A Live CD, (or DVD, or USB external disc) is a CD containing a bootable computer operating system. With most Live CDs, that operating system is a version of Linux.
A Live CD contains a complete version of the operating system and (usually) a number of applications. You insert the CD into any standard Windows PC and reboot the system, and then your computer will boot from the CD, not from your hard disk. (You may have to change the settings in your computer's BIOS to change your computer's boot order.) The operating system on the Live CD (normally Linux) will load and become operational without touching any information stored on your hard drive. It is a great way of taking a new operating system for a "test drive."
You can use this second operating system as long as you like. When finished, you boot down, remove the CD from the computer, and boot up again. Your normal version of Windows will boot from the hard drive, and everything will be the same as it was before you experimented with Linux.
The term "live" derives from the fact that these CDs each contain a complete and functioning operating system on the distribution medium. Most Live CDs will operate on any normal PC hardware. If your computer presently runs Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7, it should be able to run most Live CD Linux operating systems.
While a live CD typically does not alter any operating system or files already installed on a computer's secondary storage (such as hard disk drives), many Live CDs include applications of interest. Most Live CDs will include web browsers, word processors, spreadsheet programs, and perhaps even a few games. Best of all, the Live CDs and the included applications usually are available free of charge.
You can find dozens of Live CDs for various versions of the Linux operating system: Ubuntu, Knoppix, Debian, openSUSE, CentOS, and many more. You can also find Live CDs that contain various specialized applications, including versions for gaming, network troubleshooting, hard drive troubleshooting and repair, secure web surfing, and more. Some banks are now recommending that customers only use Live CDs to access the bank's online services. Booting from a Live CD typically is very secure as viruses and other malware (malevolent software) cannot write to the CD. Even if you encounter a virus or other malware, it cannot write to your operating system's disk.
Genealogists will be interested in the Linux Genealogy Desktop CD 4.0. It includes the following pre-installed genealogy software:
- GRAMPS 3.0.1
- GraphViz (a program that draws pretty charts and graphs in GRAMPS)
- Mozilla Firefox web browser
- Evolution mail and groupware client
- OpenOffice.org suite
- GIMP image editor
- Gaim instant messenger
- Rhythmbox music player
- Totem movie player
As described earlier, you simply put the Linux Genealogy Live CD into your PC, reboot, and you will then be running Ubuntu Linux version 8.04. You will see the genealogy applications mentioned above already installed and ready for your use. You run the genealogy applications in about the same way you would on Windows: move the mouse until the pointer is on the program's icon, and then double-click.
Of course, with any genealogy program, there is a need to store your data. The Linux Genealogy Live CD allows you to save your data in any location where you have read/write privileges, including:
- your computer's hard drive
- a jump drive
- an external USB drive
- a networked drive
In addition to the Live Session, this disk has another option: you can permanently install the Ubuntu operating system and all the applications included on the Live CD to your computer's hard drive. With this option you achieve adequate speed and the ability to save your data, and can do real work with your Linux software. Everything is similar to the Live Session, except that this is a permanent setup. Be careful. It is easy to overwrite your Windows operating system! I'd suggest that you continue to use the Live CD and always boot from the CD drive when you want to run Linux.
You can download the Linux Genealogy Live CD free of charge at http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=25770&package_id=109309&release_id=599992. Look for the file "ubuntu804-genealogy40-gramps301-i386.iso." It is an ISO image file, which is loosely similar to a ZIP file except that it is designed for CD and DVD disks. The ISO file, or "image," contains multiple files that have been compressed and then combined into one file with a name that ends in ".iso."
You will need a CD "burning" program to extract the files from the ISO file and place them into the proper places on the CD. Such programs include Nero, Roxio EasyCD/DVD Creator, CDBurn.exe from the Windows 2003 Reskit Tools, ImgBurn, or a similar program. If you do not already have an ISO "burning" program, get the free ISO Recorder at http://isorecorder.alexfeinman.com/isorecorder.htm. It is simple to use and works well.
For more information on "How to Burn an ISO Image to a Disc," go to http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/14183/beginner-geek-how-to-burn-an-iso-image-to-a-disc/ and to http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/burning_iso.html
If you are not comfortable with creating ("burning") CD and DVD disks, you can also purchase a CD for about $15 US. The CD is currently available for purchase in Australia and the USA.
For more information about the Linux Genealogy Live CD or to download the ISO image, go to http://gramps-project.org/wiki/index.php?title=Linux_Genealogy_CD
I think you will agree that the Linux Genealogy Live CD is an easy method of trying Linux and of trying the included genealogy applications without spending any money.