Sunday, September 11, 2005

Windows Catches Up to Linux...sort of

In my view, one of the most important advantages of Linux, when it comes to running mission-critical programs, is the ability to boot from a live CD (or DVD, or USB flash drive).  In the event of a total system crash, or boot-sector error (such as what happened to me after the last thunderstorm), it is possible to boot from the CD and have a fully functional, if somewhat slower, operating system.  

Booting from a boot floppy only gives you a command-line interface.  Booting from a Linux live CD (such as Knoppix or SLAX) gives you a graphical user interface and a good selection of programs, including web browser and office suite.  It also gives you utilities for backing up your files, which obviously is a really good idea after a catastrophic system failure.  

Now, there is a freeware program that extends the same functionality to Windows XP users.  Microsoft insists that it is not legal, although the author disagrees, and he seems to make a good case -- although I am not about to argue with Microsoft's legal team.  

I can't vouch for the program, as I have no need for it.  But Tom's Hardware, normally a reliable source, is happy with it, as described here.  The author of the program (BartPE) is Bart Lagerweij.  The home page for the program is here.  

Note that if your original Windows XP installation disk does not have SP1, you'll have to make a slipstreamed installation CD first.  Although this is not a one-click operation, it should be possible to do, for most anyone who would be reading this.

Uncle Redmond is not wild about the idea of people having fully-functional boot CD's, I guess because of the potential for non-licensed use.  Given the performance hit caused by having the OS on something other than a hard drive, this does not seem very realistic.