Knoppix 3.6 is Out, What's New?

by Kyle Rankin

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Well the latest version of Knoppix, 3.6, has been released, something you can tell because all the usual sites are either responding slowly or are completely down.

I was able to get the release via the torrent that is floating around.

This release sports a new light blue background that is not nearly as busy as some past releases. For the most part the release is incremental, with updates to the Linux kernel (2.4.27 and 2.6.7 currently) and a few software updates (although KDE3.3 was held back until it stabilizes a bit). Other than a different look, most Knoppix users who have been using 3.4 will find 3.6 basically the same, with their favorite programs where they were previously. So far (and I've only been using it a bit at this point) the release seems stable, but I've heard from probono (the author of klik) that it appears that there are some incompatibilities with 3.6 and the current release of klik, so if you use klik you might want to hold onto your Knoppix 3.4 CD for a bit longer until things straighten out.

So why the version increment if not much has changed? Well most of the software is incremental, but there is one big change to Knoppix with 3.6--the introduction of Fabian Franz's FreeNX server. FreeNX is Fabian's reverse engineering of the proprietary nomachine NX server only with an Open Source license. [Edit 2004-08-30 I originally labeled this project as reverse engineering but after getting more clear information about the development process behind it it's clear that it is actually based from the Open Source libs that nomachine has released to provide a free alternative to the licensed nomachine NX server. Sorry for any confusion.] Fabian demoed this software at LinuxTag a few weeks ago and while it is still a rather new project, he has deemed it stable enough to introduce into this Knoppix release.

FreeNX (and nomachine's NX server) act in many ways like VNC or RDP for those of you who use those protocols to remotely access your Windows or Linux machines, except that NX server works from the X protocol level. It does many different tricks to speed up and compress remote X connections that I won't get into here, but suffice to say that the result is a pretty responsive remote X desktop over a dialup connection. It even uses the standard SSH port for its connections, so if you allow SSH into your network, you shouldn't have to reconfigure your firewall at all to take advantage of FreeNX.

To start the FreeNX server in Knoppix 3.6, click K menu->KNOPPIX->Services->Start NX server. It will run through a quick configuration script and then you will be able to connect to that machine remotely with the NX client (which is actually Open Source and is included with Knoppix).

So, is Knoppix 3.6 worth the download? I would say that if you are happy with 3.4 and you aren't interested in the FreeNX server that you would be fine to stick back with 3.4 for now, at least until it is upgraded to KDE 3.3. But if you are using an older release, 3.3 or older, or you want to try out FreeNX, I definitely recommend giving 3.6 a try.

So are you going to grab Knoppix 3.6? What version of Knoppix do you carry around?