CDlinux 0.9.6.1

Full-featured desktop Linux distributions like PCLinuxOS and Linux Mint are quite useful, but there are times when a smaller and lighter distro can also be desirable. CDlinux is petite mini-distro that can be installed on a USB device or on a Windows C: partition.

I thought it might be a nice change of pace to take a look at it and see how useful it might be for the folks that need a more portable version of Linux.

There are three versions of CDlinux that you can download. The standard version is 65MB and contains a minimal desktop environment, the community version includes more software and is 225MB, and the mini version is console only and weighs in at an extremely petite 30MB. The standard version can also be used for rescues since it contains useful admin and rescue tools. The community edition comes with more software but is overkill if you simply want a portable rescue distro.

For the purposes of this review, I downloaded the 225MB community version.

What’s New In This Release
The current release is actually a bug release so there are no new features included in it.

Here’s a list of the bugs that were fixed and the packages that were upgraded:

Bug fixes:

X won’t start on the standard edition
“X -configure” can’t generate xorg.conf.new
Alt+Shift can’t toggle between keyboard layouts
Java Plug-in for Firefox doesn’t work

Upgraded packages:

alsa-lib-1.0.23
curl-7.20.1
goffice-0.8.2
jasper-1.900.1.15.fc13
jre-6u20
lvm2-2.02.63

CDlinux also includes:

linux-2.6.33.2
xorg-server-1.8.0
mesa-7.8.1
gtk+-2.18.9
qt-4.6.2
jre-6u19
firefox-3.6.3
gparted-0.5.2
bash-4.1.5
mc-4.7.0.4

CDlinux uses the lightweight xfce desktop environment.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
I was not able to locate a list of specific hardware requirements on the CDlinux site. If you have them please post them in the comments section below.

If the developers read this review, please consider adding a section to your FAQ that covers system requirements. Doing so makes it much easier for me and for other folks interested in possibly using CDlinux.

Installation Steps
Since my only USB keychain device disappeared a while back, I didn’t do an install of CDlinux. Instead I ran it as a Live CD.

Running it as a Live CD worked very well and I was pleasantly surprised at how fast it was. Loading applications was zippy and I didn’t notice any crashes.

CDlinux can be installed on a USB device or on a WIndows C: partition.

Booting & Login
Bootsplash

When you first boot into CDlinux, you’ll be taken to a GRUB4DOS bootsplash screen.

The bootsplash screen lets you choose from the following languages:

German
English
French
Japanese
Korean
Chinese

It’s not particularly surprising that Chinese is an option, since that’s where CDlinux was created.

The CDlinux bootsplash screen.

Login Screen
Since I ran CDlinux as a Live CD, there was no need for me to login.
The Desktop

CDLinux uses Xfce, a lightweight desktop environment. Xfce has the virtue of not requiring the system resources that are necessary to run GNOME or KDE. When you first boot into CDlinux, you’ll find the following on the desktop:

Home
Trash
Floppy Drive

Click the CDL button to access the usual application menus. Applications are listed in the following categories:

Accessories
Games
Graphics
Multimedia
Network
Office
System

The only slightly odd thing about the application categories is the choice of “Network” rather than “Internet.” I guess it doesn’t make that much of a difference but the word “Internet” seems a better and more obvious choice to me.

You can also access a terminal window, settings, file manager, logout, and About CDlinux from the CDL button.

Navigating around the CDlinux desktop is easy and you should be able to find everything you need to use or configure your system.

Click the CDL button on the panel to access menu applications.

Abiword is bundled into the community version of CDlinux.

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included with the community version of CDlinux.

Games
DOSBox
FreeCell
msHearts
Solitaire
Spider
WinMine

Graphics
GIMP
Image Viewer
XSane-Scanning

Internet
aMule
FileZilla
Firefox
My Network Places
Pidgin IM
RDesktop GUI
Skype
Sylpheed
Transmission
Vidalia
Wicd Network Manager

Multimedia
Livestation
MPlayer Media Player
SMPlayer
Sound Volume
Xfburn

Office
AbiWord
ePDFViewer
Gnumeric
KchmViewer

GIMP is included in the community edition of CDlinux.

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash
I loaded a Lady Gaga video on YouTube. It looked and sounded great.

CDlinux surprised me by being multimedia-friendly, for the most part. I didn’t need to configure my sound card or do anything else. Given that CDlinux is a portable mini-distro, I hadn’t expected sound and video to work so well on it by default.

 

Problems & Headaches
One slightly annoying thing I noticed about CDlinux is that it has a flash blocker extension installed by default in Firefox. While I’ve made it clear that I dislike flash, I think having this installed by default in Firefox is unwise. I was familiar with the flash blocker so I knew how to deal with it. I just needed to click the flash overlay to play YouTube videos and to display any other flash-based objects.

But people who don’t know about it might be confused why flash-based multimedia won’t load properly in their browser. I think it would be a good idea for the flash blocker to be disabled by default by the CDlinux developers. That would prevent any confusion on the part of new users and might save them a lot of aggravation.

It’s also somewhat disappointing that CDlinux can only be installed on a USB device or a Windows C: partition. It would be nice if the range of install options were expanded in future releases.

The lack of OpenOffice.org was also a bit of a downer for me. I understand that it would bulk up the size of CDlinux considerably but a version of it with OpenOffice.org might help increase the user base of this distro. Abiword is a fine word processor but it might not cut it for certain users. OpenOffice.org should probably be bundled into the community version of CDlinux in future releases.

My Lady GaGa test video looked and sounded great in CDlinux.

The flash blocker Firefox extension might confuse some users who aren’t familiar with it.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the CDlinux FAQ.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
CDlinux is a good choice for those in need of a portable version of Linux. The standard version works well as a rescue CD and the community edition adds some additional value by including more software. Distrohoppers might want to download it to play with it in a VM and test it for possible use in a USB device.

Those who don’t require portability or a rescue CD should probably avoid CDlinux.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. For opinion columns and other articles, visit JimLynch.com.

Summary Table:

Product: CDlinux 0.9.6.1
Web Site: http://www.cdlinux.info
Price: Free
Pros: Comes in three different versions that range from very petite (30MB) to larger (65MB) to largest (225MB). Good range of software in the community edition. Runs well as a Live CD. Standard version works well as a rescue distro.
Cons: Can only be installed on a USB device or Windows C: partition. Includes flash blocker in Firefox by default, which might confuse some users. OpenOffice.org is not an option in the largest version.
Suitable For: CDlinux is ideal for those who need a rescue distro or who simply require a lightweight, portable version of Linux. Curious distrohoppers might also enjoy checking it out via a virtual machine.
Summary: A useful distro that provides a viable option for those in need of a portable version of Linux. The standard edition also works well as a rescue distro.
Rating: 3.5/5