Tag: Knoppix

Welcome to the World of Knoppix
By Mike Ber

Knoppix is a bootable CD with a collection of GNU/Linux software, automatic hardware detection, and support for many graphics cards, sound cards, SCSI and USB devices and other peripherals. Knoppix can be used as a Linux demo, 272px-Knoppix-logo.svgeducational CD, rescue system, or adapted and used as a platform for commercial software product demos. It is not necessary to install anything on a hard disk. Due to on-the-fly decompression, the CD can have up to 2 GB of executable software installed on it.

If one is to believe news from the Linux camp one could be forgiven for thinking that the world was out to destroy the beautiful thing that is the Open Source movement. Angry fingers would be pointed in several directions, surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) all in the general vicinity of Microsoft. Of course, the noises from the other side are just as loud (actually quite a bit louder). They, in turn, claim that Linux is ‘unsafe’, hard to use and even harder to maintain, and worse of all, prone to exploitation by hackers (since the source code is open source and thus can essentially be seen and played around with by anyone).

I’ve always preferred the uncomfortable seat on the fence, despite the green grass on both sides. Granted, you tend to get sore sitting in such a way after a while, but the view from here is great, and argument very clear. The battle between proprietary code (led by Microsoft, no less) and open source (Linux) has been going on ever since Linus Torvalds created Linux and started the process that has made it the genuine force that it is today. And as is the case in such fighting, there are three sides to the story: Microsoft’s tale, Linux’s woes and my bit of the story. And my part begins with the most interesting OS of them all…

What if you had an operating system that ran completely from a CD? That’s right, just one CD. And this CD also contained very useful programs for word-processing, data recovery and system repair utilities, image-editing and internet connectivity, along with excellent audio and video players? What if all you had to do was to boot from this CD and voila, in a few minutes your new OS had taken over your PC. Taken over? Nothing to worry about, as removing the OS from your computer was to be as easy as removing the CD. Literally.

300px-KNOPPIXWelcome to the world of Knoppix.

Given the fact that we are in the midst of multi-gigabyte operating systems that we there would be such a competent one that could be run entirely from a CD-ROM is stupendous. Imagine the possibilities. Customized versions of the Knoppix OS would mean that you could literally carry a streamlined version of your home PC around with you wherever you went. Need to recover data from a crashed hard-disk? Boot into Knoppix and use the system repair and data recovery tools to retrieve your data (burn it to a CD-R, or transfer it via a PC-to-PC connection) and maybe attempt to fix the disk as well. Secondly, if you are a web developer who wants to check how sites look from within a Linux environment, all you need to do is pop Knoppix in and check out your websites from Mozilla or Konqueror. Away from the office and want to work on customized software specially made for your company? Knoppix, along with a USB drive to store data, turns your crisis into a simple matter of finding a PC. And like all Linux versions, meeting the minimum system requirements (see http://www.knopper.net/knoppix/index-en.html#requirements) would be a snap (82 MB RAM, CDROM drive, SVGA card, Intel compatible CPU (i486 or better)).

Knoppix also boasts a classic boot screen

KNOPPIX_booting440width

There is a lot to be said for Knoppix, especially for its appeal to Linux newbies (or ‘noobs’, as vernacular has it). With no need for an installation (although that is given as an option), and with excellent hardware detection, Knoppix has single-handedly done away with the two major concerns for Windows users wanting to try out Linux: A complicated installation process, and the problem of finding the right drivers for all your hardware. In effect, Knoppix is an excellent choice for someone who wants to try out Linux without having to go through the usual hassle. It’s easy to use, and doesn’t mess with your system either. Despite being run completely off the CD, it runs pretty quickly as well.

Knoppix also boasts a comprehensive suite of programs that has almost everything that home/office desktop could be used for. The package list is tremendous, with the compression system allowing for over 2GB of stuff to be stored. This is amazing and is certainly more than any other single live CD can hold. For a basic idea as to how you should be fine, Knoppix contains 2 office suites (Koffice and OpenOffice), has KDE, Mozilla (web+mail+IRC), PHP, MySql, samba, xmms and tons more. This is no gaming platform, but more than enough is packed in there to let you do accomplish most of your usual tasks on the PC (see http://www.distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=knoppix for a complete list). And if you want more, do an installation and now that you can write on the hard-disk, use apt-get upgrade, apt-get dist-upgrade (after making sure your sources.list is correct) to get more.

Knoppix does have a few minor problems. These are limited to a few quirks within the KDE, some problems with hardware detection and complaints that 5 minutes to boot a PC is too long (which, by the way, is quite quick for a live-CD OS). The reality is that such problems are expected from an Open Source operating system. Linux platforms are not judged by the same criteria that Windows, or any other ‘paid-for’ OS is (this is perhaps a major reason behind the Linux-bashing that goes on in Microsoft-related circles). No one expects Knoppix to work perfectly when detecting hardware, and the fact that it more often than not works extremely well forms the basis of our judgment, whereas if Windows XP Professional refused to detect my LAN card I would not stop cursing their ineptitude (no matter that it detected everything else, or everyone else’s card). The standards applied here are totally different, and thus Knoppix survives all such criticism and continues to bathe in the afterglow of a job well done.

A few thoughts on customization. One gets a feeling that the package is perhaps too comprehensive (how many text editors do you really need?). My view is that at least for the downloadable version, there should be a way for the user to select or unselect the programs that are required. As such, one could select their favorite browser, text editor, office suite, etc. and produce a more compact installation package. Theoretically, you could also build a custom Knoppix installation that would even run your office applications (as mentioned earlier). The possibilities are great, and hopefully the Knoppix development team will take into consideration the idea of streamlining / customization, if only for the downloadable version.

So there you have it. A special flavor of Linux that offers, apart from a live-CD OS, a quite stable operating environment as well (and comes bundled with lots of goodies) that is unprecedented in terms of hardware detection. And more importantly, this could be a precursor of things to come with respect to OS development and how the industry perceives the role of an operating system, be it Linux or Windows. Maybe it’s time for diversification and specialization in the OS market, and maybe, just maybe, Microsoft is set to lose more ground as the ‘free’ operating systems get better and better.

Mike Ber is the owner of the Canadian Domain Name Portal called http://www.Every.ca. He is also a contributing author to Canadian Computer Magazine and http://www.Developer.ca website.

Buy Knoppix today!

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How To Get Out of the Microsoft Habit
By Lorie Therese Locara

In our country, we have become so addicted to Microsoft that we cannot seem to do without it. It has become like morphine: we get off it, we feel pain so great, we writhe in sheer agony.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a BIG fan of Microsoft Word and Microsoft Encarta. But the OS’s? Oh, don’t ever get me started!

From the moment I saw Ubuntu Linux, I was… Stunned to say the least. I always thought that Linux OS’s were… ubuntu_logo_250x145Primitive. Turns out, it just got bad press.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed Ubuntu, I had to delete my Ubuntu drive after about a month or two of using it when I needed the space for my other files. And the parting wasn’t easy. Though I loved Ubuntu Edgy Eft like crazy, I wasn’t ready to be weaned off Windows yet. I thought I “needed” Windows. Yeah right. Like a hole in the head.

The decision to fully migrate my desktop to Ubuntu or any other reliable Linux distro came when my Windows XP melted down. I decided I was finally ready to move permanently… When I discovered Wine. But more on that later. This is an article on how to choose a different OS. :p

The mainstream Operating Systems for desktops for the everyday user come in two major branches. I know, I know, there are other OS’s out there, but for the moment, I’ll just talk about the most well-known, most user-friendly “Windows alternatives”.

How to choose the OS for you

Choosing is a universal function of needs, desires, and availability, among other factors. There is no one way to go about it, and sadly, it is not a science. but I have made a system for myself on how I can go about my own choices. I hope my system would help you. Below are the steps on how I go about making Operating System choices.

Know what you need.

Knowing what you need need not be a precursor to lobotomy. Just grab a notepad and the guidelines and questions below may help you:

What is it that you do?

Are you a graphic artist? A web designer? A writer? A student? A casual user?

Base your choices on what you do, because your needs will depend on this.

What software needs to be on your computer?

If you are a graphic artist or a web designer, you would definitely need tools like Adobe Photoshop. If you cannot afford the price, there are alternatives like the Gimp on Linux. However, I have a friend who says that he can never work on Linux, though he’s not a Microsoft loyalist. According to him, Adobe Photoshop doesn’t look as good on Linux as it does on Microsoft Windows. BUT, there is Adobe Photoshop for Mac, and it actually looks light years better than on Windows. Why? Mac screens are just rich, with the million-color support. If you have the money to burn, and you need apps like Adobe Photoshop and even Dreamweaver, then you better get OS X. Or else, get yourself a Macbook/Macbook Pro/iMac. Now. :p

As for the writer, since word processing is light, and doesn’t really require as much RAM as applications like Adobe Photoshop or Dreamweaver, which, in turn, require support for high resolution, I guess it would be safe for me to recommend that you use Linux. There are excellent applications to replace MS Office, like Open Office, Star Office, etc. AbiWord is an excellent MS Word replacement. It’s light, fast, and simple. And you can write in pure white space, if you’re allergic to distractions. These applications can save in the MS Word .doc format. But if you just have to have the MS Word formatting for your work, then by all means, go for Ubuntu Linux’s Feisty Fawn! It has Wine built into the system. Wine is the application that can run your MS programs, and it’s really an excellent tool to wean you off the Microsoft addiction. Though I have yet to try out Wine on Linux, as I am waiting for the official release of Feisty Fawn on April 19, I have tried Crossover, a non-free distro of Wine, on my OS X. It was able to run MS Office seamlessly so far. It’s not slow when it’s up and running, and though the fonts are just smaller, the main point is, it’s running the Microsoft program. Enough said. I’m planning to pay for my copy when the trial expires.

Students, on the other hand, have varied needs. I recommend Linux if you’re not into heavy photo editing anyway, as:

  • It’s free.
  • If you want games, Wine can run World of Warcraft for you. Yes it does. Games are the priority of the Wine community!
  • Linux helps sharpen your skills, if you’re a Computer Science or Information Technology student.
  • It’s free.

If you are a casual user with money to burn, then you could definitely work well with OS X! OS X, according to my friend, is better for the dummy user than Windows! Why, I am a very destructive dummy user. I actually install anything I fancy. I have installed some pretty serious stuff here in my Macbook, decided I didn’t want them anymore, couldn’t find the documentation for how to uninstall the stuff I did, and decided, “What the hell, I’ll just toss all the programs in the trash”. The only thing I noticed that was different right after was that the fonts in iTunes got messed up a little. :D But after installing an update on everything including the system, that problem was fixed. :D Oopsie. :D

But if you’re like me, a total cheapskate, I believe that you would do well on Ubuntu or PCLinuxOS. Both are very user friendly, and I was blown away by the two Operating Systems. As soon as I get a stack of CD’s, I’m trying out the other user-friendly Linux OS’s, and I’m going to feature them here. Meanwhile, why don’t you check out these OS’s themselves, and see for yourself that they really are nice. :) Go to http://www.distrowatch.org or http://www.ubuntuforums.org to see what people think about the different OS’s, and which are the popular favorites. :)

What are the primary features that you would want on your operating system?

You would do well to make a list of what you want as features on your OS. Below is my own list:

–User-friendliness

–Easy to install built-in applications

–Package manager/handler for easy installation

–Applications that are good equivalents for Windows applications

–Easy networking setup

–Compatibility with Wine or any other Windows emulator

–Can read Fat32 (hard drive format) for easy Windows sharing

–Customizable User Interface

–Installable Windows/Apple media codecs

–Easy install of Java and other media support

–Fast loading/non RAM hog

–The OS does not “hang,” restart randomly, or crashes. If it does, it should be rare, or like in Ubuntu, will only prompt that it has crashed, but will not affect the operation of the system or its applications.

–The OS should have a very helpful support community.

So far, Ubuntu Linux is my best choice. It is the best in application installation, has a really wide range of built-in apps, and with each release in its 6-month cycle, it gets increasingly user-friendly, and is getting more packed in features as the days go by. Ubuntu Feisty Fawn comes with a Windows networking setup manager, so it will be easier to manage your local network/s. It also comes with Wine, so you don’t need to really rack your brain with how to install this (non) emulator. The only thing that’s annoying with Ubuntu is that it takes long in starting up.

If you want a faster OS, you can try PCLinuxOS. I have yet to install it, so I don’t know about its application manager: if it’s easy to deal with or not. But it’s highly user-friendly according to forums, and as I’ve used it through its live CD. And it’s eye candy, too. :)

Ubuntu can also become eye candy if you install themes and change the desktop background. If you find the pre-installed brown theme yucky, change it! The options are shown when you right click on the desktop, the panels, ubuntu128x130and if you go to system>themes. Mine is delicious pink. Heehee. :D

Another thing that is great in Ubuntu is the kick-ass community. According to some people I read there, PCLinuxOS has a great community, too, as according to people I’ve read on Ubuntu’s forums. It’s actually better, according to them, as the programmers/developers themselves entertain questions on PCLinuxOS.

If your hardware cannot support heavy programs, there are “thin clients” out there, which can be run even on a decade-old machine. If your machine used to support Windows 95 and is still wired for 95, you can go for OS’s like Xubuntu or Puppy.

Research on your options.

If only I didn’t need to work, I would rather be on the forums all day and clicking away at Linux sites. So far, the best Linux distros as far as I’ve learned are Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, Sabayon, Arch, Mint (Ubuntu based), Puppy Linux, Mepis, Xandro’s and Knoppix, to name a few. Knoppix and Puppy can be installed on removable media, and you can save your files there, especially if it’s a multisession/rewritable disk or flash drive.

Again, do try to frequent the forums, you will sure learn a lot there.

Test the top three to five on your option list.

I do not like to wade through the hundreds of Linux distros, only to find them to be lousy. I would rather know about the best few then test them. It’s a good thing that most Linux OS’s come in Live CD’s, so you can run them without having to install them. I suggest you try Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, Xandro’s and Puppy. They are the most user-friendly around, according to most people. PCLinuxOS and Puppy are very fast. If you really like Ubuntu and just want it to run faster, as I’ve said, you can go for Xubuntu. Take heart, there is an OS out there for you. Or else, you can compile one from Linux’s source code. Hrhr. :p

As for OS X, I cannot say more. It is really an excellent Operating System. It has the stability of Linux, being also a Unix-based OS, and it is far more user-friendly than Windows. No, you do not need to have an Apple machine to run it. People have been able to run it on X86 machines successfully. Just read the how-to’s on the Internet.

OS X is really eye candy, and they have “dumbed down” the controls on a lot of the programs, to increase user-friendliness. Yes, there are moments when I feel that some Mac programs (especially the iLife programs) are too simple for my taste, but I really don’t want to complain, as they do the job, and they do it excellently. Where else can you install programs by just dragging the icon to the Applications folder? If that isn’t idiot-friendly, what is?! :D

As I said, choosing an OS need not be brain lobotomy. Just explore, research, and have a system in making choices. You need not suffer on a system that melts down with every trojan and spyware outbreak. You can be free. You can migrate. Screw Microsoft. Screw Vista. Go for Open Source (or Apple :p).

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