In praise of installing from Live CDs
I've recently had the experience of installing Ubuntu from one of their live CDs, and I now have to say that this is a genius idea that should be widely imitated, and as soon as possible.
For me, the genius of a live CD installation is three-fold, and is only truly compelling when the machine has a network connection:
- I can Google around to figure out what I want to do next, understand any peculiar questions the installer is asking me, and so on.
- if anything goes wrong, I have a full Unix environment where I can poke around to diagnose what's up (and maybe fix things).
I can still be productive while the machine is installing. All too often, setting up machines is an exercise in twiddling my thumbs. But with a live CD and a network, I can get productive work done on other machines right from the machine I am installing.
(Plus the obvious benefit of live CDs: you get to find out if the hardware actually works under (that) Unix.)
Prior to live CD installs, my usual practice was to start an install, go somewhere I could get actual work done, come back somewhat later, discover that the installer had stopped to ask me a question, answer it, go away to do productive work again, lather rinse and repeat. Live CDs are a vast improvement.
(For those that have been living under a rock, like me, a 'live CD' is a CD that boots a fully working Unix environment, with X and networking (if available). That this is possible without tedious manual configuration is an impressive testament to how far Unix and the X server have come in automatic hardware detection, as well as the amount of spare RAM that modern machines have. Installing from a live CD is what it sounds like: you boot into the live CD environment and run a program from there to install the distribution on your hard drive.)