Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Derek Weeks, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Knoppix makes a great GUI installer for Debian

Can Knoppix make the dreaded Debian install such a piece of cake that even a doddering old journalist can put it on his laptop?

(LinuxWorld) — I've gotten in trouble with some readers lately. I would prefer to think it is just age and the curmudgeonhood that often accompanies it. But the truth is sometimes I just blow it. I don't mean the angry Windows users who were in denial about Linux being a better install. Nor am I talking about the gamesters (and game resellers) who felt it unfair of me to speculate on the reasons for Epic Games' stealth release of Unreal Tournament 2003 for Linux. I'm talking about someone who was dead right to call me on what I said.

His name is Klaus Knopper. He took me to task for having referred to Knoppix as a "demo distribution." Knoppix, of course, is wildly popular for demonstrating Linux. The Austin LUG, for example, recently gave away 400 Knoppix CDs from their booth at a local computer show.

As Knopper told me, "Knoppix is a real Debian system." I've seen mention of it being used as a rescue CD, as a secure firewall, as a portable network monitor and as a traveling companion that allows you to read e-mail away from home without leaving tell-tale traces on someone else's hard drive. Others have been interested in experimenting with it as a secure Apache server. Knopper has said he is working on a project that will allow it to be used as a terminal server.

Knoppix as a Debian installer

This week, I take a closer look at Knoppix in a different role: as a GUI installer for Debian. I first heard about this use for Knoppix when Knopper mentioned it on a private news server. Then Bill Eastman, a Knoppix user in the Austin LUG, brought the subject up on the LUG's mailing list. The idea intrigued me. What if Knoppix made the dreaded Debian install such a piece of cake that even a doddering old journalist could put it on his laptop?

I scribbled down the instructions from Knopper's post (sudo /usr/local/bin/knx-hdinstall) and went off to boot my trusty Sony Vaio laptop from the Knoppix CD I had just burned from the KNOPPIX-3.1-23-10-2002-EN.iso.

I entered the knoppix desktop-gnome command at the boot prompt to get me to my preferred desktop environment and, sure enough, that is what appeared. After opening an Xterm window, I entered the sudo command noted above, and I was off to the races.

The very first thing to appear was a warning that the hard-disk installation process is very much "under development." You need to be aware that bad things might happen as a result. Do not proceed with the installation if you are at all worried about the contents of your hard drives.

Next the install script launched cfdisk to handle partitioning chores. I selected the only choice I had for the hard disk, then left the partition table as it had been under Red Hat 8. That gave me a smallish partition I could use for boot, a swap partition, and everything else to root.

After exiting cfdisk, I was asked if I wanted a swap partition. I said yes and it asked me if the 256-megabyte partition was the one I wanted to use. I said yes again.

The installer asked me which partition to use as root and showed me the small partition used as boot by Red Hat and the large partition. I chose the large one and the install script created a file system on it.

Then it was time to start copying files. I was warned that it would take 30 or 40 minutes, but in fact it only took about 15. A series of interactive questions and answers followed.

  • Start a mail server (smail) at boot? (No)
  • Start sshd at boot? (Yes)
  • Start Samba at boot? (No)
  • Start kdm at boot? (No)

Then I was asked for a host name and to select the network device. The only option for the device was eth0 so that's what I chose. I said Yes to DHCP.

Next came my Unix and user password. The default user, by the way, was Knoppix. Did I want LILO on the MBR? Yep, but skip the boot diskette if you don't mind. That was it. It took 27 minutes from booting from the CD to complete the basic installation.

I powered the Sony down, removed the CD from the drive, and powered it back up. Amazing! There was a full blown (and configured) Debian system with Internet access! However, there were also a couple of "gotchas." For one thing, everything was in German. By everything, I mean keyboard layout as well as language. For another, Gnome had been replaced with KDE.

I found Bill Eastman on the #knoppix channel on irc.openprojects.net and asked for guidance. He walked me through the language localization change. It's easy if you know where it is. I simply right-clicked on the DE in the bottom right hand corner of the screen and a menu appeared. I chose English and applied it. When I restarted X, I could read the menus and use a familiar keyboard layout again. Eastman later informed me that if I had entered Lang=us at boot time, the language/locale would not have reverted to German.

Eastman doesn't use Gnome so he couldn't help me get my favorite environment back. A quick visit to the #debian channel on the same IRC gave me an easy way to fix that. All I needed to do was apt-get install gdm and restart X. Now I was cooking.

Easy updates too

I decided I would do one more thing before calling it an install. Just as I had done with the Windows and Red Hat installs, I decided to bring the new installation up-to-date with all the latest security patches. I got help again on the #debian channel on how to accomplish this.

Pretty easy, really. I added deb http://security.debian.org stable/updates main contrib non-free to my /etc/apt/sources.list, then ran apt-get update and apt-get upgrade. The whole process took me about 10 minutes.

That means the entire process took less than 40 minutes. Of course, it doesn't include configuring the USB IBM PC Camera that the other installations did, but it does include everything else, including OpenOffice 1.0. Color me impressed.

I don't know whether Knoppix made the Debian installation any faster than a knowledgeable Debian user could have done it, but it certainly saved me a lot of time. The configuration process on a normal Debian installation can be daunting. What Knoppix did was to automagically identify and configure everything for me.

I don't recommend using Knoppix this way for a complete newbie, but if you are halfway familiar with Linux and your PC, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend using Knoppix as a Debian installer. One more use of a truly amazing (and a very real) Linux distribution. My apologies to Knopper and the Knoppix project sponsors at the LinuxTag association for ever saying otherwise.

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 (1) 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
bgfay 03/23/04 08:05:19 PM EST

The installer is great but has a couple bugs. First, it would be great if someone would make Knoppix for US English. Most of it is easy to switch but OpenOffice installs in German. The only way I was able to fix it was to remove that version and install another. Not exactly convenient. There are also some issues with dual booting that were fixable, but not easy to someone like me who has a year or so of experience running GNU/Linux.

I've also got to figure out now how to get the rest of the pieces of the system installed. I have a RedHat 8.0 install at home and it has a whole lot more of the command line stuff installed by default. I know that I can do this with apt-get but I haven't done any of it yet.

All in all, the install was really good and these are just minor issues. As a point of comparison, I couldn't get Fedora to make the network connection on the same machine that Knoppix found immediately and the Mandrake install hung hard every time it tried to read from the CDROM. How Knoppix is so good at detecting hardware, I don't know, but I wish that every distro would copy it.

I can't wait to see the next iteration of Knoppix and I'm hoping that by then I'll understand more of what's going on in Debian. Thanks to the Knoppix crew and to Joe for the article. Because of you folks and a little bit of work on my part, we now have our first working Linux system at school. The kids are intrigued and asking when we can install it on the other nine computers. Cool.

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business...
SYS-CON Events announced today that GrapeUp, the leading provider of rapid product development at the speed of business, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company, specialized in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market acr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st Int\ernational Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to focus on the core of their ...
New competitors, disruptive technologies, and growing expectations are pushing every business to both adopt and deliver new digital services. This ‘Digital Transformation’ demands rapid delivery and continuous iteration of new competitive services via multiple channels, which in turn demands new service delivery techniques – including DevOps. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 20th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, panelists examined how DevOps helps to meet the de...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy named "Bronze Sponsor" of 21st International Cloud Expo which will take place October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud com...
We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
In his session at Cloud Expo, Alan Winters, an entertainment executive/TV producer turned serial entrepreneur, presented a success story of an entrepreneur who has both suffered through and benefited from offshore development across multiple businesses: The smart choice, or how to select the right offshore development partner Warning signs, or how to minimize chances of making the wrong choice Collaboration, or how to establish the most effective work processes Budget control, or how to ma...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists looked at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deliver...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Lachapelle, CEO of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), provided an overview of various initiatives to certify the security of connected devices and future trends in ensuring public trust of IoT. Eric Lachapelle is the Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), an international certification body. His role is to help companies and individuals to achieve professional, accredited and worldwide re...
Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a technology juggernaut that has disrupted multiple markets and industries and touches many aspects of our lives. It is a relentless technology and business model innovator driving disruption throughout numerous ecosystems. Amazon’s AWS revenues alone are approaching $16B a year making it one of the largest IT companies in the world. With dominant offerings in Cloud, IoT, eCommerce, Big Data, AI, Digital Assista...
No hype cycles or predictions of zillions of things here. IoT is big. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, Associate Partner at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data analytics considerations, edge-to-cloud tec...
"When we talk about cloud without compromise what we're talking about is that when people think about 'I need the flexibility of the cloud' - it's the ability to create applications and run them in a cloud environment that's far more flexible,” explained Matthew Finnie, CTO of Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
IoT solutions exploit operational data generated by Internet-connected smart “things” for the purpose of gaining operational insight and producing “better outcomes” (for example, create new business models, eliminate unscheduled maintenance, etc.). The explosive proliferation of IoT solutions will result in an exponential growth in the volume of IoT data, precipitating significant Information Governance issues: who owns the IoT data, what are the rights/duties of IoT solutions adopters towards t...
With the introduction of IoT and Smart Living in every aspect of our lives, one question has become relevant: What are the security implications? To answer this, first we have to look and explore the security models of the technologies that IoT is founded upon. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nevi Kaja, a Research Engineer at Ford Motor Company, discussed some of the security challenges of the IoT infrastructure and related how these aspects impact Smart Living. The material was delivered interac...
The Internet giants are fully embracing AI. All the services they offer to their customers are aimed at drawing a map of the world with the data they get. The AIs from these companies are used to build disruptive approaches that cannot be used by established enterprises, which are threatened by these disruptions. However, most leaders underestimate the effect this will have on their businesses. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rene Buest, Director Market Research & Technology Evangelism at Ara...
When growing capacity and power in the data center, the architectural trade-offs between server scale-up vs. scale-out continue to be debated. Both approaches are valid: scale-out adds multiple, smaller servers running in a distributed computing model, while scale-up adds fewer, more powerful servers that are capable of running larger workloads. It’s worth noting that there are additional, unique advantages that scale-up architectures offer. One big advantage is large memory and compute capacity...
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, neural networks. We’re in the midst of a wave of excitement around AI such as hasn’t been seen for a few decades. But those previous periods of inflated expectations led to troughs of disappointment. Will this time be different? Most likely. Applications of AI such as predictive analytics are already decreasing costs and improving reliability of industrial machinery. Furthermore, the funding and research going into AI now comes from a wide range of com...