Boot-from-CD linux distributions and USB memory sticks ("thumbdrives") are a powerful combination. They have already made possible a whole range of applications that could only be imagined before. The next step is for all the software on the CDs to be incorporated into bootable thumbdrives and for these devices to be preconfigured to interface with a series of secure web-based services.
"Knoppix" is one in a family of boot-from-CD GNU/Linux distributions. What makes these special is the fact that you can stick them into pretty much any computer, turn the machine on and then sit back and watch in amazement as a complete operating system with gigabytes of fully installed and configured software appears before you. And you won't break anything in the process either. Simply shut down the computer, remove the CD, reboot and the everything is back to its original state.
Already, Knoppix and other distributions make it possible to temporarily turn almost any computer into a secure copy of your desktop. It only takes minutes and all you need other than the Knoppix CD is a thumbdrive on which all your files and customisations are stored.
It will be a relatively simple matter to eliminate the need for the CD altogether by creating bootable thumbdrives. In fact, bootable thumbdrives based on smaller distributions of GNU/Linux already exist so the technical challenge isn't particularly daunting.
Moreover, companies and organisations are only just starting to understand the promotional and remote productivity applications made possible by the bootable CD and thumbdrive combination. The key will be to identify and experiment with the various kinds of web-based services and client-side applications that could potentially be built around these powerful devices. I will discuss these applications in subsequent posts.