The process of getting hold of Knoppix Linux isn’t quite as hand-holding as you might expect from your average Ubuntu distribution, but it’s certainly got a few tricks of its own up its sleeve.
For once you’ve gone through the main website and chosen a download mirror to get Knoppix from (and you’ll be faced with a bewildering selection of options, so do make sure you pick the right one), then it doesn’t take too long from there for its merits to become clear.
That’s particularly true if you choose to get hold of the version that comes with Adriane installed. For Adriane is an accessibility dream come true (allowing particularly users with visual impairments the chance to take full control of their PC), and in conjunction with the main operating system, makes for quite a powerful toolkit.
We opted to download the ISO file with Adriane included, and this neatly filled a CD. We then booted from that and arrived at a basic screen. This allows you to choose what you’d like to do from a simple text menu, that pops up fairly quickly.
Without installing anything, this menu allows you to jump straight to a graphical or text-based web browser (the latter took us back to the mid-90s!), or you can jump straight to e-mail, SMS, your file manager or boot up to a full graphical environment.
These are but some of the options and they’re very useful to have. They allow you to get in, do what you need to do and move on, with the bare minimum of fuss. It’s very helpful and works a treat. Note that should you, for instance, load up a single component, then that’s your lot; there’s no heading off to a menu to load up something else.
Should you choose to boot into the full Knoppix, the ethos is the same; an operating system that gets you at the pump of your PC quickly, without filling your hard disk with bloat. What’s more, its compatibility is wide-ranging and excellent. We tried it across a variety of systems and we can’t remember a live Linux CD that gave us so few compatibility problems.
The operating system itself is based on Debian, and while the desktop is kept really quite clean and simple, there’s enough going on under the surface to impress. It certainly picked up our network quickly enough and played back a variety of media files without muttering once that it needed extra codecs. There’s also a version of OpenOffice 3 ready and waiting, and the general feeling that you’re getting a packed toolkit for when problems arise.
Would we opt for it as our day to day desktop operating system? Probably not. That’s no slight on it, but we couldn’t help but feel that it isn’t Knoppix’s role in life. But as a friend to have at hand in the middle of a crisis, we can think of few discs we’d turn to quicker than the one sporting our copy of Knoppix 6. It’s a thorough, quite superb live CD, and an invaluable support to have when the fit hits the shan.