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We've seen various attempts to widen Linux's appeal among mainstream users by getting rid of as much of the open source's complex installation procedure as possible. The latest idea comes from French start-up Linbox and it essentially eliminates installation altogether.

Linbox's DemoLinux distribution runs straight off an auto booting CD-ROM, creating a RAM disk in the host PC's memory and installing itself there. That's pretty much what most distributions do as part of their own installation process before going on to copy the open source OS onto the PC's hard disk.

Unlike regular Linux releases DemoLinux doesn't dump anything on the hard disk, so anyone's Windows installation will remain intact, and no one need re-partition anything ever again.

DemoLinux, just released as version 2.0, is based on Debian's Potato 2.2 release and includes the Gnome and KDE GUIs, StarOffice and a host of other apps.

Of course, how practical DemoLinux's approach is for most users is open to question. User will need several gigabytes of RAM - for memory, storage and swap space - to make such a system work efficiently. So DemoLinux is far from the "high-performance office automation environment" its developer claims.

That said, that isn't the point of DemoLinux. It's really a demonstration of Linbox's technology for converting PCs into thin clients. The company is targeting vertical markets, seeking out customers with whom it can work to create custom Linux distributions comprising OS and users' apps on CD.

From what Linbox CEO Jean-Pierre Laisné appears to be saying - his translation into English is a tad garbled - the company's approach makes system management a doddle, since there's nothing to install. If you want to update your employees' software, you just issue a new CD to replace the old one. One reboot later, and the machine is upgraded.

"We're just following one of the major trends that has emerged in industry over the past few decades, aiming to bring down IT ownership costs," says Laisné

Linbox will also offer servers which will be used for data and application storage. ®

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