Copyright (C) 2003-2006 by Steve Litt,
All rights reserved. Material provided as-is, use at your own
Knoppix is a Linux distribution engineered to run from a bootable CD.
The idea is that a Windows user could experience Linux simply by
booting the Knoppix CD. OpenOffice, email, web browsing, audio and
video are all right there for the user to enjoy, without any change or
compromise to his system. What a great advocacy tool!
Advocacy just scratches the surface of Knoppix' usefulness. It's a
computer buyer's friend, a supreme configuration tool, and it's the
best rescue CD ever made.
What is Knoppix?
Knoppix is a Linux distribution optimized to store and boot on a single
CDrom, without requiring any space on the host computer's disk. This
means that Knoppix is the ideal distro with which to test out Linux
without making a committment. It also makes Knoppix an ideal
configuration tool, rescue tool, forensics tool, and computer
evaluation tool (testing computers before purchase).
Running Knoppix is usually as simple as placing the Knoppix CD in the
CD drive, setting the bios to boot from the CD, and rebooting.
Occassionally you need to use some of the Knoppix "cheat codes" at the
boot prompt. These are codes that set video refresh rate, memory and
other boot parameters.
Where to Get Knoppix
Knoppix is easy to get. You can get it in one of 3 ways:
If you have a fast Internet connection, perhaps the easiest way to
obtain Knoppix is to download the ISO image.
- Download the ISO and burn the CD
- Burn the CD at an Installfest
- Buy the CD
If you're in a Linux User Group (LUG), probably someone in your LUG has
a fast connection. If he/she downloads the ISO you can burn it at an
If you don't have a fast Internet connection and you can't find someone
with the ISO, consider buying a Knoppix CD. There's a list of places to
buy the CD's at http://www.knoppix.org. In the United States, you can
buy a Knoppix CD for $4.99 at CheapBytes (http://www.cheapbytes.com).
CheapBytes sells the CD for $4.99 plus shipping.
Once you have the CD, you can use the procedures in my Coasterless CD Burning page to duplicate
the CD to your heart's content. The CD is Open Source -- this is
Knoppix as an Advocacy
Our LUG, Linux Enthusiasts and Professionals (LEAP, in Orlando,
Florida, USA) has burned and given away hundreds of Knoppix CD's, at
shows, and continues to do so. Knoppix CD's are the ideal SWAG because
trying Knoppix is a no brainer. If the show attendee knows enought to
set his computer to boot off CD, he can use Knoppix.
Knoppix was created to be a Linux demonstration tool. It has Linux,
XF386, KDE, IceWM and several other window managers. It has the xmms,
Ogg Vorbus, and xine media players. For expert graphics creation, it
has the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP). It has numerous
configuration and repair utilities -- enough to make it an excellent
rescue CD for Linux or even for other distros. And best of all, it has
the entire OpenOffice office suite.
When you first boot Knoppix it boots a browser enabling you to see
Knoppix info, play OpenMusic tracks, or view .pdf talks. Naturally,
most people will go for the music, and it works flawlessly.
Knoppix style advocacy goes well beyond SWAG at shows. It's used
extensively in a corporate setting to demonstrate that Linux isn't
rocket science, and that Linux is excellent. Imagine your bosses face
when he boots a CD, and can immediately play music, view .pdf files,
use a first rate office suite, and browse the web or the local LAN? One
picture is worth a thousand words, and the Knoppix CD displays that
picture quickly, without the need to format a disk, sign a
non-disclosure, apply for an evaluation copy, or buy a license.
Knoppix to Test a Computer Before Purchase
If you're a Linux user, buying the right computer, especially a laptop,
is a problem. Follow the logic...
Enter the Knoppix CD. Go to the computer store, find a computer you
like, ask the salesman for permission to boot your Knoppix CD in that
computer. Knoppix has one of, if not the, best hardware detection
systems around, so if a computer is capable of running Linux at all, it
will probably run Knoppix.
- The government gave Microsoft a settlement that grants them a
monopoly for the next five years
- So Microsoft continues to demand that computer resellers adopt
anticompetitive practices, with regard to Linux and other non-Microsoft
operating systems, in order to receive favorable pricing on licenses to
- So computer resellers sell computers with Windows preinstalled.
- So computer manufacturers and component manufacturers test their
hardware and drivers against Windows, but few test against Linux.
- So many computers in stores today are incompatible with Linux.
- The computer manufacturers and component manufacturers don't
guarantee they'll work with Linux.
- So when you buy a computer, you're often rolling the dice, and
may end up with a computer that either won't run your operating system
of choice, or requires you to perform extensive reconfiguration to run
Once booted, you can test office products, sound, and many other
functions. If you bring a DHCP server and a hub and a couple network
cables, you can also test the computer's networking.
Your Knoppix CD can be used in stores, computer shows and swapmeets,
and in used-computer purchases. A Knoppix success doesn't guarantee
you'll be able to install and enjoy your favorite distro on a computer,
but it certainly reduces the odds of buying the wrong computer.
Knoppix as a
Knoppix's hardware detection and configuration are second to none.
Imagine if your X configuration becomes broken, and you can't fix it
with your distro's tools. Knoppix to the rescue. Insert the CD, reboot,
and if your system is capable of X, Knoppix will run it. You might need
to use one of Knoppix's "cheat codes" on boot, most notably the xvrefresh= cheatcode, but one
way or another if your system is capable of X, you'll run X.
Once X is running, right-click one of your partitions, set it
read-write, and copy /etc/X11/XF86Config-4
to that partition. Be sure to also mount the root partition read-write
long enough to set the default runlevel down to 3 in /etc/inittab. Reboot, remove
the CD, back up your original X configuration file, and copy the one
from Knoppix over it. Most likely you'll now have a working X. Tweak as
This same method can be used for any configuration file -- sound,
network, whatever. If Knoppix detects it, you can mount a partition
read/write, save the config file created by Knoppix, then use that
config file in your distro, and slowly experiment to make it even
Knoppix as a Rescue CD
This subject has its own web page.
Using Knoppix for
If you're in law enforcement and want to scan a computer's hard disks
for kiddie porn or terrorist activities, consider Knoppix. You can
quickly and easily mount all the computer's drives and partitions
read-only, and then, at your own pace, use commands dd, strings and grep to peruse the hard disk as
a device (see deleted files), and the files themselves. This works for
both Linux and Windows computers.
If some script kiddie busted into your computer and you want to
investigate without further damage, take it off the Internet and boot
up a Knoppix CD. You can now look at all your log files through a known
good operating system.
Knoppix as a Low TCO Desktop Distro
This subject has its own web page.