Friday, 29 August, 2003


Knoppix is a Linux distribution designed to be used from CD.  With a Knoppix CD in hand, you can run Linux from CD on any supported PC that can boot from the CD drive.  If you want to save your work, you'll have to mount a drive or store it to an external device (USB thumb drive, diskette, CD-RW, etc.).  Knoppix comes in handy for a number of things:  booting failed systems for troubleshooting, demonstrating Linux without having to install it, or quickly booting any system for use as a quick network test.

The last was especially useful to me this week.  I was setting up a test server on its own little network and needed to test the DHCP server.  My test client was a 400 MHz Dell that had XP running, but I didn't have a user ID and password to log into the box.  Rather than reinstall Windows on the box, I booted Knoppix.  Three minutes and I was ready to test.

The coolest thing about Knoppix (and I hinted about this last week when I mentioned Damn Small Linux) is the possibility of putting it on one of those thumb drives.  A 1 gigabyte thumb drive goes for about $320.  A full Knoppix distribution will eat up about 700 MB, leaving you 300 MB for data.  For most of us, 300 MB is more than enough to hold our current work.  You can carry your working software and your data on your key chain, and use any modern computer as a workstation.  Forget wireless hotspots in hotels and coffee shops.  Imagine instead public computers with no hard drives, CDs, diskettes, or other data storage devices; just a USB port and a connection to the Internet.  Walk up, plug in your thumb drive, and you're working.

The biggest problem with doing something like this is that it's just a gimmick unless those computers are ubiquitous.  I guess that's how wireless got started, though.  Just a few hot spots at first, slowly building until even McDonald's is selling wireless access with their Big Macs.