Knoppix 4.0 DVD - Like a Kid in a Candy Store

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Kyle Rankin

Kyle Rankin
Jun. 24, 2005 09:32 AM

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A totally new release of Knoppix was unveiled at LinuxTag 2005, Knoppix 4.0. This is the release that introduces the split between "maxi" DVD and "mini" CD releases. I've tried out the 4.0 DVD and let me tell you, I'm like a kid in a candy store.

Note: This DVD is not yet available for download. Klaus often creates a special version of Knoppix for LinuxTag that then gets released to the general public (often with some updates) a few weeks afterward. In the case of Knoppix 4.0 I imagine the DVD being handed out at LinuxTag will be pretty similar in features and software to what gets released to the general public. Still, think of this review as more of a preview of what the download release likely will be.

Klaus Knopper has always been able to fit tons of useful software on his CD releases. With each release it was amazing just how much functionality he squeezed into a 700Mb CD image. However some time around the beginning of the 3.x series you could tell that it wouldn't last forever. With each release it seemed like some software had to go--the Koffice suite for example--as major packages such as KDE and OpenOffice just kept getting bigger. It seemed from the outside like the largest efforts going into Knoppix were just figuring out what to keep and what to leave behind, and how to squeeze everything on the CD.

With the 4.0 DVD, these problems are a thing of the past. As I was browsing through the software so I could write this blog entry, I felt like a kid in a candy store. There are simply tons of packages on this DVD. For one, Klaus has included the Gnome desktop environment so you can choose between KDE, Gnome, Window Maker, Ice WM, XFCE, fluxbox, openbox, and others. To change the desktop from the default KDE desktop, just click K->Knoppix->Utilities->Choose/Restart KNOPPIX Desktop, or at boot type the cheat code desktop=name_of_desktop. Even the default desktop has a fresh look--KDE itself has updated packages and uses the PlastiK theme by default.

There are hoards of other tools included on the DVD as well. It's difficult to know where to begin (and I've only scratched the surface of this DVD so far), but some packages of note are a suite of KDE-based bluetooth management tools, the Epiphany browser, the complete KOffice suite, loads of games, the Blender 3d modeller, tons of development tools, and many other programs. In addition to the new packages, every package has received an update including the kernel (2.6.11), KDE (3.4.1), Firefox (1.0.4) and Thunderbird (1.0.2).

Knoppix 4.0 includes UnionFS as well, so if Knoppix somehow doesn't have the software you need included on the DVD, you can use either the KPackage or Synaptic graphical packaging tools, or apt-get from the command line to install directly to the ramdisk just like with an installed Linux distribution. To save any changes you have made, click "K->Knoppix->Configure->Create a persistent KNOPPIX disk image" and follow the directions in the wizard to save the changes to writeable media like a usb drive.

For Windows users, Knoppix even includes the ClamAV virus scanner by default so you can scan a system for viruses even if you don't have network access. Just boot Knoppix, click on the hard drive icon that represents your Windows partition (probably /dev/hda), and then, if you have Internet access, run sudo freshclam with no arguments from a console to update your definitions, otherwise go to the next step. The next step is to run the actual scan, so type:

$ clamscan -r --bell /mnt/hda1 > ~/clamscan.txt

Replace /mnt/hda1 with the path to your mounted Windows partition (or even a subdirectory on that partition). The scan will take some time depending on the size of the partition, so put on a pot of coffee. When the scan finishes, you can tail the file to see the results:

knoppix@0[knoppix]$ tail ~/clamscan.txt

----------- SCAN SUMMARY -----------
Known viruses: 35469
Engine version: 0.85.1
Scanned directories: 1516
Scanned files: 21658
Infected files: 0
Data scanned: 4597.77 MB
Time: 2898.263 sec (48 m 18 s)

I've really only scratched the surface of the Knoppix 4.0 DVD. There are many other new tools that I still need to explore, but suffice to say that having a DVD's worth of Knoppix greatly increases the flexibility of the tool. I look forward to seeing the "Download version" of the DVD be released to the general public.

Kyle Rankin is a system administrator who enjoys troubleshooting, problem solving, and system recovery. He is also the author of Knoppix Hacks, Knoppix Pocket Reference, Linux Multimedia Hacks, and Ubuntu Hacks for O'Reilly Media.