Knoppix: A low-commitment way to try Linux

I’m posting this from a computer running Knoppix. Charlie brought a copy in to work the other day and handed it to me. I actually downloaded Knoppix several months ago but never burned myself a copy because I didn’t have any 80-minute CD-Rs–I’ve still got about 20 74-minute jobs I haven’t used yet.
Yep, it’s an excuse. I know a lot of people have several objections to Linux:

1. There’s no software, or at least nothing I’d want.
2. It’s hard to install.
3. If I do manage to install it, I can’t get a good graphical interface working.
4. It takes too long.
5. I really don’t want to go to the trouble of repartitioning my hard drive, and I don’t want to run it on my old computer because it’ll be slow.

Knoppix is a full Linux distribution on a CD. You pop it in a PC (it’s best if it has at least 128 megs of RAM) and boot off it. It detects your hardware and boots you into a full-blown KDE environment.

Software? It has three word processors, three spreadsheets, two web browsers, two graphical mail clients, a desktop publisher, an MP3 player, a bunch of games (including a Civilization clone) and a bunch more stuff. In short, far more software than the typical Windows user has installed.

And if you don’t like it, just go to the “K” menu and hit Logoff. It shuts down. Pop out the CD, and boot back into Windows or whatever else it was that was on that computer.

I really wish the people who talk about Linux on the desktop would take the few minutes it takes to download and boot Knoppix. Their reaction would be telling.

12 thoughts on “Knoppix: A low-commitment way to try Linux

  • October 23, 2003 at 10:20 pm
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    Knoppix is great, and amazingly functional. As I recall, it gets about 2 GB worth of software compressed onto one CD.

    It’s also an easy way to install Debian if you want to do the hard drive install. As I recall, you boot to the Knoppix and do something like a “knx-hdinstall”. I’ve done it twice and, with the second box still running Debian-Knoppix. I think that I had to tweak the network configuration, maybe invoke the route command to have it find its way to the internet.

    Other than that it was quite easy.

    Knoppix is also a great rescue utility, plus, as Dave says, just a great way to investigate Linux.

  • October 24, 2003 at 3:00 pm
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    It’s funny that I see this today – I had to use Knoppix to make a tomsrtbt diskette. Windows XP can’t handle direct writes to the floppy drive, and even if it could it doesn’t handle the 1.722 MB format used for the image.

    So I popped in my Knoppix (on an 80 min. CD-RW so I can update it easily), configured pppd, dialed into the ‘net, downloaded the image, and ran the install script. Four or five minutes later (floppies are so SLOW) I had a tomsrtbt diskette, and I didn’t have to mess with Windows XP.

    Those of you who actually know me should be asking, “Why didn’t he just use his GNU/Linux box?” Well, that’s a good question, but so is this: “Why does he need a tomsrtbt diskette?” 😉

  • October 24, 2003 at 4:17 pm
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    I’ve used my Knoppix CD as a rescue disk, a Linux trial disk, and a network diagnostic disk. Let’s see the goons at M$ come up with a Win32 release that boots from a CD-ROM. What? They need more real estate? Okay, we”ll let them use a bootable DVD-ROM. Knoppix is GREAT!

  • October 24, 2003 at 8:11 pm
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    Thanks.. I am going to try it!

  • October 28, 2003 at 1:51 pm
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    I was just on Slashdot, and I noticed in today’s news was an article on Knoppix.

    The article with comments can be found here.

  • October 28, 2003 at 3:55 pm
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    So where can I get a copy of Knoppix? Seems there’s a problem with the European legal system (at least that’s what the link in the OP says).

    ~Joe

  • October 28, 2003 at 4:05 pm
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    nevermind. just found that http://www.knoppix.net is still alive. thanks. now, hopefully it’ll still be around when i get home so i can burn my cdrw from there.

  • October 28, 2003 at 7:09 pm
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    Problem…
    The ISO download is 733MB and too big for a CD burn (even overburn)
    Any suggestions?

  • October 29, 2003 at 12:23 am
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    That’s actually not a problem. The .iso image contains structural mark-up that makes the image file larger than the total contents of the disc. Just use your favorite CD burning program to burn the .iso, and it’ll come out just under 700 MB.

    Remember, you’re not just copying that file to the disc. The burning program needs to create an “image” of the disc based on that file.

  • October 29, 2003 at 3:48 pm
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    Well that worked! I must have done something wrong the 1st time.
    I am using KNOPPIX now and the web browser Konqueror.

    Thanks for suggesting it. My 1st time using linux and this is a good 1st start.
    Time to play.

  • November 27, 2003 at 12:13 pm
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    Hey. I just wanted to add that I found downloading by http or ftp was quite slow, but that BitTorrent is FAST! Took me an hour. So I would say it’s worth installing BitTorrent to download Knoppix.

  • January 5, 2004 at 6:59 pm
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    Knoppix sounds nice. I haven’t used it yet though. I have tried D**n small linux, which fits on a business card cdr. It’s about 50 meg or so. I can boot, get through the config menus, and configure wvdial in about 10 min and have a workable system. You can even download mozilla and install the package if you have a quick connection. I’m using freebsd mainly now, but i wanted a linux partition so i wrote DSL to the hard drive. I may try a hard drive install on an old laptop that can’t run much else. I may just use tar and copy it over on floppies, lacking a cdrom. I was very impressed with dsl’s hardware detection, it’s based on knoppix detection. There’s also Morphix if you want to roll ur own cd based distro.

    If you’re into security tools, there’s also Local Area Security (?) linux which will fit on a mini cd. Trinux, tomsrtbt, and these cd based distros all make excellent recovery tools, although some take a while to boot.

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