The DistRogue

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Review: Knoppix 5.0.1

Knoppix is a legend in Linux. Klaus Knopper, its creator, made the first live CD by tricking out Debian, and Knoppix is the result. Version 5.0.1 has 2 gigabytes of software on a 700MB CD. This enourmous bundle includes 5 window managers (KDE, IceWM, LarsWM, Fluxbox, and WindowMaker), several games, a myriad of utilities, and some miscellany that'll keep anyone amused for hours. The utilities, which include QtParted and a GRUB installer, can be priceless if your hard drive fails. Knoppix boots relatively fast, but there's room for improvement. Enter Accelerated Knoppix. People have reported miraculous boot times with AK, but as far as speed afterwards, there's not much difference. To launch an app, Knoppix has to find the app on theCD, uncompress it, and then run it. Most Live CDs have to do this, but if you happen to have a gig of RAM in your box, type "knoppix toram" at the boot prompt instead of just hitting ENTER. This loads it all into RAM, which would be great if Knoppix didn't use that as a file-storage system, too, but you can always mount other drives and use swap space.
When I booted Knoppix, it started into KDE, which you can change. I like KDE, thank you very much. I played Frozen Bubble, on my laptop, with no visible lag at all, even with all the effects turned on and using KDE. On the other hand, none of the utilities I tried worked to get my Belkin F5D7010 wireless card working, but I didn't try NDISWrapper.
My copy of Knoppix has saved my system before. It's a bit annoying that QtParted makes you reboot after every operation, but it does help. I used it to reformat my drive when I decided not to run Windows anymore, and when I messed up GRUB with a bad Arch install, Knoppix's installer was there. If you want your MP3 collection while you're rescuing your files, launch XMMS, which has an MP3 codec built in, among others. I had some real fun with Audacity, importing my copy of "Head Like A Hole" and listening to it backwards. I've tried other distros with Audacity, but Knoppix was the only one with a copy that worked on my laptop.
After the install, everything fell apart. After a while, Knoppix wouldn't even boot, and I still couldn't get my wireless card to work. But Knoppix is supposed to be a live distro, and not for an install. The CD works perfectly, but I'm sticking with Xubuntu.
All in all, Knoppix is a good idea for any Linux user, but not as a main system. Burn a CD as a rescue disk, or just use it to make your friends envious (or use the new Mandriva One CD, which has Compiz). By the way, Ace of Penguins Solitaire is a great placebo for Windows' infamous solitaire.
Friendliness: 4/5- It uses KDE, and basic tasks are a piece of cake. Almost all utilities are graphical.
Performance: 3.5/5- Ouch. Takes long to launch apps, but once launched, it's all Gentoo.
Features: 5/5- Has just about every utility known to geekkind.
Packaging: 4/5- Can't install apps on the CD, but it uses Synaptic with Ubuntu and Debian's pools combined.
Overall: 4.13/5- DEFINITELY burn a copy.
PS: If you like Knoppix enough to use as a workstation, try Kanotix.
My next review is for PCLinuxOS. Think Knoppix, but friendlier and aimed at Windows users (and installable). After that, it's the DistRogue's first distro table to sum up my reviews so far.