Just discovered the debian live project. It is a sub-project from debian that is focused on making it easy to create live debian systems that either run off a CD-ROM, USB disk, or network boot image. It comes with various tools that make it so easy to work with building specialised ‘live’ debian images.
Before there were such simple tools to use, I used to create my own live distributions by hand. So, I have an appreciation of how much work these tools actually save me now. Of course, doing it by hand gave me insights into the Linux boot process that I would have never learned about otherwise. I have just tested the live ‘rescue’ image and it seems to work fine.
Recently, I have wanted to make a live ‘rescue’ image to use at home. Since I am maintaining a bunch of machines now, most of which are running on fairly old hardware, I often run into minor problems that require maintenance. Last week, one of my machines refused to boot up because the EXT3 journal got corrupted. So, I had to pull out the harddisk, plug it into an external USB adaptor and fix the problem on my main machine before plugging it back in and turning it back on. With a debian live rescue disk on a thumb drive, I can just boot off the drive to do all kinds of maintenance stuff.
I will test out the debian live network images next. If it works, I will just use those to boot up my home cluster instead. The advantage of using a debian live image is that it is compressed using squashfs, which reduces the bandwidth requirements and actually makes the system read-only and safe from external corruptive influences.
I just wish that they would make it easy to add software to an existing live system. This can be done by using fuse along with additional modular squashfs images like they do in slax live systems. Maybe it is already available but I’ll need to dig around a bit to find it.
PS: There is a way to make a ‘live-snapshot’ that will be automatically mounted during the next boot. This will work just as well.