BackTrack is your daddy.
BackTrack accepts no compromises, yet it is all compromising.
Because really, when is the last time you *didn’t* need those auditing tools? That penetration suite? Total privacy to break other people’s privacy? All that and a packet of crisps wrapped with razor sharp menus – it’s the kind of stuff you can only dream of on core. And I hear Fedora Core is the shitzitz now, adopting new  and exciting features. Oh hey debian doesn’t have binary deltas for packages *yet* , but we’ve been talking about it way longer than those dudes have.
Anecdtotally, I spilled a glass of water on my laptop the other day. Naturally, the glass went half empty in an instant: my poor lovely x41, I screamed. As it turns out the laptop casing made sure all the water was rather cleverly funneled into the x41′s only 1.8″ harddrive, which proceeded to go completely bananas (due presumably to rust, because clean water doesn’t conduct, right?). The data? I believe trusty old dd_rescue did rescue at least part of it, but I then misplaced the image file somewhere.
It was a thrifty, untrusted yet trusty Windows XP install that I’d been keeping on there on the mercy of actually booting every time since I bought the machine despite having been licked by more than its fair share of virii, malignant updates and accidental hard resets. Most of the programs I ran were portable versions so all I lost were some documents and lots of music.
I disassembled and metricuously dried every little component, and in the end only the disk drive was bust. The 1.8″ IDE drive that is impossibly ridiculously expensive to replace (5$ per GB? What the foo? Shut up!). Still, I needed the laptop so I exploded booting from USB. Despite (misguided?) efforts I haven’t bloody well been able to boot windows off USB, so I bootstrapped BackTrack 3 instead and bob is your uncle.
I mean really, I think I had that thing running like that for three months before I started missing stuff like apt. Didn’t really mind starting fresh every boot, I even invented a whole little schpiel for getting online as fast as possible, none of that Network Manager madness.
Persistent settings are all right in BT3 but booting into RAM is a lot more fun. After the first 3 seconds of boot you can pull the USB plug, everything goes zippety fast and your footprint is nada. Only thing that can get your ass is a cold boot attack.
BT3 is real cool and still a good recommend if you want to wardrive and do proper wifi phreaking due to the embedded injection drivers, but in the end I wanted new libs, a decent compiler and window dressing, and so I rolled BackTrack 4.
Granted, kde sucks, but if I cared enough I’d switch to openbox or something awesome in like 4 minutes. These days all I need is a shell and a browser.
For those of you fortunate enough to have a harddrive, BT4 ships with an install script to turn your system into a permanent BackTrack fixture. It’s based off Ubiquity, but dd’ing off the USB and onto your disk drive might be better if you’re interested in being able to boot your system into RAM, well I dunno because you want to do some advanced powersaving, or want to kill your system without worrying about unclean shutdowns, or want to maximise the life span of your solid-state device by nearly never writing to it.
For my own part there was a happy ending on DealExtreme, as they ship IDE44 to CompactFlash interfaces that fit in the x41 1.8″ bay… which leads to a whole slew of unexplored possibilities thaaat (drum rolls) I will explore in the next installment of how to break your machine.
BackTrack 4 R1 has released :-) . Anyone know where I can score the BlackHat Edition?