One of the audience members asked if anyone had integrated Amazon S3 into a Linux live CD distribution. I'd thought about this a couple of times, but I had to tell him that no one had done this yet, but that I thought it was a really good idea. I'm stuck in a hotel room in Amsterdam today (it is raining cats and dogs right now), so I thought I'd take a little time to explain the concept in the hope that some enterprising hacker would pick up on this idea and run with it.
First, let's talk about the concept of a live CD. As far as I can tell, this idea was invented by the Linux community as a way to let people try out Linux without actually installing it on their machine. You simply insert the CD into the drive, boot, and you are up and running. The live CD contains a complete, bootable Linux distribution, often with a graphical user interface such as Gnome or KDE, and a full compliment of tools, games, utilities and documentation. When booted on modern hardware there's no need to do any special configuration at all. A few months ago I burned a copy of Simply Mepis onto a CD at home, and booted it on a laptop. Without any help from me it configured the display, the touchpad, the network interface, and the entire network configuration.
The live CD was invented as a learning and transition tool, but there are many other uses. If you are heading into a "hostile" computing environment, you can simply carry a live CD with you, boot up, and get started without any risk of viruses, trojan horses, or other contamination. They are very popular in schools and among people who frequent internet cafes.
One of the great things about the live CD is that it doesn't need any permanent local storage. The operating system loads into RAM, and all of the other programs are simply run from the CD. There's often an option to install the files on a local hard disk, but this isn't necessary. It is amazing how much of what we now consider "computing" can be done without local storage -- web surfing, email access, instant messaging, and so forth. However, the lack of local storage is a definite shortcoming, and I think that Amazon S3 can help.
Imagine a live CD with built-in, pre-configured S3 access, custom-burned to access your very own S3 account.
You boot the CD from any machine that you'd like, and you are instantly connected to your data and your files. Wouldn't that be useful, and wouldn't it be sweet? Your files are permanently stored on S3, and you can get to them from anywhere that you would like,
Speaking as an armchair blogger, I don't think that this would be all that hard to do. Start with any of the fine live CD distributions, add in S3 access using JungleDisk or s3DAV, arrange for it to use the S3 partition for storage, and your almost there. Add an optional customization step that would happen after the download and before the CD burn, prompt for the user's S3 account and bucket information, burn that to the CD, and Bob's your uncle, as they say.
I'm sure I've missed out on a detail or two, but I think that the concept is sound, and I would love to see this happen. If there's anything that I can do to help make this happen, drop me an email.