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80. Knoppix makes using Linux easy

By Andrew D. Wright

The Internet in the year 2006 has become a scary place.

You run a Windows computer without anti-virus protection or forget to update your software, boom, your computer is taken over by the bad guys and serves as part of a botnet, a zombie army of home computers which are the source of more than 80% of junk email among other nastiness.

Odds are that more than half of the Windows users reading this column have computers which have been compromised in some manner and don't even know it.

One solution is to switch your computer from Windows to the Open Source operating system Linux. Open Source means that the software code for all the programs is both free of charge and open for inspection. Linux is much less of a target for bad guys because of its smaller market share and the greater difficulty to infect a Linux system.

The trouble is you really still need more than average computer skills to setup and run Linux. Linux developers realize this and are working on improving the interface for more general use.

The developers at Knoppix have a bootable CD and DVD which allow you to stick the disk in your drive, start up the computer and start using Linux, simple as that.

It detects your computer's hardware, sets it up for you and puts you into a point and click interface Windows users will be instantly familiar with. If you're on a high speed internet connection, that will be set up automatically as well.

Every piece of software you might want is included - web browsers, email software, Open Office, an office software suite compatible with Microsoft Office formats and a host of other programs, everything from games to graphics editing programs.

The Knoppix DVD contains more software but even the CD holds an impressive amount.

Want Windows back, simply reboot the computer without the Knoppix disk in the drive.

The good news is you can use Linux whenever you want without a lot of hassle or risk of damaging anything.

The bad news is that if you use the standard Windows 2000/XP NTFS file system on your hard drive then Linux can read your files but not modify them or write any new ones. If you have a disk drive using the FAT32 file system standard with Windows 95B, Windows 98 and Windows ME, you can save Knoppix settings permanently and update the software packages that came with the Knoppix disk.

You don't need to know anything at all about Linux to plunge in and start using Knoppix. You'll need a bit-torrent client to download the Knoppix CD or DVD disk image and you will need a CD or DVD burner and burner software to write the disk image to a blank CD or DVD. Once created the Knoppix disk can be used on any x86 compatible personal computer that can be set to boot from a CD or DVD drive.

It makes for a great backup in case you need to use your computer and Windows won't start.

Knoppix is not perfect but is under active development.

Windows users will find Linux naming conventions unfamiliar - your C: drive is called hda1 for example, and setting up hardware not automatically detected can be problematic.

Once set up though, Linux computers are low maintenance, secure and rock solid stable, capable of running for months without crashing or having to reboot.

Knoppix home site:

Note: the Knoppix 5 release does support reading and writing to Windows 2000/XP NTFS hard drive partitions.

The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about computing, email If we use your question in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.


The Mousepad Index


Originally published 19 March 2006


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