Review: Tao Live CD


Author: Preston St. Pierre

Tao Live CD is a live CD based on rebuilt Red Hat Linux source RPMs. It features a useful selection of applications, has good hardware detection, and is even quick to boot. While I did run into a few problems, I found this a very worthwhile distro.

Tao and I got off to a good start. As it happened, the first day I saw Tao on DistroWatch one of my instructors at university expected us to bring in a SUSE live CD for our GNU/Linux course. I brought in the requisite SUSE CD, but I downloaded and used a Tao live CD instead. My fellow students started to complain about SUSE when I was already at the desktop and they were still only halfway through the loading screen.

Our next step in class was to write a quiz online in Flash. I found that Tao included the Flash plugin for Firefox, while the SUSE 9.1 live CD the instructor provided an ISO for did not, so everyone else had to reboot to Windows XP to write the quiz.

Outside of class I took a closer look at Tao. I first tried to boot it on a computer with fairly generic parts: an AMD Athlon XP 1600+ with 512MB of DDR memory, an Nvidia 440MX video adapter, a Sound Blaster Live audio adapter, and a Gigabyte motherboard. Most distributions auto-detect that hardware just fine. However, when I tried to load Tao on that computer the kernel crashed with a segmentation fault on boot. I’m not sure what caused it. Booting Tao on a second system worked perfectly. The hardware was detected flawlessly.

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At school I had taken some notes in Tao and saved them to my USB key, so I decided to write them to the disk on my home system. Plugging the USB key in made a shortcut appear on the desktop to the now mounted partitions, which makes things easy enough even for novices to use. For fun, I decided to do something a little more exotic. I added a second user, then remounted my USB key as /home and added the user folder. After that I start a second X session with the new user, and all my settings and home files were saved on the USB key automatically. I now use this Tao live CD and USB key combination every time I go to class. It’s a lot better than having to use Windows XP, and I can save my notes with no trouble.

Taking notes isn’t all I can do with Tao, of course. I usually use my second system for watching movies, so I made that my next test. I was a little disappointed to see that there was no obvious way to mount my local hard drive using the live CD GUI, but it was easy enough to mount manually. I navigated to my movies folder using Nautilus and double-clicked on a movie. It worked, as did all my movie files. Tao seems to have a large number of codecs on the CD, which comes in handy.

In fact, Tao includes a good range of software of all kinds:

XMMS Music player, designed to look like Winamp
gedit, Kile, Text editing and word processing applications
Firefox, Konqueror Web browsers
Gaim Instant messaging client
Thunderbird Email client
GIMP Image manipulation program, similar to Adobe Photoshop in its uses (but not always features or interface)

Tao also includes a large suite of games, if you just feel like wasting some time, as well as chat clients, dial-up and Wi-Fi capabilities, and some partitioning software in case you need to rebuild your partition table.

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What do you expect from a live CD? There are certainly many customized live CDs better suited for specific purposes, but for the average user who needs word processing, music, video, and good hardware detection, Tao fits the bill. Unless something better suddenly springs up overnight, I can see myself using Tao for a while — which is more than I can say for most of the distributions I review.


  • Linux