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I need a distro that matches these specifications:

  • runs from USB
  • has persistence (saves sessions and data like a regular OS)
  • controls on top (as in, the Mac toolbar - I'm still new to Linux, I don't know the difference between desktops yet)
  • I'd like it to run Compiz - those effects look awesome
  • Compatible with a lot of machines, right off the bat
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I don't know of a single Desktop Environment or Window Manager that cannot be configured to put it's main toolbar at the top. You're going to have to play with some of the different options yourself to see what you like. You might want to break that out into a separate question since it's not very relevant. –  Caleb Aug 20 '11 at 17:30
    
@Caleb, I agree with you there. However, I was able to set up (easily) a custom toolbar at the top of my screen in KDE. (blog.maxmackie.com/?p=46) –  maxmackie Aug 20 '11 at 17:59
    
@MaxMackie: However erasy it is KDE is one of the biggest ones where is NOT the default. In Gnome the main toolbar at the top is the default. Same with most specialized WM's like dwm, awesome, etc. –  Caleb Aug 20 '11 at 18:52

4 Answers 4

No doubt knoppix is what you are looking for. I'm looking for same than you since few years and knoppix dvd 6.4.4 is perfect for leading encrypt system os. It's persistent is better, has compiz for default and dvd version has a lot of packages... wonderful.

My second recomendation is Ubuntu 10.04.4 lts: it is very stable, easy to configure with compiz with unebootin.

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If you're going for something you can use on multiple computers I would imagine you'd like to go for speed as well. Waiting for a live OS to boot can be painful, so choosing a lightweight one is ideal in those circumstances.

As far as the viewpoint of making Linux like something else, let Linux be itself. Give it a fair shot and see how you'd like it in comparison, because if you go the entire way treating it like windows or mac you're missing the point of it.

Chromium is getting some pretty nice views to it, though it's also meant to be a WebOS. You might give that a shot.

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Use the LiveCD of openSUSE:

  • Runs from USB.
  • At first run, the LiveCD will make a persistent partition in your USB stick.
  • By default KDE and GNOME have the panels at bottom but you can change the position.
  • GNOME include Compiz. KDE include KWin, a different window manager with effects.
  • Compatible with a lot of computers.

The .iso file of the LiveCD is a hybrid image for CD and USB.

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Try AUSTRUMI. It's lightweight, boots from a Live-CD (or USB using UNetbootin) and features Compiz. I'm not sure if it has persistence, but It's worth giving it a go. Did I mention that latest .iso (2.2.9) is under 200 MB?

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