On Wed, Oct 12, 2011 at 4:10 PM, Joel Kahn <jj2kk4@xxxxxxxxx>
I'm looking for a fairly recent but *STABLE* distro that can
be installed as a file/directory in a Microsoft Windows XP Pro
system and then booted using a CD-ROM, DVD, or other
For this, I usually suggest checking out Portable Ubuntu ( http://sourceforge.net/projects/portableubuntu/
) or Jolli OS ( http://www.jolicloud.com/download
Wubi gives you the ability to run Linux from your file system. I believe the previous projects both use Wubi. I also believe they're both Ubuntu based distributions, so you could get a Ubuntu live CD if they don't already have live versions. Colinux emulates Linux on Windows (similar to FreeBSD's Linux emulator). Projects using either Wubi or Colinux should allow you to run Linux on a Windows system.
I haven't had much luck with dual-booting either. I use removeable hard drives in my machines and boot either one operating system or the other. I can also have both drives in the system. The primary drive will boot bringing up that operating system and the other drive's data is accessible to that operating system. To switch operating systems, just swap the drives.
The other option for running Linux applications under Windows is Cygwin, but you are basically running Windows, not Linux. Cygwin does give you access to programs that run on Linux that might otherwise be difficult to get working on Windows. Plus, driver and hardware support is the same as Windows, so if your devices are working with Windows XP, they'll continue to work. I haven't had too many issues with stability on more recent Windows operating systems. Of course, it depends on hardware and what applications you're running. I've been able to crash Linux just as often as Windows. I've found FreeBSD highly stable though and harder to crash than Linux or Windows. There is a live CD for FreeBSD called Frenzie. The drawback with FreeBSD is even less hardware support than Linux or Windows.