Knoppix: A Painless Introduction to Linux

by David Brickner

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Arriving home early from work one day, and after feeding the cats, I realized I had about thirty minutes before my wife would come home. I decided this was just enough time to wipe Windows 2000 off her laptop and install Linux. Earlier that day I had tested the Knoppix distibution and its hard drive install program and decided both were a good fit for my wife's machine and her computer needs, which are quite basic.

For those who aren't familiar with it, Knoppix, which is based on Debian, is probably the easiest and safest Linux to setup and use. It is easy because it does an excellent job of detecting and configuring your hardware. It is safe because Knoppix runs entirely off the CD and never writes anything to your hard drive unless you tell it to. That means you don't have to worry about partioning your hard drive or losing information. Just stick the CD in your CD drive and boot your PC.

Knoppix comes with some very nice programs such as the KDE desktop (an attractive gui similar to Windows), (an MS Office replacement), KOffice (an up and coming office suite), Mozilla (an awesome web browser), several games including Frozen Bubbles (very addictive), and Evolution (an Outlook clone with virtual folders that create a very powerful way to organize your email).

Even people who do know about Knoppix aren't necessarily aware that it comes with a script, called knx-hdinstall, that makes it very easy to install Knoppix to your hard drive. On my wife's laptop, an older model Dell, Knoppix, in both its CD and installed forms, correctly configured video, wireless networking, sound, and USB. A combination that confounded the Red Hat 8 installer a few months ago.

My wife arrived home five minutes early, and I was still in the process of configuring her account. A few minutes after that she was surfing the web for figure skating information and checking her email.

Do you want to actively encourage others to try Linux? Make it easy on them by burning a copy of Knoppix, and you'll be insuring that their first Linux experience will be both painless and encouraging.