Live CD vs Alternate Installer

By | 2007/02/01

I spent some time this last weekend at a couple of local install fests. They were fairly successful but there were a few things I saw that could be improved.

There are some limitations of the Live CD installer that are included in the Alternate CD. Is there, or how difficult would it be to include, an option to use the alternate text-based installer from the standard Live CD? Considering the Live CD is the standard that is shipped it would be nice to provide all of the options to the new user.

We ran into trouble being able to get the correct resolution to display during the installer on some machines, which made things very difficult. This wouldn’t have been an issue on the Alternate text-based installer. Also, there were a few situations where the partitions weren’t detected. In particular I have always had trouble creating or using LVM with the Live CD.

Personally I always use the alternate CD installer. I think it’s faster, has fewer bugs and seems to be just as simple to use. What have the rest of you found when using the two methods and is there any way that they can be improved in future versions?

15 thoughts on “Live CD vs Alternate Installer

  1. az

    Dude, the live cd installer can complete the process in less than fifteen minutes. It does this by copying the installed system from the cd to the target partition on the disk.

    That’s an order of magnitude faster than the alternate installer.

    The alternate installer installs each package individually and usually takes about forty or fifty minutes longer than the live cd installer. Sure the live cd take a minute or two longer to boot, but it still comes out to being way faster using the live cd.

  2. Samat

    Can the Ubuntu 6.10 Live CD be even used to setup LVM and RAID?

    Last I used it, the tools for both these technologies were missing. However, they are present on the 6.10 alternate install CD, and both the Live CD and alternate install CD for 6.06.

  3. Corey Burger

    No, because the two are built through completely different means. The livecd literally copies the unpacked packages onto the system. The alternate actually installs the packages. You could have a DVD with both, but not a CD.

  4. Jason Brower

    The live cd is ok. But takes a lot longer on lower memmory system. Many people coming into linux only try linux on a spare and hence older computer. Having both features on one cd would be really nice. I like both. But use the livecd when I can. I am able to help iron out bugs if I find any. And it is pretty cool to be able to chack my email or play games while installing.
    Which brings me to my next thing… why not have the user do something like fill out information while the system is installing?

  5. nathan

    Personally, I end up using the Alternate CD much more frequently than the Live CD. Mainly, because I have had much more luck with it. The tools which are included in the Alternate also are much more valuable to me when I have to scrape an old MS installation off the system, they just give me the extra power and edge necessary to get the job done correctly.

  6. Peter Liedler

    Using the live cd had simple practical reasons for me. Users that are new to (k)ubuntu feel more confident in switching to it when presented a polished up graphical setup frontend. We have to give ubiquity the chance to get rid of the bugs.

    Personally the reason to use the live cd is simple. When only using a wlan the modules of my network cards were not loaded by the alternate cd. No updates could be installed until a manually installed the restricted modules package after the installation. On the live cd I could configure the network interfaces and they were working after the installation.

    A suggestion for the live cd regarding the possible crashes: install a small base system, install boot manager, install enhanced system, upgrade boot manager.
    If the system crashes during the setup, we could boot the system from the base system and try to install the rest of it using the live cd as repos (i.e. based on a log file status or so).

  7. PriceChild

    I’ve always found the alternate cd a LOT more stable, with resizing of partitions normally crashing on the Live CD.

    I normally show Ubuntu off with the Live CD for them then quickly switch to the alternate if they want to install.

    It may be slower… but its proven technology that _will_ work 🙂

  8. max

    I also prefer the alternative installer, but lately I couldn’t complete a fresh Ubuntu Dapper installation on a laptop because of some glitch with the video driver (Intel GMA 945) — the screen flickered during “configure xserver-xorg” and then the display went completely blck. I had to abort the installation and the next one (using the live CD) went just flawlessly.

  9. Simon

    I prefer the Alternate-CD too. Since I installed with the Live-CD and it didn’t take over the old Grub menu.lst and other issues, I better use the Alternate-CD.

    But I heard that Faisty has improved the options in the Live-CD. Will test it soon.

  10. Daniel

    What if the Live CD doesn’t correctly detects your monitor resolution/refresh rate? That’s what happen to a friend of mine, so the Live CD was useless for him. Until I’ve told him about the Alternate CD he was running Breezy Badger because it was the last distro with a text based installer.

  11. Gianni

    Sure the Alternate CD is robust to install Ubuntu.

    The Live CD is a tool to backup things for me.

  12. Anthony

    I have found that the alternate CD is often essential when installing Ubuntu on older hardware, for example:

    (the above is the output of sudo lshw -html btw, a nice little application)

    On that machine and another like it, whilst the live CD would boot and work as a live CD only, installation from the live CD repeatedly failed.

    In contrast, installation using the alternate CD was simplicity itself.

  13. Chris

    I’m very disappointed with the 8.04 installers. Neither the Live CD nor alternate installer worked for me. The Live CD doesn’t support RAID, so it’s useless for all but the most trivial setups. The alternate installer support RAID, but craps out when installing the base system. Something about linux-generic having broken packages linux-restricted-modules and linux-image. Looks like I’m sticking with Fedora, which has mastered the seemingly complex art of being able to install itself.

  14. William Dishman

    Why does it have to assume that you are using SATA in a RAID configuration in the first place. I’m using my two drives as separate drives. If it assumes that it an just an ATA drive (which older software assumes), it would install fine. As for Fedora, I have to use an older version to get it to install the way I want it to install. If I use an newer version of Fedora, it assumes that I’m using striping.

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