Saturday, May 17, 2008

Scientific Linux LiveCD

The other day I was wasting my time trying to configure a disk array on a turn-of-the-century Compaq Smart 3200 disk controller. Deep down, I knew this was futile because the controller was rescued from the junk pile and the box I had put it in wasn't a turn-of-the-century Compaq server. It was a modern-ish generic Intel server often relabeled as a Dell. I had already gotten lucky with an identical box and an HP NetRAID controller and I tought I was on a roll.

I had tried everything, including booting off a vintage 2000 Compaq "SmartStart" CD that I happened to have in my car that day. Nothing worked.

I finally stumbled over to to try to dig somethng to get the array configured. I hate that place. It's been a slow, difficult to navigate pile of shit for over twelve years. But I did find a Linux array configuration utility, in various revisions so I downloaded them all.

As my luck would have it, the utility was wrapped up in an rpm (RedHat Package Manager), which ruled out 90% of the Linux LiveCDs I could run it from, since most (well, the best) are based on Slackware or Debian or ...ugh... Knoppix.

The first CD I tried was CentOS-based. CentOS is essentially RedHat with all the logos and trademarks removed. It choked on boot. There was just something about the hardware it didn't like, so I googled for other RedHat/Fedora based LiveCDs. What I found was the Scientific Linux LiveCD (version 5.1) and I was sufficiently impressed with it to sit down and spew out this little bloggie about it.

First, do not go to It's a Plone site and last time I checked it was trashed. Plone is a joke designed by Python fanatics (I don't care if the CIA uses it for their Web site, it's still a joke).

I hope they get it fixed soon but until then everything you need to know about the Scinetific Linux LiveCD is on this nice little Swiss Web site.

Not only did it survive booting the odd-ball hardware on the server I was trying to build, but it presented a multi-lingual option before bringing up the desktop, a clean, Gnome-ish desktop without all the drama of "forensic" CDs (like BackTrack) or the cuteness of Slax and company. Clean, functiona, everything you need (and things you don't - like Gimp, but everybody includes Gimp for some reason).

And most importantly, it installed the array configuration utility rpm without a hitch. Of course, that didn't work anyway, but the experience of that particular failure was heightened by the simplicity and functionality that is Scientific Linux.

Download it. Boot it. Try it.

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