Imagine having a Linux distribution that uses the latest open source software, auto-detects all of your hardware, and doesn't cost a dime. Now imagine that it can also be run completely from a CD, yet still contain full-blown desktop applications such as KDE, OpenOffice, KOffice, and so on.
Imagine having a Linux distribution that uses the latest open source software, auto-detects all of your hardware, and doesn’t cost a dime. Now imagine that it can also be run completely from a CD, yet still contain full-blown desktop applications such as KDE, OpenOffice, KOffice, and so on.
Knoppix (the “K” is not silent), a German-based Linux distribution, is all that and much more. Like the Linux Bootable Business Card (LBBC) featured in the April 2002 issue (http://www.linux-mag.com/2002-04/potm_01.html), Knoppix is a CD-ROM-based, bootable Linux system that can be used to recover a crashed machine or boot Linux on a stranger’s laptop.
Unlike the LBBC, Knoppix is also packed full of the latest and greatest software. In fact, there’s so much stuff on the CD that the filesystem uses on-the-fly decompression to squeeze nearly 2 GB of applications and data on a standard, bootable CD-ROM. And Knoppix’s foundation is pure open source — Debian GNU/Linux, in fact. Layered on top of its Debian roots is a fair amount of tweaking and customization, all aimed at making Knoppix an appealing, free desktop (or laptop) operating system. The latest release of Knoppix includes cutting edge versions of software like KDE 3.1.1, XFree86 4.3, and OpenOffice 1.0.2.
One of the truly remarkable things about Knoppix is that it “just works” on a wide variety of hardware. Knoppix is able to auto-detect nearly everything, including oddball video and sound cards, network adapters, and so on. Even printers are a breeze to setup!
In fact, Knoppix is an ideal choice for evaluating new hardware. When you go laptop shopping, take a Knoppix CD with you. Try booting it on that new machine at CompUSA. If it boots and seems to work, great! That means Linux runs on the laptop and doesn’t have problems with the hardware. (Of course, it doesn’t mean that every Linux distribution you try will work on your machine of choice, but some certainly will.)
Not only does Knoppix play well with hardware, it tries to auto-detect any existing partitions on your hard disk and make them available under Linux, too. Don’t worry — they’re mounted read-only by default.
The fact that Knoppix runs nearly anywhere also makes the distribution ideal for demonstrations for Windows users who are thinking about giving Linux a shot. Take it to your neighbor and show her what Linux can do on that old PC running Windows 98. After all, it won’t even touch her hard disk, so there’s little to worry about and nothing to lose.
Once you’ve had a chance to experience Knoppix first hand, there’s a good chance you’ll get hooked and want to try running it for the longer term. To do that, you’ll need to install it on your computer’s hard disk. Otherwise, it’ll be difficult (but not impossible, believe it or not) to save your settings from reboot to reboot (remember, it all runs from CD.)
Luckily, Knoppix comes with a tool that installs the base system on your hard disk. When the installation completes, you’re left with a souped-up, ultra-modern Debian system. That means keeping your packages up-to-date is as easy as…
$ sudo bash
# apt-get update
# apt-get upgrade
What more could you ask for?
Knoppix is a relative newcomer to the world of Linux distributions, but it’s made quite a splash (and garnered a healthy number of converts) along the way.
However, Knoppix is still evolving and its development pace is still quite rapid: there have been at least three major releases already this year — although it’s technically still a beta. Each new release builds on the success of the previous one and incorporates feedback from around the world.
And speaking of the larger world, Knoppix was created in Germany, and is now available in several other languages, including English, French, Spanish, and Japanese.
To learn more about Knoppix or to download your own copy, visit the official Knoppix web site at http://www.knopper.net/knoppix/index-en.html. There’s also an independent US site that covers Knoppix releases, offers on-line forums, and provides documentation. It’s at http://www.knoppix.net. A portion of the US web site (point to http://www.knoppix.net/docs/index.php/KnoppixCustomizations) includes a very impressive list of Knoppix-derived and customized systems, such as GNOME-centric Knoppix and a micro-Knoppix that’s less than 60 K in size. Many of the customizations are also pioneering support for other languages, including Turkish, Hungarian, and Portuguese.
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