As I have mentioned previously on this blog, I never go anywhere without a bootable Linux flashdrive. The fact that Linux is so portable is one of my favorite things about it. I have at various times kept Fedora, Linux Mint, and Puppy on my flashdrive, but for the last couple months, my mobile distro of choice has been Knoppix.
Before I switched to Knoppix, I had been using Puppy. I liked it, but I wanted to try something different. I started doing a little research, and decided to try either Puredyne or Knoppix. Puredyne has a focus on creative media, and looks very interesting, but I ultimately decided to go with Knoppix. Knoppix, like Puppy, Fedora, and some other distros, has encryption as part of the setup process, which is a big plus for a computer I’m carrying around in my pocket in case I lose it. It is also Debian-based, so it benefits from Debian’s vast software library and stability. I downloaded the ISO, and wrote it to my 8 gig flashdrive.
I’m not going to go into great details about how to set up and use Knoppix. I found it to be pretty intuitive, and I’m not a super-guru or anything. I just want to talk about some of the things I’ve done with it. These same things could be accomplished with other Linux distros, too.
One of my co-workers was having a virus problem on his personal laptop, so I booted his computer from my Knoppix flashdrive, ran a Clam antivirus scan, removed 3 viruses and he was then able to load and use Windows as normal. I’ve since used Clam on Knoppix to remove viruses from several other computers with the same level of success. Clam is available on many distros, so if you’re looking for a Linux antivirus that you can also use to rescue other systems, Clam is worth checking out.
The most recent example I have had of Linux on a flashdrive completely saving the day happened last weekend. My family are corvette enthusiasts, and every year they host the 4th Annual Corvette Meet and Greet at Ron Hulett Chevrolet at Lake of the Ozarks (Click here for pictures). I went down to my parents house that weekend to help out with the show and run the sound. We were expecting 90 cars to participate in the show, but over 100 ultimately showed up.
My dad had a spreadsheets set up for participant registration and vote tabulation. My parents’ plan was to run the sound, registration, and voting off of their 4-5 year old Dell laptop running Windows XP, as they had done for the previous three years.
A couple hours into the show, the computer blue-screened and we couldn’t get Windows to boot. I wish I had taken time to pay attention to the blue screen messages, but time was of the essence, so I’m not sure exactly what went wrong. I booted the laptop off of my Knoppix drive, connected to the dealership’s wireless network, got a music playlist going on Grooveshark, and mounted the hard drive to get a copy of the registration and vote tabulation spreadsheets. Fortunately the drive mounted and I was able to save a copy of each to the flash drive and continue inputting data with LibreOffice Calc.
If I had not been carrying Linux on a flash drive, the corvette show would have been much more difficult to complete successfully. We would have had no music, and vote tabulation would have been a nightmare, with over 90 ballots, each with 16 classes to vote on. After the show was over, I ran a Clam scan and removed several viruses from the XP hard drive, and it was able to boot as normal after that, though I’m not sure if the viruses were the problem (though they couldn’t have been helping anything).
Next year, we’re running everything off of one of my Linux laptops. I think I’m going to make a database for registration and vote tabulation too, because I think it will be a better way to keep everything organized, even though the spreadsheet got the job done.
Do you carry around a Linux flashdrive everywhere you go? What distro do you use? Have you been able to save the day with Linux? Any cool stories? Share your story in the comments.
Update: Thanks, LXer.com, TuxMachines.org, LinuxHomePage.com, and News.Ycombinator.com for linking to my blog post, I really appreciate it!