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Operating Systems Software

What Live CDs Do You Carry Around? 184

Posted by Cliff
from the another-tool-in-the-toolbox dept.
TPC asks: "I recently acquired a small CD case that fits 12 CDs. I figured that it would be useful to always carry around a few CDs to use when helping others with computer issues, or in case something goes wrong with my own computer. However, I'm having a hard time deciding what CDs to pick, and there are probably many hidden gems out there. I'm sure I'm not the first person with this idea, so I ask you: What 12 live (and otherwise) CDs would you carry around?"
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What Live CDs Do You Carry Around?

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  • Knoppix (Score:4, Insightful)

    by richardoz (529837) * on Thursday November 30, 2006 @12:31AM (#17044854) Homepage
    For me my number 1 disc is Knoppix [wikipedia.org] or Wikipedia Article [knoppix.org]

    After that's its a disc with common hardware drivers, Java 1.5, Eclipse, Apache, MySql and PHP

    • Re:Knoppix (Score:5, Informative)

      by X0563511 (793323) * on Thursday November 30, 2006 @01:44AM (#17045514) Homepage Journal
      Knoppix is nice, but it's a bit big for me. Personally, I prefer the System Rescue CD [sysresccd.org]

      It's got the important bits without the extra. Also can load to RAM, which is very nice for working with backups on systems that only have one optical drive. I'm not sure, but I believe it only requires 128mb or RAM or so.
      • Re:Knoppix (Score:4, Funny)

        by X0563511 (793323) * on Thursday November 30, 2006 @01:50AM (#17045554) Homepage Journal
        Whoops, forgot to give you even a cursory description. From the main page:
        Description: SystemRescueCd is a linux system on a bootable cdrom for repairing your system and your data after a crash. It also aims to provide an easy way to carry out admin tasks on your computer, such as creating and editing the partitions of the hard disk. It contains a lot of system utilities (parted, partimage, fstools, ...) and basic ones (editors, midnight commander, network tools). It aims to be very easy to use: just boot from the cdrom, and you can do everything. The kernel of the system supports most important file systems (ext2/ext3, reiserfs, reiser4, xfs, jfs, vfat, ntfs, iso9660), and network ones (samba and nfs).


        Note to moderators: please do not moderate this post up, unless it falls beneath the default threshhold - unless the parent post falls below as well. I want this information visible and I simply forgot to add it to the parent post, and do not wish moderation points to be wasted. Thanks.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Mooga (789849)
        DSL (Damn Small Linux) is also a good thing to have if you ever have to mess with a very old computer.
        It's not as "newbie friendly" as Knoppix (which is great, of course), bet it can also get the job done and you can probably get it running on any computer made within at least the last 10 years if not 15 or more...
        • by X0563511 (793323) *
          I also carry around DSL, but I use SRC more often. SRC is a little over twice the size of DSL, yet it doesn't have a window manager, web browsers, etc. It DOES have X, but a very minimal one designed for one-off uses of tools like qtparted.
      • If it doesn't fit on the small-format mini-CD, I don't see any reason to carry around a full-sized 120mm CDROM that isn't crammed to the gills. Maybe you need all the tools, maybe not, but they're not in your way, and the only reason to even use CD instead of DVD is that not all machines have DVD drives yet. The mini-CD and the business-card-sized formats may be a bit more practical to carry around.

        Alternatively, USB sticks are great, but not everything knows how to boot from USB. Small distros are kind

        • by Sancho (17056)
          The load and access times may differ, and as the grandparent said, smaller livecds can fit completely into RAM so that you can actually pop in another disc. The larger the CD, the less likely that is to be the case--you can't count on everyone you help having 1G of RAM.
        • by X0563511 (793323) *
          If the number from your Subject is true, then yes. System Rescue CD will fit on an 80mm CD.
    • Slax (Score:4, Interesting)

      by eklitzke (873155) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @06:18AM (#17046800) Homepage
      Of course Knoppix is far and away the best Live CD in this area. But it's not great if you want something that can boot from a (reasonably sized) USB drive. Let me explain. I am a "Residential Computing Consultant" at the school I go to, which means that I troubleshoot student's computers, clean up after spyware and viruses, etc. At my job we are issued a 512 MB flash drive. The programs that we are _required_ to have on there (i.e. all the anti spyware, networking diagnostic, and especially Windows patches and hot fixes) take up at least 300 MB. With the remaining space I was able to install Slax and still have ~50 MB left to spare.

      I went with Slax rather than something like DSL for a number of reasons. But the main one is that of all the really small live distros, it was the only one I could find with a 2.6 kernel, which translates to better hardware support for all of the weird computers I have to work on (they are mostly one or at most two years old).

      We are encouraged to carry Knoppix CDs as well, and they are available in the office, but it's really, really nice to be able to have a live USB drive. Plus only a relatively small amount of the total software on a Knoppix CD is for data recovery and so forth, and all of the essential tools in this area are present in most of the small distros like Slax or DSL.
  • my list (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    minipe is a must for windows installs
    knoppix is a must for linux
    keep a fedora boot cd (or other common platforms in your line of work)
    windows XP install cd (for recovery- or substitute with appropriate windows server version)

    You can probably get away with those and the boot cds for any OS you are likely to work on (Solaris install cd, IRIX insttools, whatever)
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by UncleTogie (1004853) *
      At our shop, we use:

      Knoppix CD & DVD

      the Insert distro

      BartPE {tweaked to include Symantec Ghost and XP keygrabbers}

      MemTest x86

      the Win95C, 98, 98SE, 2000, XP Home/Pro/OEM/SP2 Cds, with DOS on floppy...

      {yes, we STILL get the occasional 286....}

  • Live? (Score:5, Funny)

    by east coast (590680) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @12:32AM (#17044874)
    "Different Stages" by Rush... but that's obviously not what you mean.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by HBI (604924)
      I prefer "The Song Remains the Same". I throw a Gentoo LiveCD into the same case.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by davecarlotub (835831) *
        I prefer "The Song Remains the Same". I throw a Gentoo LiveCD into the same case.


        I work in a Windows shop and I use the Gentoo install-x86-minimal-2006.1 [gentoo.org] CD regularly to pull files from old crashed Win2k hard drives. It's nice, for me.
        • It may bring up the "ugh!" factor but normally W2K's repair console seems to work for most of the drive problems I have. What does the Gentoo offer that would be worthwhile?
          • by jZnat (793348) *
            Bash? And all the other tools that are present in a normal Unix installation.
      • by PopeRatzo (965947)
        I don't know what kind of miserable human would mod your comment off-topic, HBI. I thought it was funny and the Gentoo comment on-topic.

        When I read the headline I was thinking Humble Pie, Rockin' the Fillmore.

        And I carry a bootable Ghost CD that's saved my butt a few times, too. And Gentoo.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Overzeetop (214511)
      James Taylor for me, thank you. One you listen to the Live CD(s), you can't go back to the doctored and primped studio stuff. No that there's anything wrong with Rush...Hold Your Fire is my favorite (non-live), but that was from my "era", so it may be a particularly biased choice.
    • by ArcherB (796902)
      Exit Stage Left myself.

      With the extra space I carry:

      The latest Sabayon DVD (because it looks cool and I can show off XGL/AIGLX to all the people that think Vista is cool and/or unique)

      A Gentoo CD because I never took it out when I moved to Sabayon.

      WHAX for when I'm going to be close to some kind of restricted hot-spot.

      A bootable CD with Ghost on it.

      And of course a Knoppix/Ubuntu/Mepis or whatever the cool live CD is for the week.

      (not to mention a bootable USB thumb drive. It goes a bit faster and allows me
    • Personally, I prefer Exit Stage Left or even All The World's A Stage. Different Stages just seems like more of Show of Hands... I think the two earlier live albums have more fire even if they aren't as smooth musically as the newer ones.
  • by From A Far Away Land (930780) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @12:32AM (#17044876) Homepage Journal
    My favourites are Ubuntu 6.06 LTS, Damnsmalllinux.org, and the Ultimate Boot CD [which my Dad loves for the hard disk utilities].

    I plan on ordering Ubuntu discs from ShipIt, and handing them out at the Vista launch event on January 9th.
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday November 30, 2006 @12:34AM (#17044882) Homepage Journal
    mandatory tool to have in your toolkit [eunet.no] if you deal with Windows machines.
    • I'll second that one. Every once in awhile when the CEO loses his post-it note with his new password on it, it pays to be able to reset it quickly and painlessly. I have been using that disc for a couple of years and I love it.

      I usually keep a copy of the UBCD [ultimatebootcd.com] around to test out SMART failures, flaky memory, etc. and fix boot problems and other miscellaneous junk.

      Apart from those, I also have to give the nod to Knoppix or the STD Knoppix for other types of recovery.
  • BART PE, others (Score:4, Informative)

    by davidwr (791652) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @12:38AM (#17044936) Homepage Journal
    For Windows emergency repairs: A CD made with Bart's Prebuild Environment [nu2.nu]

    For Mac OS X emergency repairs, a Mac OS X bootable disk

    For everything else, a bootable Linux disk with the tools I think I need that day.

    For general use, TheOpenCD. This also has a Windows partition so I can show my XP-loving friends the joys of Free-as-in-beer-and-liberty software.
  • Kill disk (Score:2, Informative)

    by ipooptoomuch (808091)
    Kill disk which simply has very advanced (read:paranoid) data destruction techniques (read:write lots of 0's over and over then replace with 1's) for when you need your entire hard drive wiped in about 10 minutes for when the riaa knocks down your door because you have a 1 TB array of hard drives serving free mp3s to small children.
    • by jimicus (737525)
      If you're living in a country where copyright infringement is a criminal offence, 10 minutes is too slow. 10 seconds is probably too slow.

      Thermite is probably the best solution.
    • Re:Kill disk (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bcmm (768152) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @07:29AM (#17047086)
      Thing about that is that it's pretty obvious that the drive has been wiped. I wonder if anyone has made a DVD which could securely erase a drive and then install an image of a small (by modern standards) OS like Windows 98? You could create an image which looks used, with a few documents, browser history, etc. Maybe even some deleted files for any analysis to turn up. In a short amount of time, you could probably really make it look like the machine had been used as a 98 box for a while. (Plenty of idiots buy much nicer hardware than they need).
      • If it's supposed to look like it's been used for a while, it ought to have a worm or two on it as well.
      • No matter what you do, the lack of porn on the disk is a dead giveaway that it's been wiped :-)
        • by bcmm (768152)
          Last time this discussion came up on /., someone suggested secure erase, fill with porn, insecure erase. They stop looking after they find what you were trying to hide.
      • by quark101 (865412)
        I've done a bunch of medium scale imaging, and based on the lessons that I learned from that, something like what you suggested is easily doable, or at least I think it would be. I'm not sure about what kind of unattended and imaging utitilites are available for 98, but XP can be installed completely unatteded. The way I would do it is to wipe, then boot into Ghost or a similiar program, and then push the image onto the freshly wiped harddrve. From what I understand, Vista would be perfect for this type
        • by bcmm (768152)

          I'm not sure about what kind of unattended and imaging utilities are available for 98

          I wasn't suggesting doing an actual install of 98. I was suggesting taking an actual disk image (i.e. bit for bit copying the disk to a file on another disk, ignoring the filesystem) with something like dd. The dates wouldn't be reset, because they are stored in the FAT, which we would have copied along with everything else when making the image. The image could be significantly compressed, because nearly all of it would

    • Of course the whole point is moot when they ignore your hard drive completely and just use ISP records, like the RIAA does. As long as people use the internet to access, say, kiddie porn, there's a very good chance that scrubbing their HD will not prevent their prosecution.

      Best protections:

      If it's of questionable morality, but legal, fly under the radar. No one really cares if you download the latest album from Britney Spears, but the RIAA has a track record of sueing people who share out thousands of alb
      • by gartogg (317481)
        You could install a copy of windows 98 with a couple worms and viruses, that looks somewhat used - then you could also claim that the internet access wasn't your fault either!

        And of course, if you're not backing up your files (the ones you work on) on something if you are planning to use a mechanism to wipe your disk, you deserve to lose the work. And if you're trading kiddie porn, prison is too good for you.
        • So, tell me, if you destroy your hard drive, but you have a good backup copy, why wouldn't the feds just prosecute you based on the backup copy?

          I'm sure it's offsite and everything, but if its a regularly accessed drop site (it pretty much has to be if you're making regular backups) then I'd think the feds would be able to find it without much extra effort.

          You gotta destroy everything if you don't want it to be used in court.

          TW
  • My CDs (Score:2, Informative)

    by Matt Perry (793115)
    Ultimate Boot CD [ultimatebootcd.com]
    Knoppix [knoppix.org]
    Damn Small Linux [damnsmalllinux.org]

  • List (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ObiWanStevobi (1030352) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @12:51AM (#17045064) Journal
    1. Knoppix

      Never know when you need to pull files from a disk with a FUBAR boot sector

    2. AV Disc

      Need your disk with AVAST, Ad-Aware, and other virus removal tools

    3. Windows XP

      Sometimes a re-install is just easier

    4. Fedora

      Just in case you have an open-minded subject prone to viruses, you can get them using Linux. (Of course, this takes multiple disc spaces.)

    5. MS Office

      To fix those pesky Office corruptions

    6. Open Office

      Once again, for those open-minded folks who wouldn't really know the difference anyway.

    7. Misc software

      Adobe, Quicktime, Firefox, Opera, J2RE, etc. Those pretty much handle any random computer problems most people have.

    • Re:List (Score:4, Interesting)

      by thepotoo (829391) <thepotoospam@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday November 30, 2006 @09:58AM (#17048180)
      Knoppix

      Agreed.

      AV Disc

      Pick your favorite antivirus (I use antivir because it's idiot proof) and put it on a thumb drive. Make sure to have the Win 98 drivers for said drive (they can be on the drive itself, and you can install them using Knoppix)

      Windows XP

      Agreed, reluctantly. If you're gonna go this way, though, you'll also need to carry an external hard drive for back-up purposes, and an XP disk is pretty much useless without this. Plus, computers ship with one, so chances are someone else has one.

      Fedora

      This wouldn't be slashdot if we didn't fight about what distro to carry. I would say the best newbie distro might be Ubuntu, but we could argue about this all day.

      MS Office

      Why bother? You can fit the installer on a 1 gig thumb drive, but OOO suits everyones needs (I have yet to run across a home user who actually needed Word), without requiring a keygen.

      Open Office

      Thumb drive.

      Misc software: Adobe, Quicktime, Firefox, Opera, J2RE, etc.

      Yes. But add in Foxit (loads faster), Flash, XP SP2 standalone installer, the dot net framework 2.0, an XP password recovery tool, 7-zip, winrar, the Community Compiled Codec Pack and VLC.

      I've been using this basic set-up for years, and it works amazingly well.

      • by Tweekster (949766)
        When trying to reinstall XP the owner rarely seems to know where the disk is. I carry around the 9 in 1 XP cd I downloaded. (dont care that it is a copyright violation, the computers that i install it on are licensed properly)
    • 1) Knoppix Live CD
      2) BartPE (live windows CD)
      3) All the free windows utilities you need to overcome miscellaneous problems
      4) Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon
      • I'll buy that, but then your CD case is going to be mostly empty. No one respects you if you only have 4 CDs. Best to spread it out. Although I do appreciate Pink Floyd, I wouldn't be caught dead without Tool's 10,000 days in some form on my person. Dare I say they are the modern Pink Floyd. Or...they are the future Pink Floyd to the modern Pink Floyd that were ahead of their time in the past.
  • It is certainly different for me nowadays. I used to always carry around boot discs and driver discs of various descriptions. Installation of software is a much less risky process since the advent of Win2K/XP, and with safe mode, the likelihood of not being able to boot a computer is much reduced.

    Also, with near-ubiquitous internet access these days, the chances of not having a critical driver is almost zero. And any particularly hard to get drivers I keep on my laptop.

    So now I pretty much just keep blank C
    • by TheLink (130905)
      Why not just put knoppix etc on a CD-RW. Then you can make it a blank if you really need a blank ;).

      Anyway, I have Knoppix and the "reset windows password" boot cd in my bag.

      Used to also carry around ClusterKnoppix and Knoppix STD.
  • by greg1104 (461138) <gsmith@gregsmith.com> on Thursday November 30, 2006 @12:59AM (#17045146) Homepage
    Here's what I have in my CD case, in approximate order of how regularly use them...

    Memtest86 [memtest86.com]--because the RAM in the cheap PCs I come across sucks. Some of the other tool CDs have this one as well, I like to get the latest one regularly here. Good for stress testing, and even handy for figuring out things like whether the RAM is running correctly in dual-channel mode.

    SystemRescueCD [sysresccd.org]--I particularly like the partition editor and imaging utilities. Been weaning myself off Partition Magic/Drive Image even for Windows work with these two.

    Ubuntu [ubuntu.com] live CD and DVD. The CD works in more systems, the DVD version is a completely usable system with a lot of stuff in it. What most impresses me about the Ubuntu live disc is that I can download packages over the network and install them, even thing that run as services, from the live environment. I actually got PostgreSQL installed and some database tests completed, all without a single Postgres file on the media.

    Knoppix [knopper.net]--Some days, your first choice in Linux live CDs just doesn't work on a random machine; that's why I still carry around this one as a backup.

    Bart PE [nu2.nu]--A bit of a pain to build the first time, but very handy for fixing Windows machines.

    Offline NT Password & Registry Editor [eunet.no]--this one has been less useful lately, as I've been running into NTFS partitions it really doesn't want to write to. My fallback position is to use this to generate a new SAM file, then copy it over with a BartPE disc.

    RedHat [redhat.com] Enterprise 3 and 4 CDs. While not technically live CDs, you can do a lot with booting into this environment, and I deal with enough people running RedHat versions that they're worth carrying around. I still keep one of the older versions around so I have something running the 2.4 kernel to tests against; occasionally I'll run into some old hardware that 2.6 pukes on, while 2.4 still works great.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Barny (103770)
      You do know that memtest86 is on knoppix cds? just type memtest at the boot prompt ^_^

      But nice selection, I have a custom built windows XP home edition OEM slipstream too, it loads most major MOBO drivers, has ability to load nvidia and ati offerings too, as well as firefox, spybot, adaware (used with permission), java vm, dotnetfx, about 80 windows updates since sp2 and videolan player. It also has a few 3dmarks, some game demos and sp2 saved in a (not copied at install time) directory. Fits on a 4.2G dvd
      • You do know that memtest86 is on knoppix cds? just type memtest at the boot prompt

        It is also on ubuntu live cds, right there on the boot menu.
    • Two of those are quite unnecessary. First, memtest86, because it's included on the Knoppix CD (type memtest at the boot prompt). Second, SystemRescueCD, because Knoppix has a full recovery suite including the most recent partition editors and ntfsprogs, which, combined, can nearly replace PartitionMagic.

      The rest of it I can see, except for the NT Password thing. BartPE can, I believe, do all that rescue and more, and it actually works on XP SP2.
      • by greg1104 (461138)
        I'll reply to you instead of the other posters saying the same thing because that gay voice is just so piercing. I did mention that memtest86 was on the other tool discs as well, and that the NT password was disc was becoming obsolete. I find the individual recovery CDs I recommended useful instead of just using Knoppix for everything because they boot faster and are easier to keep up to to date than Knoppix is. I don't want to have to pull down an entire new Knoppix just because I want support for a new
  • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @01:00AM (#17045154)
    Knoppix is my personal favorite, but I deal with a lot of linux/unix x86 hardware which can be easily fixed using this software.

    However if you deal with Windows systems, look to keep "The Ultimate Boot CD for Windows" in you list. http://www.ubcd4win.com/ [ubcd4win.com]

    LinuxDefender Live is also another good one to have.

  • Slayer DOA (Score:3, Informative)

    by Associate (317603) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @01:10AM (#17045248) Homepage
    Slayer's Decade of Aggression Live two CD set.
  • Portable Win32 apps (Score:4, Informative)

    by wrecked (681366) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @01:11AM (#17045252)
    I keep a CD of Kanotix [kanotix.com] around at all times. It's a Knoppix variant, but I find that Kanotix has a cleaner look and feel. It's also better for a HD install, since it uses only Debian-unstable packages instead of the mix of testing and unstable that Knoppix uses.

    However, I'm going to my parents' home for the Xmas holidays, so I'll be using their WinXP machine. I happened to have a USB flash drive lying around, so I packed it with portable FOSS Win32 packages from , including FireFox, Thunderbird, GIMP, OpenOffice etc. These packages install everything, including dlls, into an application folder and are executed directly from the USB drive. The added benefit is that you can copy these packages from machine to machine simply by copying the application folders; there is no need to run an installer every time or alter the Registry. [portableapps.com]
  • 1 disk (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheBeardIsRed (695409) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @01:12AM (#17045270)
    For me, there's one disk. It's a beast. It's also of questionable legality. That being said, when shit hits the fan i don't mind if 'legal' and i are on opposite sides of the fence at zero hour. Nobody cares when their servers aren't working. Note, this isn't a link, just a good description (so you can find it yourself... hint: newsgroups)
    Hiren's Boot CD [ntlworld.com]
    • by evilviper (135110)
      Most of those are free utilities. As for the commercial ones, there are NUMEROUS free alternatives that will work just as well, if you'd just put a little effort into looking for them, rather than thumbing your nose at the law.

    • by vga_init (589198)
      I love how it has the Ranish partition manager. I love that app.
    • I'll see your Hiren's and raise you miniPE XT. It's basically a tricked-out BartPE disc, which is at least as useful as Hiren's BootCD. And, of course, I carry around a Knoppix disc, as well.
  • by Utopia (149375) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @01:16AM (#17045300)
    I have USB stick loaded with WinPE for cleanup or maintenance tasks.
  • by _damnit_ (1143) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @01:20AM (#17045338) Journal
    Great album. Won't help much with fixing your Mom's computer though.
    • You are correct. EXCELLENT album.

      "Birds of Pray" was a disappointment. "The Distance to Here" is my favorite.
      • by rjforster (2130)
        Not to me. I really like Birds Of Pray. V was the disappointment to me.
        Saw them this summer on tour. Fantastic.
  • in an amored (lightly...) CD case. Also an USB stick with a RIP Linux on it. Nothing else.
  • I carry a bootable 1gb USB drive (which is nearly full... should've gone for at least 2gb, maybe 4gb). I have Damn Small Linux (the embedded version) on it at the moment but I had a working BartPE too at one point.

    I don't typically boot off of it though. Usually just launch the many Windows tools I keep on it. Although DSL Embedded comes packaged with qemu for both Windows and Linux along with respective batch files for each OS to launch qemu with the bootable DSL as the guest os... which is really nea

    • Re:What's a CD? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Technician (215283) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @02:17AM (#17045728)
      I carry a bootable 1gb USB drive

      I do not carry diagnostics on a USB flash drive. In an instant they can be silently corrupted without you knowing. They don't have a write protect. That alone makes them unusable to carry from client to client. You need idiot proof diagnostic media so an accidental reboot does not permit the worm on a system from hitching a ride with you to your next client. I only permit write protected media for all my diagnostics. A floppy with the write tab punched out or glued open, a single closed session CDR, or DVD is OK, but a writable USB drive is not OK to use by service people at my site.
      • I agree with you about not using writeable media on dangerously untrustable systems, so your virus-cleaners and similar tools need to be read-only. There *are* some write-protectable flash drives these days - I think I've mainly seen them as Compact Flash, so you'd need a USB CF-card reader, but those are trivially cheap. However, CDROM media is basically free, and the person whose machine needed cleaning probably needs to have you leave them a copy :-)
      • by metamatic (202216)
        IBM USB flash drives have a write protect switch.

        So do PQI Intelligent Stick flash drives, if you want something smaller.

        Oh, and so do imation USB drives.

        In fact, I've not seen a flash drive without write protect...
        • In fact, I've not seen a flash drive without write protect...

          You haven't looked at the local Best Buy, Fry's, Fred Meyer, Radio Shack, Walgreens, Sams Club, Costco, ...

          Most USB memory sticks on the shelf at a local retailer do not have a protect switch.

          http://www.sandisk.com/Products/Catalog(1064)-SanD isk_Cruzer_Mini_USB_Flash_Drive.aspx [sandisk.com]

          This whole page of Sansdisk products contains a bunch of thumbdrives with encryption software, but none has a write protect switch.
  • by wheany (460585)
    I don't carry around any live CDs.
  • I currently carry around with me:
    Kororaa XGL live CD v0.3 and 0.2 [kororaa.org]
    There is nothing better than to show off the power of Linux to your friends and the non believers. 0.3 is only ATI cards at the moment, while 0.2 supports both. People are usually impressed by this.

    Backtrack 1.0 [remote-exploit.org]
    The best in security analysis live cd's.

    Damn Small Linux [damnsmalllinux.org]
    Good for older machines :)

    Offline NT Password and Registry Editor [eunet.no]
    Always good to have when people forget their admin password or something on a windows mac
  • HURD (Score:3, Funny)

    by Samrobb (12731) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @02:55AM (#17045922) Homepage Journal

    No, seriously [superunprivileged.org]... whenever a system crashes, you can pop it in, and BAM - you get the certain knowledge that, no matter how bad things might be, you're at least one step above absolute rock bottom.

  • grml (Score:2, Insightful)

    by black_rob (1016231)
    I have a couple lying around, but the one I always pull out is grml [grml.org]. It's focused on text tools --"linux for sysadmins" I think is the phrase they use. It's booted on everything I ever tried it on and has good support for wireless cards. Plus they can fit a lot more on a cd by skipping KDE, and it boots so much faster than knoppix.
  • by yppiz (574466) * on Thursday November 30, 2006 @03:29AM (#17046094) Homepage
    I carry around Knoppix and the Ultimate Boot CD on USB thumb drives.

    I most recently booted a multi-terabyte server off the Knoppix thumb drive to run memtest overnight in an attempt to track down some hardware flakiness.

    UBCD is a lifesaver for borked Windows machines.

    Ubuntu is the best end-user live CD I've seen. It works well on my laptop, even getting wireless right.

    --Pat
  • Finnix (Score:3, Informative)

    by fo0bar (261207) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @03:49AM (#17046174)
    I carry Finnix [finnix.org]. It's a 100MB livecd with no X, but a command-line interface and a lot of tools for the sysadmin in mind. LVM autodetection, very quick boot (remember, no X), niche network utilities like vconfig/mii-diag/iptraf/etc. Memtest86+ via the boot menu of course. It even has a freedos boot profile for when you need to flash a BIOS.

    Oh, and I'm kinda required to carry Finnix, since I'm the author. Oops :)
  • DBAN (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PavementPizza (907876) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @04:03AM (#17046254)
    DBAN is crucial. [sourceforge.net] I carry one everywhere to make sure that retired machines and hard drives don't tell their secrets to the world..
  • I don't (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @04:50AM (#17046434)
    Rather than try to build a be-all, end all pack I take what's needed for the job. We have a big rack of CDs at work with all our various recovery and maintenance tools, there's at least 30 CDs in that category. However for a given problem it's unlikely to need more than a couple. So I bring what I'll probably need. Just ask the person first. Same deal when I consult. For example last night I got a call for a system that couldn't run Office and AOL at the same time and was performing poorly. That tells me I need anti-spyware tools, Windows system examination tools (like the Sysinternals utilities) and Office service packs. I'm not going to need any live CDs, clearly the system is operational. In the end, Process Explorer was the only tool needed (a program was leaking memory and the system has little of it).

    Do your homework first, and you don't need to bring so much with you.

    For problems serious enough that I'd want to boot form a live CD, I generally don't do service on site. I take the computer with me where I can hook it up and have access to any and all tools I might need, including a working computer with Internet access. Major reason is that quite often the problem is disk failure. Well in that case I need the data backed up and fast. You do not want ot be trying that off a live CD on a potentially faulty machine. You want that disk in a computer you know is good, with good cooling on it, so you can quickly do a local copy of the important stuff (and the whole disk, if that works).

    Unless you are doing work on computers at really remote locations, that's how I'd do it.

    If you are just asking what kinds of CDs to have. Well, I dunno, depends on what you have access to, and how much time you are willing to spend. Off the top of my head the recovery CDs that get the most use at work are Windows PE, the Windows XP and 2000 install CDs, Knoppix, Memtest86+, Ghost (few different ones configured for different NICs), Spinrite, the Sysinternals tools, XP SP2/2K SP4/etc, the AV/anti-spyware USB stick (so it can be updated), drivers CDs for various hardware configurations, disk diags for various vendors, and Partition Magic. There's more, I just can't think of them now and those are the ones I probably use the most.
  • by joto (134244)

    You want to always carry around a bunch of live CDs? Let me set you straight: Don't!

    If your friends ask you for help so often that this is even an option you consider, either learn to say no, or get new friends. This is plain madness!



  • "Peter Frampton Live" - doesn't everybody?
  • by sm62704 (957197)
    You can switch them out, you know. I have two CD cases in my car's glove box, but both are filled with music. If someone calls and asks for computer help, I just trade music CDs with whatever utilities (or in come cases an OS, Mandriva) I need.

    A screwdriver, nutdriver, tweezers and pliars are handy, too.

    I was going to add a spare hard drive to a friend's Dell, install Linux on it, make it dual boot, and disable networking in its Windows side. But the damned case is riveted! WTF kind of cheap piece of shit i
  • I like SLAX [linux-live.org] as my general purpose boot-and-go CD, but I'm also getting to like DSL [damnsmalllinux.org]. That will boot fine on older, slower hardware. I find Knoppix [knoppix.net] is just too big and clumsy anymore {though we should not forget that DSL is based on a trimmed-down Knoppix}.

    Some versions of TheOpenCD [theopencd.org] used to include a bootable, cut-down Ubuntu; but it seems as though they're now concentrating on providing Free software to run on Windows. Which I suppose is better than trying to spread themselves too thin.
  • Sorry man, but that band sucks...
  • FreeSBIE [freesbie.org] 2.0 based on FreeBSD 6.2 just went RC1, and you can make your own using the sysutils/freesbie port. Maybe not your first choice, but a good range of systems is handy for fussy machines.
  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) * on Thursday November 30, 2006 @10:12AM (#17048396)

    I used to carry BartPE [nu2.nu] and I still recommend it to budget-constrained folks. However, spending some money for Winternals [winternals.com] was one of the best things my employer ever did. It boots faster, comes with more and better tools by default, and gives me the easy network awareness that makes it possible for me to do my job better.

    On the free side, when trying to revive the virus-infested home computers of friends, I find Chronomium [antesis.org] to be wonderful. You plug in a USB key with a current Clam AV signature file and boot from the disk. It then runs through the drive and deletes all virus-infected files. For a very quick "either fix it or pronounce it fully broken so we can start over" situation, it's without peer.

  • I also have a custom DOS boot CD with a NeoBook menu that contains around 300MB of various DOS tools (Partition Magic, DriveImage, Ghost, Paragon's MountEverything, etc).
  • I keep a copy of Helix (decent forensic tools), pnordahl's NT password changer cd, and a current Gentoo live cd. The Gentoo cd gives me a full toolchain and package management if I need to install something else.

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