Knoppix 6.2 Released – Departure from Swiss Army Knife Moniker

26 11 2009

A breath of new life has come to an old but faithful Linux distribution, Knoppix. Version 5.1.1 was released in January 2007 and 2 years later no further activity convinced me that Knoppix was a dead project, maybe Klaus Knopper had other things to occupy his time.

Fast forward to 2009 and we have seen 3 releases of Knoppix since February 2009 alone. The latest version 6.2 was released on November 18th 2009. Knoppix popularized the idea of a ‘Live CD’ where one could boot a computer to the CD without having to install anything on the hard drive. You could literally try before you committed to using it, or only use it for troubleshooting. It came with a large collection of free software which justly earned it the title of  a ‘Swiss Army Knife’ for computer enthusiasts and technicians. Other Linux distributions such as Suse and Ubuntu have also utilized the ‘Live CD’ delivery mechanism. What set Knoppix apart from other Linux distributions was its ability to automatically detect and configure for a systems hardware on the fly during boot-up, and it often got all devices working on systems I used it on. Other Linux distributions have followed suit and offer the hardware detection capability as well.

New Desktop

With Knoppix 6.0.1 released in February 2009, the KDE desktop was replaced with LXDE, a lightweight desktop environment. Many software packages were also absent from this version. Version 6.2 released November 2009 has further reduced the number of software packages included in the standard release. The Knoppix release notes indicate this is to encourage folks to re-master Knoppix adding tools specific to a need or purpose, such as computer forensics or educational tools etc. The good news is that the DVD version does include a large number of software packages, but even with the DVD version Kstars (Virtual Planetarium) and K3B (CD/DVD burner) are absent. Alternatives for K3B are on both the CD and DVD versions of Knoppix.

Swiss Army Knife looses its blades/tools.

No longer can the CD version of Knoppix be thought of as a Swiss Army Knife or technicians toolkit, it’s been reduced to a single blade :-( It has evolved to become a base platform for hobbyists to extend. It’s a shame, I have utilized Knoppix for many years as a diagnostic tool kit. Its usefulness as such is now diminished and I have been using Ubuntu as a supplement since Ubuntu is on a regular release schedule. Now Knoppix is actually outpacing Ubuntu in releases and includes later versions of the Linux kernel and web browsers. I look forward to where Klaus Knopper takes this platform during 2010 and beyond.

Gains ability to install bootable image on flash drives and SD cards.

Knoppix since the 6.0.1 release has had a really nifty feature whereby a fully working and bootable copy of Knoppix can be installed onto a USB Flash Drive or SD Card using a  built-in utility. It just takes a few clicks to install, previously this feat was only for the most technical, now your grandmother could do it. The utility is very safe, not allowing you to install on a mounted device by accident (ie the HD you just booted from). This feature makes Knoppix truly portable and capable of saving configuration changes and locally stored files between sessions. I have found the ability to boot systems to Knoppix on an SD card to be especially useful, netbooks and other modern systems support booting from a memory card. SD cards are so much more compact versus a CD or USB flash drive. Carrying a bootable operating system in your camera bag is very feasible!!

Kick its Tires!!

Interested in kicking Knoppix’s tires? Visit their website and download from one of many mirrors.

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