We have Windows 98 on our machines at home. Although for a number of reasons I haven't installed a Linux distribution on any of the machines, a need arose for me to try out a Live CD of Linux.
: A Live CD is where the operating system runs off the CD, rather than being installed on the hard drive. Assuming your PC boots off the CD drive, you just start (or re-start) it with the Live CD in the CD drive, and the CD-ROM takes over from there.)
: A ''distribution'' of Linux is essentially a ''bundle'' which includes the operating system [''Windows 2000" and "OS X" for Macs are examples of operating systems, as is Linux], as well as various other programs such as web browsers, word processing, audio players, graphics apps, and etc. Unless you're doing fairly specialized work, you typically don't need to install any other programs, because the basics -- web browsing, e-mail, and office apps -- are already included.)
The Lady likes storing data on her USB key (or what others call a USB flashdrive). However, Win98 doesn't come with drivers to read USB keys -- unlike more recent versions of Windows -- and I can't seem to find a driver that works. Thus, she can't dump files onto her USB key, bring them home, and work on them (e.g. with MS PowerPoint) on our machines at home. My proposed work-around, is to boot to a Linux Live CD, use that Linux distro to detect the USB key and the hard drives, copy the data across, then leave Linux and return to Win98.
Based on some notes I've been keeping from the Linux magazine I regularly read (Linux Format
, from the UK)., I decided to test out four options:
- Elive -- a live version of the Elightenment distro; supposed to be nice-looking and user-friendly, yet relatively lightweight.
- Feather Linux -- small and lightweight, yet because it's based on Knoppix, it's supposed to have really good hardware detection
- Topologilinux -- not a live distro, but rather a distribution of Linux that you install as an *.exe file on your Windows machine. An alternative to having both Windows and Linux on your machine, and booting into one or the other at startup.
- Puppy Linux -- Small and friendly (and somewhat cute). Works on older machines.
Topologilinux I already had from the DVD from one of the issues of Linux Format
. The other three I downloaded from the relevant websites.
Tried Elive first. It seemed to be loading up just fine -- got all the splash screens with the encouraging news about how swell Elive is. But then it got stuck, due to missing some important component (according to the message on the screen), and dumped me into the command-line prompt. Since I have yet to muck around with the Linux command line (analogous to working in ''MS DOS" under your Windows overlay), I called it quits for that one. Too bad; I'll possibly try it again when the next version comes out (currently version 0.4.2, so technically it's not ''real''yet). I was sufficiently altruistic to e-mail their development team to let them know of the glitch.
Tried Feather Linux next. Indeed small, and it loaded up right-quick. But, I couldn't find the hard drives: non-intuitive. Bah. So, it didn't suit my needs. Didn't even bother trying the USB key on it.
I next turned to Topologilinux. This is the one where you install it on your HD as a standalone program, and start it just like any other application -- except it's a Linux! However, early on during the installation phase it said that I needed Windows 2000, or newer, for it to work. Which, if I had Win2000 I wouldn't need this work-around to read my wife's USB key. So, ditched it.
Finally, I fired up PuppyLinux. This one had a non-fancy, but very straightforward series of configuration screens. The language seemed aimed at novices, which is a good strategy: for example, when it asked whether your mouse was USB, or through the PS/2 port, it noted that if it was by PS/2 port, the mouse cable probably ends in a green jack.
At the end of these setup screens, it noted that (1) once PuppyLinux was up and running, I could always go back and tweak the hardware configuration, if I wanted; and (2) it would be storing a small file on my hard drive, so that the next time I used PuppyLinux it would remember what I told it this time -- and thus, start up immediately.
The good news is that the interface was pretty intuitive, and I was able to copy a file from my wife's USB key to the hard drive, and vice-versa. Proof of concept! Also, the layout was pretty intuitive. For example, various program were filed under their type (e.g. ''multimedia'' held a number of audio applications, including a tone generator[!!!], while various word processors, text editors, and html-editors were under ''writing'' [or some-such; I didn't write this down]).
The bad news is that some of the included programs started up when I clicked the relevant desktop icon, and others didn't. And the programs that didn't work when I clicked the desktop icons still failed to start when I also tried accessing them through the ''Start'' menu. For example, I couldn't get ''AbiWord'' -- a word processor -- to start, through either route. Bummer.
Also, it didn’t seem to recognize *.doc files (and similarly, for *.ppt [MS PowerPoint] files). I base this on it showing ‘’generic’’ icons instead of ‘’text file’’ icons. However, if AbiWord had worked, I think it might have recognized them.
I also e-mailed the PuppyLinux folks, to share both the good and the bad with them.VERDICT
: Topologilinux might be worth a try for some folks, just for giggles -- although I won't have a need for it, as I'll be moving from Win98 -- which serves my needs just fine, thank you -- to probably Ubuntu Linux for general home use, and one of several multimedia-optimized Linux distros for audio recording and video editing.
FeatherLinux is a nice little novelty. But it seems that it's more a novelty than anything. (ex: You can carry it with you, and boot off a USB key.) From my very brief look, the apps that are included are rather bare-bones: they'll work in a pinch, but lack the features you'd want in a "real" paint program [or whatever].
And Elive and PuppyLinux are both worth looking at again. Once the glitches are fixed, it'd be fun to carry them around on a CD, accompanied by a USB key for data storage, and being able to temporarily ''hijack'' a Windows machine with Linux -- without causing harm, of course. And PuppyLinux could be used as a ‘’rescue CD’’, for when your machine doesen’t work but you need to rescue things off the hard drive - - like how some people use Knoppix, but without having to use the command line.