These classnotes are depreciated. As of 2005, I no longer teach the classes. Notes will remain online for legacy purposes

UNIX02/What Is Knoppix

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One of the hurdles for adopting Debian in general purposes is that Debian can be very difficult to install. It has many versatile and diverse installation methods, but most of them are quite difficult and require intimate knowledge of your hardware and a deep understanding of Linux. There is, however, one very simple way to install Debian: Knoppix.

What is Knoppix?

Knoppix is a "live-on-CD" Linux distribution based upon Debian. It was originally intended to be an example of what Linux can be like on the desktop, however, it has proven to be versatile enough to satisfy a wide-range of situations:

  • You can install Debian very easily using it. In fact, you can install Debian in less than 20 minutes with appropriately fast hardware.
  • Knoppix can server as a security tool for optimizing/testing a Linux install (we will use it this way in the next class, UNIX03).
  • Knoppix can be used for hard drive maintenance. Everything from data copying/archiving (with arbitrary OSes) to hard drive erasure.
  • Knoppix can be used as a very feature-rich Linux rescue disk (we will touch upon these concepst today).

Basically, almost every desktop Linux tool you would want or need is probably included with Knoppix. Everything you need for setting up a RAID, reparing partitions, to resetting forgotten passwords can be found. This also means that Knoppix can be a security concern, as a malicious user with access to your machines could use Knoppix to compromise your systems.

Knoppix is developed primarily in German, and as such, much of the software defaults to German. This means that if you wish to install, you will need to set an alternative default language if you desire. Even when you do this, there are some applications (for example, Open Office) which will remain in German.

When you first put in the Knoppix CD, you will be greeted with the following boot screen:

Here you can enter in a number of options for booting Knoppix. If you would like to see a summary of these options, hit F2:

As you can see, to specify a language default other than German, you would use the 'lang=xx' specifier. For example, US English would be 'lang=us'. You can also specify resolutions and display managers here.

The default display manager is KDE, and the default screen for Knoppix (if nothing else is specified) looks something like this:

By default, Knoppix comes with the root account disabled (it has a blank password). You can pass any command and have it executed as root using the 'sudo' command as usual, but if you want to log in as root using 'su' you will need to first 'sudo passwd':

In order to install from Knoppix, you can simply copy the contents of the /KNOPPIX directory, or you can run the automated install for Knoppix:

 # /usr/local/bin/knx-hdinstall

Knoppix Forks

Knoppix has become a very interresting tool as of late, and there have been many forks with varying functionalities. Here are a few of the more interesting ones:

This is essentially just ordinary Knoppix, but with Gnome instead of KDE as the default DE.

This is the "Security Tools Distribution" of Knoppix. It includes just about anything you might ever need for security uses. It can be used to encrypt filesystems, reset passwords, scan networks, scan for wireless networks, sniff packets, and many other things. The fact that it runs from a read-only filesystem is also a plus.

KNOPPIX Japanese Edition
Knoppix with Japanese fonts and localization.

A Linux distribution for the visually impared. This is Knoppix but with all of the audio-tools necessary for use by visually impared persons.

For more information on Knoppix:

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Last edited September 13, 2003 1:51 am (diff)
(C) Copyright 2003 Samuel Hart
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