In the third article of what is turning into a regular column, Savanna Says: Kneat Knoppix! You should really read this if you had wanted to try or demo KDE before but you couldn't -- because you thought it required a full Linux or Unix installation.
After my last article about Kontact, a lot of people were wondering: "Is
Linux/GNU/KDE good for me?" -- regular users that is, coders don't seem to
have to ask -- and then they wrote to me asking that very thing.
Well, I have two answers for you today:
- Try it out for yourself!
Now, let's clarify those positions.
Number 1: Yes! KDE is ready for regular users. At least, I think
so. In fact, I am planning some exploratory articles on that very same
subject in the very near future. Now, however, I just want to jot this
little review down and get it on digital paper.
Number 2: Try it out for yourself! Great news! With Knoppix, you can do it and you can
do it easily. This is what this article is about: Knoppix. It's a
great thing and it is making waves all over the world. Let me give you
a quick user's rundown:
When I started with Linux a while ago (or GNU/Linux), it was a little
complicated to install. I'm using Debian Linux on this desktop and it
is sort of a patchwork build of a system which was mostly maintained
with some serious learning at times when I did something wrong, and
some serious corrections at times from the good coders in #debian-kde
(whom I have mentioned in previous articles). Now, I went with Linux
knowing I would probably have to learn a little bit more about
computers than I was used to. Remember: I'm a regular user.
Okay... you're with me, right? Regular user, Debian Linux install with KDE.
Tinkering needed to learn some new things. Got it?
You see, the one thing that kept me back from telling all my friends and
family that they could switch was that I wasn't sure that they wanted to do
what I had to do: learn a little more about computers to make some things
work and install. Now, however, they don't have to.
What is Knoppix? Well, Knoppix is, in a sense, one of the last links in the
regular users puzzle. Knoppix is a CD on which you'll find a Debian Linux
kernel and one of the latest KDE3 desktop systems. It's about 700 megs and
fits exactly on one CD.
And it is awesome.
Why? Well, let me tell you something: When I tell people that if they want to
try Linux, they can just install it and try it, that's a pretty hard sell.
Most people hear "install" and their eyes sort of glaze over and they start
to think "Why bother?" And remember the tinkering part? Well, tinkering
happens at all phases with a distro that you don't buy targeting new users
(like SuSE, Mandrake, etc...). The hardest part is telling people that they
have to install to see what it is like. Even with an easy install that
auto-boots into KDE, people don't want to have to install or tinker to try
anything out first. But with Knoppix... you don't have to do that.
All you have to do is put it in your CD drive, boot up, and presto! you've got
a Linux system -- and a beautiful KDE3 desktop -- running all from your CD
drive. No install, no weird lines of code... try it out and you will see how
beautiful KDE and Linux are, and you won't even have to get your hands dirty
or look under the hood.
And you don't have to commit unless you are truly impressed and decide to
This is the best part: you can download it free, burn it, and carry it
around with you to show your friends, family, etc... it will boot on
any PC and won't even touch their hard drive. Demo it anywhere. If
they like it, give it to them -- you can install Knoppix from
the CD to your hard drive if you want to switch, and spread the good
Isn't that fantastic?
Before Knoppix, you had to tell people to install things. Now you
don't have to. Talk about a real revolution. People are talking about
Knoppix handout drives to spread the word. People are carrying a few
of the CD's in their bags or briefcases or even their purse to show
others how great KDE and Linux are! Mass singing is breaking out and
peace is befalling the earth as everyone joins hands and...
Well, that last part I made up but you get the idea. Knoppix really
is that cool.
So, you're asking me "Okay... what's up with this? How easy is it
to burn and all that?"
Well, you just go to their site: http://www.knoppix.net/ (This is the
English site) and you read the FAQ -- which I found to be a little
geeky but fairly general enough that some users might
understand what they are talking about (something that they should
work on to be a little simpler to understand, I think, but it is a
From there, you find out where to download the 700 meg ISO CD
image. Now... a few things with this:
- Most people don't know what an ISO is, but I believe that they
explain it well enough.
- It's a 700 meg download so broadband is a must -- unless you don't mind
waiting a week to get it.
- They do have CD's for sale which they can send you for the
non-broadband or techie users out there who can't make heads or tail
of their FAQ.
- They go into checking the ISO file after the download with the checksum
file -- something which most users will sort of glaze over. I know I did
originally and needed some help from my friendly IRC people in
- They do explain how to burn the CD with Nero -- which is
important. Most Window users get a PC with Nero or another kind of
software and they seem to take the time to explain how to do this,
even though they say that it is outside of the scope of the FAQ at
large. This is important as many people do not know how to burn an ISO
to be bootable etc...
After you burn, you're basically done. I did have to download it twice,
however (bit of a pain). What happened is that the first image didn't
download well or something so I had to download it again. Apparently that is
what the Checksum file is for: to make sure that the file you downloaded is
in working condition. To make a long story short: Getting it and burning it
was a little on the techie side. Needs to be improved, but very good start
Now for the good part.
Turn off your PC, leave the Knoppix CD in the CD tray, and boot up.
Okay, at this point you should know that Knoppix is new and still has some
bugs in it. Don't worry! It won't touch your HD at all. I'm just talking
about booting-up bugs. It kept dumping me in the middle of the boot up and
giving me weird errors on the screen and it would freeze. Don't worry: just
reboot. It'll work fine eventually. It took me 3 tries and it kept giving me
errors every now and then, but finally, I was in the desktop!
There it was. Right on my Windows PC that I use for backups, I had a KDE
desktop. And I didn't even boot off of the hard drives.
All the main programs are crammed in there beautifully, and the icon set is
really pretty. The only thing I wasn't fond of was the background. It looked
too "H4x0r" Matrix/techie for my tastes. If I could suggest something, I
would suggest a little tamer background now for regular users.
How did it handle? It handled beautifully. I was using a Linux/KDE system from
my CD drive.
Any bad points? Not that I can think of at the top of my head. (Anyway, I'm
trying to get people to try this because it really won't hurt, is fairly
simple, and fun to use.)
Now, if only I had seen this a year ago. Of course, it wasn't really around
back then, at least in that form.
So, what did I do next? I decided to keep it. I had some instructions
on how to install after I had booted up. I typed in: Control-Alt-F1
and got into console mode, typed in "knx-hdinstall" and it guided me
through a very easy to install process. I just chose which
partitions I wanted to use (not very friendly as of yet but it'll get
there), put in my IP numbers etc... and away we go.
Again, it was a little buggy so it failed two times before it got it on the
third. Again, weird messages on the screen and froze up. What did I do? I
just hit the reboot button and started over. A bit tedious but I can deal.
That has happened to me with a Windows installation before so I wasn't that
worried about it. And anyway, by this point, I was already well into the
process of erasing the hard drive and rewriting over it, so it didn't concern
me in the least.
Finally, it worked! It installed, booted, went directly into KDE3 and
I suddenly have a fully functional Knoppix system on my backup machine
and it looks great. I love it. I totally love it. In fact, I keep the
CD in my purse and bring it around with me to show people. It's little
geeky me, but it's great and people are wowed. This is Linux
like they never knew existed. I'm dispelling the "Command Line Mode
Only" picture with this one CD and I'm doing a great job of it.
Now you can too.
So try it! Give it a whirl. Either buy the CD (very cheap) or just download
and burn it yourself. At worst, you blow a CD or two trying. But in no time
flat you will have an awesome CD that is changing the world of computing.
Thank you team Knoppix. I give you a big thumbs up.