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Knoppix: A Very Portable Linux

Knoppix (http://www.knoppix.org, pronounced "k-nop-iks") is a CD-ROM-based Linux distribution. What's Knoppix good for? Lots of things, including running a firewall, recovering from a system disaster, building product demos, or just keeping Linux with you wherever you go. If your computer can boot from a CD, you can drop Knoppix into the drive, power up, and get an instant Linux fix. (See the sidebar "Knoppix System Requirements" for minimum system requirements.)

What is Knoppix and can I run it?

Knoppix (http://www.knoppix.org, pronounced “k-nop-iks”) is a CD-ROM-based Linux distribution. What’s Knoppix good for? Lots of things, including running a firewall, recovering from a system disaster, building product demos, or just keeping Linux with you wherever you go. If your computer can boot from a CD, you can drop Knoppix into the drive, power up, and get an instant Linux fix. (See the sidebar “Knoppix System Requirements” for minimum system requirements.)




Knoppix System Requirements



  • Intel-compatible CPU (i486 or later).

  • 20 MB of RAM for text mode, at least 96 MB for graphics mode with KDE, and at least 128 MB of RAM to use the various office products.

  • A bootable CD-ROM drive or a boot floppy and a standard CD-ROM drive (IDE/ATAPI or SCSI).

  • Standard SVGA-compatible graphics card.

  • Serial or PS/2 standard or IMPS/2-compatible USB-mouse.


Knoppix includes a wide variety of Linux utilities, programming languages and libraries, networking tools, and games, and even includes KDE, Open Office, and the Gimp. Using on-the-fly decompression, the Knoppix CD can hold up to two gigabytes of software — about 2,000 programs in all. Knoppix is based on Debian Linux and includes a 2.4.x kernel. The latest Knoppix release (as the magazine goes to press) is 3.1.

You can purchase Knoppix from one of the vendors listed on the Knoppix Web site or you can download it from one of the mirror sites such as ftp://ftp.webtrek.com. If you download the distribution, you’ll have to create a bootable CD. For that, consult the documentation for your particular CD burner software. Once you have a bootable CD, set your BIOS to boot from the CD first, then the hard drive.

If you can’t boot from a CD, you’ll need a bootable floppy to start the process. A floppy boot image can be found on the Knoppix CD at KNOPPIX/boot.img. You can use the rawrite program also under the KNOPPIX subdirectory to create the floppy, or under Linux, you can use the command:


dd if=mounted_cdrom_directory/KNOPPIX/boot.img of=/dev/fd0 bs=18k

With boot floppy in hand, you should be able to reboot your system and load Knoppix.

The Knoppix distribution has an advanced autoconfig program and should be able to detect most devices that it needs. If you run into problems, refer to the help page at http://download.linuxtag.org/knoppix/knoppix-cheatcodes.txt. The sidebar “Some Useful Boot Options” lists some of the more common boot time options.




Some Useful Boot Options






Boot option

Explanation

knoppix 2

Runlevel 2, Textmode only

knoppix floppyconfig

Run “knoppix.sh” from a floppy

failsafe

Boot with (almost) no hardware detection











Useful if the PS/2 mouse doesn’t work

knoppix mem=128M

Specify memory size in MByte

knoppix noeject

Do NOT eject CD after halt

knoppix-txt

No framebuffer at startup

knoppix vga=normal

No-framebuffer mode, but X

knoppix wheelmouse

Enable IMPS/2 protocol for wheelmice

knoppix testcd

Check CD data integrity

expert

Interactive setup for experts

If you have a hard drive on your system, you can add swap space to increase the performance of your system. For advanced users, you can use the standard partitioning programs, such as Disk Druid or fdisk. For the novice user, or if a DOS file system already exists on the same machine, use the command mkdosswapfile or look under the KDE menu “Knoppix.” mkdosswapfile creates a swap file in the Windows file system called knoppix.swp. To reclaim the space, you can simply delete the swap file.

If you’re interested in Knoppix, read the FAQ found at http://download.linuxtag.org/knoppix/KNOPPIX-FAQ-EN.txt and the disclaimer on the Knoppix Web site. Knoppix is still under heavy development, so do a little homework before using it.

In general, Knoppix is very handy. Whether you’re in the middle of an emergency or the middle of an airport, you’re just one CD away from your favorite Linux gizmos.



John R. S. Mascio is a systems and network manager. He can be reached at mascio@ryu.com.

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