busy with my son, now that he's started school and isn't completely exhausted at the end of the day (like I always am ;), but I will post each and every comment I received (at least, with the consent of the commenter's) as soon as I can.
The one thing that blew my mind is that the download links for LinuxDefender Live don't even work any more (One thing you should understand about me is that I'm a pack-rat. If I like something, I make 15 copies of it and hide it in several different counties. My LinuxDefender Live CD was like gold). I knew they'd been swallowed up by BitDefender (or am I getting foggy and not remembering them always being under that umbrella? ;), but I had no idea that the entire project had been trashed. This is why I haven't included any links to the distro in this post, so far. For your amusement, here's the still-live page that has all the download links (On BitDefender's site, no less) you'll ever need. Unfortunately, none of them link to any available content. Check it out. Try and download LinuxDefender Live, I dare ya. Why that page hasn't been scrapped, I can't even begin to waste my time trying to understand ;)
In going over all the alternatives (including a very nice and mature Knoppix that now fully supports NTFS read/write), I settled on Puppy Linux. It seemed to have the best frugal-to-usable ratio out there. And, no surprise here, it's very easy to use. You can download your own copy from the Live-Puppy Download Site. It's completely free of charge (although I'm sure they wouldn't sneeze at a donation ;) and very easy to use.
Even more impressive are some of the little things that differ from my now-seemingly-ridiculous LinuxDefender CD. The Live Puppy OS has three main features that make me like it a lot (although these don't encompass them all):
1. It includes support for NTFS = I can fix my kid's computer and not have to reboot Windows for 17 hours just to reload the corrupted VGA driver.
2. It makes excellent use of RAM-loading the OS after boot from the CD = I don't feel like I'm using a read-only OS.
3. It can save to disk without destroying your resident OS = I can save my personalizations, which makes it feel even more natural. Of course, I can't go so far as to download and install packages (unless I've partitioned my disk in preparation, which defeats the purpose ;), but it's still nice to be able to save my little tweaks.
Considering that we've got the same issue to deal with that we did in our LinuxDefender Live post (like the SYSTEM file, in C:\WINNT\ is corrupted and you just need to be able to copy it off and replace it with SYSTEM.BAK), these are the same steps (but fewer) that we'd take to fix up our NTFS Windows box and make everything better:
1. Pop open the CD tray while the system is still powered on. If that doesn't work, power it down and use the pinhole-method (sticking a pin in the hole in the front of the CD-ROM drive to manually eject it). Place the Live-Puppy CD in there and close it back up. Then power up or restart your machine as your situation dictates.
2. However your system allows you to, push the correct button (f1 or maybe f10/f12) when you power up the machine so that you can get to the system settings and make sure that your CD-ROM drive is listed as a Boot Device and is in the Boot Sequence (preferably first) so that our CD will be able to boot the system from the CD-ROM drive.
3. Power on the machine and kick back. Live Puppy is pretty cool to watch if you've never seen it before. It should work without issue on your box. I've heard reports that it even works on a lot of funky custom AlienWare computers!
4. Once you're finished booting up and have either your desktop GUI or the CLI up and running, just mount the Windows hard drive like you'd mount any Linux hard drive, on a temporary mount point. If you prefer to use the GUI, you can mount the disk just like in Windows; no issues!
5. Skipping about 5 steps from the LinuxDefender Live fiasco, you can mount your Windows drive and access it like any regular Linux drive. Again, be sure to pass the options to mount (man mount) to indicate that you want to mount the disk read/write as NTFS. I'm incredibly paranoid, so I just cd directly into the WINNT directory (in this instance), copy off the bad SYSTEM file, copy the SYSTEM.BAK file to SYSTEM, cd back to where I was and umount. Actually, if I was really bad, I'd just use absolute path names ;)
6. Now, you just exit or reboot and remove the Live-Puppy CD (or vice versa). Windows should come right up and run as poorly as it always has ;)
I can't say enough about this distro. Check out Live-Puppy CD for free!. Even if you can't stand "real" live puppies, you're gonna love this one :)
Next up in our "avoiding Windows support" series: How to disappear in the jungles of uncharted Africa ;)
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