by Max Spevack
It’s been a little over a month since the first installment of Fedora Corner, in which I talked about the Fedora Summit, the Fedora Ambassador Day in Europe, and offered some information about the usage statistics of Fedora Core 6.
In today’s column, I want to discuss a topic that has been a long time coming for Fedora — the LiveCD. LiveCD is not a new piece of technology — various Linux distributions have had them for a while now, and even Fedora has been consistently making progress on one for about a year.
We hit a big milestone on December 22nd, when David Zeuthen announced that the first Fedora Core 6 LiveCD was ready for testing and download.
What is a LiveCD, for our readers who are unfamiliar with the term? Well, it’s a piece of media (in this case a CD-ROM) that contains a bootable operating system image on it.
So instead of booting a machine off of the hard disk, you boot off of the CD, and all of the information that is needed to make the computer’s applications run are stored in RAM, without needing access to the hard disk.
There’s several useful applications for this. In my own personal computing world, it would be great to be able to carry with me the combination of a CD and a USB key (for saving files), and anytime I’m using a computer that doesn’t run Linux, I can just drop my Fedora LiveCD into the drive, boot off of that, and be in a Linux environment. All without having to touch the pre-existing setup of the computer that I’m on. Very useful.
Another excellent application of this software is for demonstration purposes. On a personal level, I know that there are many times when I am sitting in front of a friend’s PC, helping to clean off a machine that is riddled with spyware, viruses, etc. My “fee” for rendering this service to my friends is that they must listen to me evangelize about open source software. A LiveCD is the perfect next step — now I can *show* them what I am talking about directly, which makes the task of creating a new Linux user easier than before.
A feature that is currently in alpha for the Fedora LiveCDs is one installation. Once you have the LiveCD environment up and running, the next step that you really want to have available is a single mouse-click which launches the system installer, so that you can put Linux onto your hard disk directly.
Credit where credit is due, here. Folks over at Ubuntu, and several other distributions, already have this feature in their LiveCD technology. We’re lagging behind a little bit, but it’s on our roadmap for Fedora 7, due at the beginning of May.
The use cases that I’ve described are on a personal scale, but there are compelling ones for Red Hat as a corporation as well. Because part of the Fedora LiveCD engineering process involves building a generalized framework for LiveCD creation, the result is that it is possible to generate not only a Fedora Core 6 or Fedora 7 LiveCD, but also a Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 LiveCD.
That’s a key point for us. We don’t just want to produce a Fedora LiveCD — we want to empower users to be able to take any combination of Fedora packages and use the *same tools that we use* to produce their own custom LiveCDs, with whatever personalizations they want to make.
I imagine that our sales and marketing folks would enjoy having that available to them when it comes time to present to prospective clients. Similarly, the idea of being able to mass produce Fedora LiveCDs and send them to a middle school or high school computer class, and allow the kids to play with open source technology for a few days without having to risk the pre-existing setup of the school’s computers is a compelling educational opportunity.
The LiveCD is one of the biggest engineering goals that we have in place for Fedora 7, and it is exciting to see progress on it, in an open and transparent way.
For the techies out there who want to try it out and get involved, there is more information on the Fedora Project wiki.
If you are in the Boston area, we encourage you to come to FUDCon (Fedora Users and Developers
Conference) which we are holding at Boston University on Friday, February 2nd. It will be followed by a two-day Fedora hackfest on February 3rd and 4th, most likely ending with a bunch of geeks taking over a local watering hole for the viewing of the Super Bowl and the consuming of adult beverages.
The Fedora LiveCD is one of the projects that will be featured at the hackfest.