software: how Live CDs can close the deal

I tried out the some new operating systems by booting them off a USB flash drive, including Fedora 15. Fedora 15 seemed to work fine on my hardware and looked promising, but it wasn’t dramatically better in a few fumbling hours of use and I couldn’t tell from the live USB environment if it would consume less resources with my default apps, so in the end I didn’t install it (and didn’t follow up filing bugs for the issues I found). Instead I stuck with Kubuntu (the KDE “Plasma” desktop UI on Ubuntu). I took the upgrade to 11.04, for KDE this was a minor no-surprises upgrade., Instead I stuck with Kubuntu (the KDE “Plasma” desktop UI on Ubuntu). I took the upgrade to 11.04, for KDE this was a minor no-surprises upgrade.

Live CDs/Live USBs have an undeniable “gee whiz” factor: I reboot my computer and without installing anything or changing my system it’s running a different operating system! But if the Linux distributions providing these Live CDs/Live USBs want to close the deal and actually convince users to install them, they need to reassure users that everything will work and sell them on it being dramatically better. That means they need to do things like:

  • Scan your hard drive partitions, detect which ones are Windows/other UNIX-like, mount them so you can see them from the Live environment, and create symlinks to “Your old documents”, “Your old downloads”, etc. in the live environment.
  • Have some sample audio and images so their music player, photo gallery, and sound and image editing programs have something to work on (and incorporate the existing media from your current hard drive).
  • Provide copies of and links to the “Welcome New User” guidebook and release notes for new release.
  • Configure and demonstrate their next-generation OS features. The system-wide desktop search or semantic knowledge acquisition or time-based journal whatever needs to put up a dialog saying “Reading the sample documents (and existing media from your hard drive), … now open Nepomuk/Strigi / Tracker / Zeitgeist.
  • Determine the applications you’re currently using by inspecting your current “Start” menu and desktop shortcuts and by scanning your current hard drive, and , and suggest which ones are already available in the Live environment, which have alternatives you can install in the distribution, which applications handle the same file formats, etc.
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