First Time Linux

Starting Knoppix

Assuming you have a bootable CD drive, starting Knoppix is just a question of having the CD in while you boot. If you can't boot from CD, you may need to change the BIOS settings (go into the menu that's offered at boot time) to allow booting from CD. Often the machine will be set up so that it attempts to boot from the floppy drive or the CD drive, before then trying the hard drive.

If your machine simply isn't capable of booting from CD (which is probably rare these days), all is not (quite) lost. What you need is to boot from a floppy disk, which contains instructions to continue the boot from the CD drive. There are conflicting instructions on the forums about how to create this boot disk- it used to be the case that the boot disk would fit on a single floppy, and a boot.img file was included on the CD. However with the growth of the kernel (and in particular the inclusion of more than one kernel), this isn't possible any more and so two boot floppies are needed. This is further complicated by the requirement to make the floppy disks from Knoppix itself (from the start menu under KNOPPIX -> Utilities). If you can't do that, or don't want two boot floppies, then read the forums for instructions on a generic boot floppy called Smart Boot Manager (SBR).

There are rumours of people being able to boot Knoppix from more exotic devices, but this is falling into experimental ground. From here on, we'll assume you're booting from CD.

Boot options

When Knoppix boots, it presents you with the opportunity to enter a command before starting Linux. A list of the options is available on the CD in a file called knoppix-cheatcodes.txt. One nice one to try the first time you use your cd is knoppix testcd which calculates the MD5 checksums for the files on the CD and compares them with what they should be. It's fairly likely that if it got this far, it's ok, but it's a neat trick.

If you don't type anything, Knoppix will go ahead and start up with default options anyway - you can experiment with various combinations. Usually the commands start with the word knoppix and then any number of options separated by spaces. The most useful ones (at least at first) are:

There are a host of other options, many of them to allow for overriding the hardware detection in case of problems, and many for changing the way the CD image, the configuration and the home directories are loaded. It may be useful to keep a printout of the knoppix-cheatcodes.txt file for reference.

What it looks like

An exciting time - the first real look at a first real Linux desktop. And what do we see?

Knoppix desktop

Well, everything looks fairly familiar, if just a little bit different. Contrary to some expectations of unix systems, it does indeed have a windowing system, with a wallpaper (albeit this time with a penguin on it!), a taskbar along the bottom of the screen, with the obligatory clock, and some slightly oddly-named icons on the left. We'll look at the screen in more detail in the next section.