Knoppix 7.4.2 is a security and bug-fix update which corrects the Shellshock vulnerability in Bash among a number of other vulnerabilities according to the good folks over at Distrowatch. Plus it has the latest and greatest versions of Firefox, Chromium, GIMP, LibreOffice, and a lot more. And since it is a Live Disk, you don’t have to install it on your computer; just pop it in your DVD drive, reboot your computer, and watch it load and run. Enjoy all the software, and when you are done and shut it down it ejects the disc; if you take it out of the DVD tray, the next time you boot your computer you go back to whatever operating system you have on your hard drive. It defaults to the KDE desktop, but you can select others during the boot process, including GNOME. I am going to download the .ISO file tonight and burn that image to disc so I can check it out!

The newest version, Knoppix 7.4.0, is now available for download. This Linux build is specifically designed to be a Live Disc, meaning you can boot it directly off the CD, DVD, or USB device, and never need to install it to your computer. It comes with a ton of free software, up to 2Gig on the CD and 9Gig worth on the DVD, thanks to the on-the-fly decompression it does as you launch each program. Besides having more programs, the DVD version also supports both 64Bit and 32Bit platforms, and has multiple desktops to choose from, including both GNOME and KDE as well as the default LXDE file manager. It includes a full set of rescue programs, software utilities designed to help get your broken Windows or Linux computer working again, including anti-virus cleaners, partition managers, and much more. It comes with Wine 1.7 so you can run your windows software in it, and Virtualbox 4.3.14 on the DVD version if you want to run any other operating systems inside it. A lot of the Live Discs I have mentioned here are built on this platform, which is the longest running Live Disc Linux build I know of, and there are a host of specialized builds spun off from it. If you haven’t tried Linux yet, download the ISO file, burn it to disc, and then boot your computer from it. You will be amazed at how easy it is to use and how powerful it is.

Actually, every specialist variant of Ubuntu just came out with their build of Ubuntu 14.04.01, a maintenance update of the current stable release. I have two personal favorites of this family, Xubuntu and Ubuntu Studio.

Xubuntu is a minimal footprint build that allows my surviving computers from the 1990s to run as if they were built a mere decade ago. It runs all the latest versions of my favorite programs, and it’s Virus, Intrusion, and Identity Theft protection is up to the minute. That one I have installed on a few computers that otherwise would have been relegated to the status of doorstop, since no one would remember what they were going to do with them by the time Windows finished booting.

Even more impressive is Ubuntu Studio, a Live Disc version that boots straight off of the DVD without messing up the OS on your hard drive. It is filled with the most amazing collection of software for capturing, creating, editing, burning, and broadcasting your media in any format. Want to create a 3D animation, run your own radio station, turn your home video footage into a high quality movie, or burn that movie onto DVD complete with a great menu system and lots of special features? Those are just four of the hundreds of projects in all aspects of media production and creation that this OS and its related software suites are designed to help you achieve. To make it even easier, they have broken the menu system down into workflow driven tracks, so once you decide on a project you will find every tool you could ever want for that project within that track’s folder. Whatever multimedia project you want to create, this is the perfect tool set to use.

The folks over at Sabayon have two attitudes that make me appreciate their Live Discs; they want it to “just work” right out of the box, no questions asked, and they are constantly updating to the latest and greatest versions of the software in the package. They have now released a series of variants on version 14.05. They are live DVDs, in 32 or 64 bit mode (only get 32 if you have an older computer) and come in Gnome, KDE, XFCE, and a minimalist variant that runs smaller desktops like Fluxbox or Openbox. The exciting part is the KDE and Gnome versions are optimized for Steam, meaning they are setup for some serious network gaming. If you want to you can install them to hard drive or memory stick, as well, but they do everything I want them to do booting from the disc. Like almost all Linux builds, they are a free operating system filled with tons of free, open source software programs, so you certainly can’t beat the price.

Have an old Pentium III or Pentium 4 gathering dust because you can’t stand the 20 minute wait while it slowly boots an obsolete version of Windows? You can now turn it into a fast (or at least faster) useful machine again using Legacy OS 2.1, a Boot From CD (most of the computers from 2000 to 2006 didn’t have DVD drives in them, so a bootable CD is your best Live Disc option) Linux build. The latest version was released earlier this week, and comes with over 200 software packages ready to run right off the disc. That includes all the usual web tools, media players, office software, and everything else a modern computer should have. Of course, after you have tested the Live version to make sure it recognizes and can use your hardware properly, you can always install it to the computer’s hard drive and get it to run even faster, as well as be able to update or add new software, if you like. Another variation this Australian build came out with last October is Legacy OS 2.1 Gamer, with over 100 classic games, including the Open Source version of Doom. It is always good to make something useful and fun again, and this project does that nicely.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, Knoppix 7.3.0 is the latest release of this grand-daddy of Live DVDs. When it first started out in the late ’90s it was built to be both a Live CD to give you an instant free operating system full of free software that would run on almost any hardware you had available, and to be a Rescue Disc. By 2003, when version 3.2 came out, it had become a lot more, with many different specialized builds, including Scientific, Engineering, Game and Network platforms. A lot of folks also used it as a Demo Disc environment, making their own customized builds that would launch straight into their own programs, allowing you to run the software without having to install it on your computer. Over the years the functionality has grown, but the two core abilities that make it so very useful remain its Rescue Disc and its Disc Authoring tool kits.

You can download Knoppix 7.2.0 from one of the mirrors listed, using HTTP, FTP, or BitTorrent, and it is available in both CD or DVD size, depending on how extensive your software needs are. Note that the 650Meg Live CD version unpacks to 2Gig worth of software, so even the smaller file is a powerhouse. The latest version, 7.3.0, can be picked up included with the March copy of Linux Magazine.