Welcome!

Linux Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Victoria Livschitz, Ignacio M. Llorente

Related Topics: Linux

Linux: Article

A Linux you can try before you even install it

Plus, a reaction to reader's flames about our Windows vs. Linux installation comparo

(LinuxWorld) -- It's strange how things work out sometimes. I was feeling a bit burned out by the install wars. I don't mean the difficulty of getting an OS to lay down politely on a system. I mean seared by the flames from those whose belief systems were shattered by my column last week. There were more than a couple Windows users who became "excited" by my report that Red Hat 7.3 was a better, faster, and easier install than Windows 2000.

"It's an unfair comparison!" was the most common whine. It wasn't unfair at all -- it was an honest, uncontrived real-life experience. However, I do agree with the readers that there are many unfair things in the whole scenario.

First, it is unfair of Microsoft to force the OEMs to use restore media instead of including an OEM CD version like the one they used to be able to do. As bad as most Windows users I heard from believe the restore process to be, and in spite of their desire to blame Sony for that, it seems to me that Microsoft is trying to gouge its consumers by getting them to pay for a second copy of Windows in order to avoid the dreaded Windows "restore experience." I was amazed at how many Windows users felt that was the best course of action.

Next, it is unfair that I have to explain the facts of Microsoft's business practices to its users. Count each and every angry, red-faced Windows user writing in to tell me I was a clueless idiot (or worse) for using the restore disks as a person completely ignorant of the impositions Microsoft places on the OEMs. For this sizable and special group, I offer to them whatever solace and encouragement they might find in the words of Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer: "Eat the dogfood."

Of course, it is unfair for the vast majority of Microsoft users, those who have gotten their Windows preloaded, using the restore disks as I did is the only legal way they have to reinstall Windows. That is unless they fall into that category of user with enough money and so little good sense as to rush out and pay for a new retail version. All that in order to save the extra 5 or 10 minutes the restore actually takes.

The unfair thing of all is the evil EULAs with which Microsoft binds its victims. Customers buy Windows under one license and then find that the license is actually living document that can be updated and changed unilaterally by Microsoft. One thing is certain. Microsoft's dot Net project must really be hurting. Otherwise they wouldn't be trying to steal their customers' right to free speech, they would be paying customers to publicize it.

After the hundreds of emails I got on the column, I was tired of discussing installations at all. I needed a quick fix. Something easy. Something good. I noticed some folks on a mailing list I subscribe to talking about Knoppix. Then a reader commenting on last week's column mentioned it as well. I had to try it. I found it to be all I needed: quick, easy, and good.

Knoppix, the painless Linux test drive

Knoppix is an "instant demo" distribution. You make (or buy if you don't have a CD burner or the bandwidth to download the ISO image) a bootable CD, plop it in your CD drive (for you newbies, CD drive is the technical name for the coffee cup holder that slides in and out on the front of your computer), and reboot.

Voila. THAT is your install. Now you are running one rad Linux, dude. On your Knoppix desktop (built atop a Debian base) you'll find Knoppix provides KDE 3.0.2 with its Konquerer browser, the GIMP for images, Kdevelop for coding, and - hold on to your hats, folks -- Open Office 1.0. In all, more than 900 executable programs are included in the ISO image. It's amazing.

In about 2 minutes time, including the boot sequence, Knoppix has sniffed all your hardware, configured itself for you video card and your Internet access, and loaded the KDE 3.0.2 environment. A svelte female voice announces the KDE startup. When you exit the demo, the same voice tells you it is beginning to shut down. Shut itself down it does, turning off the machine as it leaves.

Knoppix doesn't interfere with anything on your hard drives. Makes no never mind if you are running Windows or Linux. Any partitions it finds are opened in read only mode. This makes it perfectly safe for even the rawest newbie to surf and explore Linux right from their own machine.

You can, however, unmount a partition and remount it in read-write mode. You're on your own then, however, as you can certainly mess something up if you're not careful. You can do it with a couple of mouse clicks in the GUI. No MSG (Masters degree in geek) required.

See the image below? That is of me running Knoppix on this very machine. I was using vi from Knoppix to edit this story. The text file lived on my hard drive. I captured the screenshot using the GIMP and saving it to the /tmp directory on that same drive.

All I had to do was right-click on the icon representing my disk partition, select the properties tab, and un-click the Read-only property. Then I mounted the drive by clicking on Mount. It's very easy.

Knoppix desktop view
Editor's note: The above image is reduced in size and color palette to allow it to load quickly. Click on the above image to see the original. Or, you may view a full-sized, reduced-color version that will load more quickly.

Of course just because you can write to the hard drives doesn't mean you should. Knoppix is, after all, a "live demo" distribution and it isn't meant to be a way to run Linux on a fulltime basis.

The real message is this: if you've wanted to give Linux a whirl but were afraid to ask, don't be any longer. Get Knoppix. Boot the CD. You're there, baby. Surfing, playing, checking out Open Office, the KDE desktop, the development environment. Whatever. It is a great learning tool. When you're finished, you are right back where you started without a hair out of place.

More Stories By Joe Barr

Joe Barr is a freelance journalist covering Linux, open source and network security. His 'Version Control' column has been a regular feature of Linux.SYS-CON.com since its inception. As far as we know, he is the only living journalist whose works have appeared both in phrack, the legendary underground zine, and IBM Personal Systems Magazine.

Comments (3) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Adipex 03/21/04 12:40:59 PM EST

wouldnt have believed that it would've been soo damn simple

Joe Ferrare 03/13/04 08:39:42 PM EST

Try this url http://www-106.ibm.com/developerworks/linux/library/l-knopx.html It's an IBM developerworks article called System recovery with Knoppix. It might not have exactly what you want, but it's a start.

David Caradoc-Hodgkins 03/13/04 05:32:31 PM EST

I have purchased the Knoppix 3.2 CD to use as a 'Data Recovery Tool',I ordered the CD from the USA as a special recovery tool called "Hot Fix" and received the Knoppix 3.2 cd.
I am a Linux RAW BEGINNER and very much want to learn much more, I am a Windows user but this looks really great!
Where can I obtain a BOOK/INFO on how to use the Knoppix Linux KDE system etc for ie: Mounting int & ext CD/DVDs,Floppies,Printers for moving/copying the recovered data etc from someones PC/Laptop.
Thanks to any help offered
David

@ThingsExpo Stories
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.