Testing LinuxOk, now it's time to stick your toe in the Linux waters and see if it is to your liking. Don't worry, there's no commitment here. Knoppix is a live on CD version of Linux. That means you don't have to install it on your computer to run it. Knoppix runs entirely off the CD and makes no changes at all to your computer unless you specifically tell it to. To go back to Window$ all you have to do is remove the CD and reboot. So quit fretting, put your freshly burned Knoppix CD in your computer and restart it. If your computer boots into Window$ as usual, then you need to change the your computer's BIOS settings to allow booting from a CDROM and try it again. Consult the manual that came with your computer or motherboard if you are unsure about how to modify your BIOS settings.
If everything is configured properly, then after a few seconds of CD drive activity, the Knoppix boot screen should pop up. You can press F2 or F3 for lists of boot up options. Knoppix will boot just fine on most computers with the default settings. So for now though, just hit Enter and see what happens. Don't be alarmed by all the strange looking stuff that scrolls up the screen during the boot process. It's perfectly normal. After a few seconds the GUI interface should start up. If Knoppix correctly detects and configures your sound card, then you should hear a female voice say "Initiating startup sequence" at some point. In a few more seconds you will arrive at the Knoppix desktop which should look something like this.
New versions of knoppix get released from time to time.A new version of Knoppix may have come out since this web site was created, but things ought to look pretty much like the above image. If on the other hand you are staring at a black screen, see note 1 below.
I need to mention at this point though that you are running off of software on the live CD, rather than off of a hard drive installation. So things are going to run a little slow. There will be a lag between when you issue a command or click on a program and you see the result. Keep that in mind and don't assume that Linux just runs slow. If you like what you see here, you do a hard drive installation of the program and see just how well it really works.
Ok, now that you have Linux up and running on your computer, what can you do with it? Basically, you can do everything you do with Windows and more. In fact, doesn't the interface even look a lot like Windows? It's a little different, but not so different as to be totally alien and incomprehensible. Many of the features you are used to from the Windows environment are right where you expect them to be. With just a little experimentation you could probably figure out how to navigate around and launch programs.
The interface should be totally familiar to anyone used to using Windows. Just like in Windows there are some icons scattered on the desktop. You will have icons for each partition on each of your hard drives, as well as icons for the floppy and CD drives. There will also be the familiar "Trash Can" icon. A few other icons may be present as well. At the bottom is something else familiar to windows users, the task bar. It has all the usual features of a task bar including "Quick Launch" icons for frequently used applications, plus the clock and some other features unique to Linux that we will discuss later.
The equivalent of the "Start" button is the little "K-Gear" icon on the lower left side of the task bar.
Clicking on that button will bring up the familiar cascading menu of options just like you get when you click on the Start button on a Windows machine.
The items on the menu are (I think) grouped much more logically than in Windows. Similar programs are grouped together under a single category instead of being just all jumbled together. Not only does this make finding the program for a given job easier, but it also illustrates another fact about Linux. There is always more than one way to do something. In fact it is something of a running joke among Linux users that for every application there are a dozen or more different programs available that can do the job.
Take a few minutes to look around the menu and at the wealth of software available to you. The huge amount of software that comes already bundled in is one of the biggest advantages of using Linux. On a machine that has Windows installed, you really can't do much of anything without buying a lot of additional software (and this after already spending a bundle just on Windows). Most Linux distributions though include hundreds of useful applications at no extra charge. Once you install Linux (or boot from a live CD) you are ready to get down to work with no extra steps or expenses.
Put your mouse pointer over the "Editors" category on the menu. Another menu will pop up with a lot of choices. Emacs, Joe, KWrite, Kate, NEdit, Vim, zile, and maybe a few others will be available to you if you want to edit a text file.
Now try the "Graphics" category. The list that pops up is too long to talk about each one here. There are close to two dozen different programs listed. They run the gamut from simple little image viewers like KView and Kuickshow, to a paint program like KPaint, to a screen capture program like KSnapshot, to programs for interfacing with your digital camera like gqcam, gtkam, and xcam, to a full-blown image editing suite like The Gimp with most of the functionality of a program like Photoshop, and there is yet more stuff too.
Wanna surf the web? Try the "Internet" category. Your web browser choices are Konqueror, Mozilla, Lynx and ELinks. For email there is KMail and Mozilla Mail. For instant messaging there is Gaim. XChat for IRC. There are lots of other useful tools there too.
Now try the "Multimedia" category. You can play your MP3 files with XMMS. Play CDs and DVDs with xine. View PDF files with Acrobat Reader. Burn your own CDs and DVDs with K3b. There's much more here too.
Do you do word processing or spreadsheets or create presentations? Look under the "Open Office" category. Open Office is a suite of programs that totally duplicates the functionality of Microsoft Office. They will even import your documents created under Windows and export to Windows for total compatibility. If you are used to Microsoft Office, you will be right at home with Open Office. There is a spreadsheet program called Calc which works just like Excel, A document creation program called Writer that works just like Word, a presentation program called Impress that works just like Powerpoint, database tools, drawing tools and even more. And guess what? It is all free! Compare that with the $400+ price of Microsoft Office Professional. Since the Open Office suite of productivity programs is bundled into Knoppix already, that means you can pop a Knoppix CD into any computer and be ready to go right to work. No muss, no fuss, no money.
Screenshot of OpenOffice Word Processor and Spreadsheet aps.
Now try the "Games" category. The number of entertainment choices here is mind boggling. There are arcade games, board games, card games, strategy games and games for kids. You can waste a lot of time and have a lot of fun playing these games. And if you figure out how to get past level 47 in Frozen Bubble, let me know the secret.
Are you a programmer or system administrator? Well if so, then you are probably already have experience using Linux and don't need me to tell you about its virtues, but loads of editors, compilers, debugging tools and administration tools come bundled with Knoppix Linux.
Do you want to host your own web sites? Knoppix Linux comes with the famous Apache web server software already bundled in and configured. All you have to do is add content and turn it on. Then you can be serving up your own web sites to your home or office intranet, or even to the whole World Wide Web.
Aside from all the great free software packages that come preinstalled with Knoppix Linux, there are thousands of others availble that you can download and install. Many of them either totally free or very reasonably priced.
Do you create or maintain web sites like I do? All the basic tools you need to do so should already installed. But if you have a preferred HTML editor, go to their web site and see if they have a Linux version available. There is also an excellent free (of course) Linux HTML editor called Bluefish available that you can download and install. This web site was created using Bluefish.
In short, you can do everything with Linux that you can do with Windows, plus you have access to all the software developed over the last 30+ years that runs under Unix style operating systems. Plus your computer will run more reliably and securely than under Windows. And you'll save a ton of money. What's not to like?
And that's it. Welcome to the world of Linux. Now that you've taken a tour of Knoppix Linux, you are probably eager to get on with actually installing it on your hard drive so you can give it a proper test drive. We will cover that in the Installing Linux section.
1. Something went wrong during the hardware auto-detection phase of the bootup. Knoppix has perhaps the best hardware auto-detection around, but sometimes it just can't handle some hardware that is very old, very new, very exotic or just plain cranky. This is where those bootup options I mentioned earlier come in. If the screen is black, push the reset button and reboot. (Don't worry, you are running off the CD, not the HD. You can push the PANIC button at any time and it won't hurt anything.) At the next boot hit F2 and try some different video options. I have one weird old monitor that for some reason Knoppix can't auto detect properly, so the video bombs out at boot time unless I specify the resolution I want up front.