NetbootCD: A Handy Tool for Managing Multiple Linux Distributions

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If you're like many Linux fans, you keep multiple different flavors of the free and open source operating system on hand. After all, each Linux distribution tends to have strengths in particular areas, so it's nice to be able to choose which one you run, depending on the task at hand.

The downside of this scenario, however, is keeping them all up to date. For many of us, that means burning a new CD each time a new release of one of our favorite distributions comes out, resulting in an ever-growing stack of CDs and a fairly significant headache.

The good news is, there's a handy tool to help with that problem, as MakeUseOf blogger Justin Pot recently pointed out. Its name is NetbootCD, and it was just updated to version 4.5 last month.

Seven Distributions in One

NetbootCD 4.5 is a Linux live CD based on Tiny Core Linux 3.7 that lets you download and install Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, OpenSUSE, Mandriva, CentOS and Slackware. It can also do the same for the GRUB4DOS bootloader and Tiny Core Linux as well as Micro Core.

Users begin by downloading NetbootCD and burning the .iso file to a CD, just the way you typically would for a single Linux distribution. The difference, though, is that this one CD gives you access to no fewer than seven distributions.

From there you can choose which Linux distribution you want to install, and which version. For Ubuntu, for example, you can choose versions 11.04, 10.10 or 10.04 LTS, among others, as well as specifying the desktop you want.

Whatever you choose, your PC will then load the installers for the software in question and lead you through the installation. Once you've got your first distribution, you can use the very same CD to get any of the others you want as well. Then, as new releases come out, you simply go through the same process with the same CD to make sure you're using the latest ones.

Plays Nice with VirtualBox

It should be noted that NetbootCD isn't for beginners--users have to be able to navigate text-based installers rather than just the GUI versions typically found on live CDs. If you want to go the GUI route but still stay away from CDs, you're probably better off using an option like Unetbootin to work with USB drives instead, as Pot points out.

It's also recommended, meanwhile, that you use a wired Internet connection rather than a wireless one while you're working with NetbootCD.

Still, for those who like to have multiple Linux distributions on hand, NetbootCD provides a really nice all-in-one option for installing and managing them, and it reportedly even works in VirtualBox. If you're a fan of multiple distributions, this tool could be worth checking out.

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