Friday, September 7, 2007

#15 About ISO's

by Jeff Smith

Last week I was talking about DamnSmallLinux and I promised to give a better explanation on ISOs or disk images, but first, let me tell you how things are going with DSL.
I installed DSL on a very old Fujitsu laptop. Probably about 14 or 15 years old. Maybe more. It has a 133Mhz Pentium 1 processor, only 32MB of RAM, and a tiny lil 1.6GB harddrive. If you've got a newer digital camera, chances are your flash chip for that is bigger than this thing's harddrive. Using and configuring DSL is tough, and not for the faint of heart. Instead of clicking options and adjusting values, you actually just edit text files that contain the configuration information. Its cryptic and weird but very potent. Typos are very potent as well, in a bad way. But after messing with it all week, I was able to get it to hook up to my wireless network, browse the web, read ebooks, and listen to streaming music from Shoutcast (Internet Radio). I was able to change the layout of its menus, and put in a nice looking toolbar, as well as install several useful programs. It now has a pretty useful group of office utilities, such as spreadsheet, word processor, calculator, and an appointment book. Also it can edit photos or create art using the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) which is basically a free alternative to Photshop. Email is handled through web-based email, though it does have a regular email client built in. Add all that to the ebooks and Shoutcast, and its quite a lot of usefulness for such an old machine. All in all, I'm very proud of how it has come along.
DISK IMAGES -There are lots of different file formats for disk images, depending on what program you use to make them. There's .iso, .nrg, .bin and .cue, .mdf and .mds, .ccd and lots more. These are usually made by copying a whole disk into one of these filetypes. Other times, disk images are generated from other programs in order to make bootable cd's. Its a good way to store a cd on your hard drive so that you can make a replacement in case of damage, theft or loss. You can also use utilities such as D-tools, or Alcohol 120% to "mount" these virtual cd's in a virtual cd-drive. This will make your computer think you actually have the disk in a physical drive connected to the machine, and you can interact with it just as you normally would the real version of the disk.
This use of ISOs is great for people who have lots of harddrive space and who hate searching for important disks. I always keep ISO's on my drive of the install disks for all of the different operating systems I use. If I ever need a new Windows or Ubuntu install disk, burning one only takes a few minutes, and there's no worrying about scratches, or other damage, as it is a freshly minted disk.
Getting familiar with ISO's can make your computing life much easier, and its not nearly as hard as it sounds. Chances are, if you use a burning program, it already supports disk images. Just do some poking around and you'll likely find it is pretty easy.
Until next time, burn CD's ... not yourself.


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