Freeduc-USB: live media!
Live media are small and easy to use thingies, which enable one to use a computer for a defined purpose. For example: boot an office system, or an educational environment, boot a communication appliance, and so on.
Their common feature is that they can boot a computer without accessing its hard disk, so even if the computer has no hard disk or if its hard disk is broken, live media fostered by usb.freeduc.org can boot in less than a minute, and go fast.
Main features of live media
lightweight, versatile, efficient, robust; it boots the computer faster than usual;
the live medium can be a CDROM, a DVDROM, a USB thumbdrive, a Flash card with SD or mini-SD format, and so on. It is lightweight, a few grams;
USB thumbdrive, Flash cards can be very robust. CDROMS and DVDROMS also, if one excepts sensibility to scratches;
USB thumbdrive and Flash cards are more flexible: one can customize or update them easily;
A nomadic usage is possible: if one travels between computers, the live medium bears everything which matters;
Great scalability: Freeduc-USB is based on free software only, so limitless copying is possible. Copying one medium is a matter of minutes.
What can I do with live media?
There are heaps of possibilities, due to the wide range of packages available in Debian, which is used to produce Freeduc-USB (more than 60,000 packages maintained in year 2019, in the stable distribution).
Here are a few suggestions:
- Artistic media and their dedicated readers
- for example:
- a musical track manager and a collection of sound files
- a video browser and a few movies
- a photo gallery manager and your preferred photographs
- A software collection to teach science
- To be used in the classroom, can be copied for each student, so they can use it at home in the same environment
- A professional-grade typesetting environment
- The LaTeX system, now stable for thirty years, used by many high quality publishers, works very well with live media.
- An interactive kiosk
- Can be based on Firefox, with a little set of plugins, to create:
- a multimedia kiosk for a museum or for some show
- a browser with restrictions, for example bound to a proxy server
- a school exam environment, by embedding a Wims system on the same medium: this is useful for particular areas, when no Internet access can be provided, like in hospitals, prisons, etc.
- A most handy diagnose and repair tool
- As live media can boot a broken computer, they allow one to fix a hard disk even in extreme cases. The collection of software usable in that context is rich and very handy for technicians.
User Manual: I got a live USB thumbdrive ... what now?
The very first program starting in a computer, even before the operating system, (Windows, Mac OSX, GNU/Linux, or FreeBSD, etc.) is the boot loader from the mother card maker. This program, BIOS or UEFI, works silently, it finds storage devices connected to the main board, and launches the bootstrap featured by one of those devices.
I choose the USB thumbdrive as the boot medium
To begin with, the computer must be stopped and the USB thumbdrive connected in advance. If the computer is running (for instance, with Windows), stop it, with the USB thumbdrive plugged in. Then I must ensure that the live USB thumbdrive will boot the computer.
- If the BIOS allows me to choose the boot device
- In many cases, a special key can be pressed during the boot process, to be able to select the boot device. The special key may vary, it can be F8, F9, F12, it may be announced during a few seconds in a screen's corner, or it may be described in the computer's User Manual. When this key is pressed, the boot process is suspended and a selection can be made between a few choices: hard disk, optical disk drive, network, USB drive. The USB thumbdrive can be often recognized by the keyword "USB" and some data, like its brand name.
- Then, just select the USB thumbdrive with up and down *arrow keys*, and validate with *Enter*.
- Define the USB thumbdrive as a default boot drive
Additionally to the previous possibility, one can pause the computer during the
boot process to modify the default settings of the BIOS. Fort his purpose, there
is also a special key, which depends on the computer model: it can be *Del*,
*F2* or some other key, it may be announced in some corner of the screen
at the begin of the boot process. When that key is pressed, a menu system
appears. When browsing this menu system, the following points must be ensured:
- That USB devices are supported during the boot. If they are ignored, the thumbdrive cannot be considered. This option is often in "Advanced Settings"
- Menu items about "Boot" must be checked. There is unfortunately no general standard usable everywhere. In some cases, it is enough to check and modify the choices in a menu named "Device boot order"; in other cases, the USB thumbdrive is considered as a hard disk, and can be found in the list of detected hard disks: in such a case, reorder the boot priorities for hard disks to put the thumbdrive on the top.
- Case of older computers
- Some computers issued before 2005 cannot manage USB drives during the boot. Then, the only remaining possibility is to boot a Linux kernel which will find the USB thumbdrive afterwards. One can burn a live CDROM which provides it, and boot from it, while the thumbdrive is plugged in. ## Booting Freeduc-USB ##
- Selecting the boot options
- A welcome screen is supposed to appear when the USB thumbdrive controls the boot. If one makes nothing, after a few seconds the first option is taken in account for the startup. Before that, on can select an option with the arrow keys (up and down).
- The boot screen animation
- During the startup, an animation appears on the screen, during one minute; then the screen goes black, the mouse cursor appears and the desktop is draw and becomes active.
- Want to see kernel message?
- If you want to have a look at kernel messages during the boot process, you can hit the key arrow-up. Somme text messages will be scrolling as in the screen capture above.
- Various messages are displayed, along the discovery of the local hardware (Freeduc-USB can run may types of computers, so the hardware discovery is done each time). If the startup stalls (it can happen), please write down the last messages displaced before the halt: they can be useful to fix the specific issue with that computer.
- Here we are, Freeduc has started!
- An example of the desktop appearing when Freeduc-USB runs is shown below. It this case, the desktop is based on the window manager Cinnamon.
Please notice the symbol in the bottom left corner
one must click there to access the applications of the live medium.
Here is an example of the "programming" sub-menu, when one chooses to browse it.
One must also click to shutdown the computer in a clean fashion. It is important to shutdown the computer with the right application in order to keep the coherence of the medium.
Please notice the shutdown menu, which is launched by the bottom-left button in the menus.
- One must wait until the complete shutdown of the computer before unplugging the live medium.
- Just like you never would open your computer and pull out your hard disk while it is running, never unplug the live USB thumbdrive during the working session: it might contain scrambled data afterwards.
- When one asks for a *clean* shutdown, one must wait until the words "Shutdown complete" appear before unplugging the thumbdrive, or until the physic switch down of the computer, which happens a few seconds later.