Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

In praise of KANOTIX -- A biased introduction

Filed under
Reviews

There are almost too many Linux distros to count, and many live Linux CDs. So what is KANOTIX, and what's so great about it?

KANOTIX is two things. First, it's a live Linux CD, based on Debian Sid, with plumbing -- excellent hardware detection scripts -- based on the well-known Knoppix live CD. In "live CD" mode, you can do many things, including:

  • Experimenting with Linux without installing it to your computer's hard drive
  • Connecting to the Internet and other computers
  • Fixing broken Linux and Windows installations
  • Computer forensics
  • You can also install the proprietary nVidia driver (although not the ATI driver) while running off the live CD, if you use one of the two latest "preview" releases, KANOTIX-2006-VDR-RC6 (link to ISO)
But KANOTIX's main raison d'être is to be a simple way to get a robust, enhanced version of Debian Sid installed on your computer. In order to do that, it includes an installation program that's fairly simple and straightforward to use. The installer can also be used to upgrade an existing KANOTIX installation.

It also provides the benefits of:

  • Customized kernels, with support for specialized hardware
  • Versions for 32- and 64-bit CPUs
  • Many cusomized scripts (e.g. an easy way to install accellerated nVidia or ATI drivers)
  • End-user documentation, in the form of a FAQ; a Wiki; and an Installation Manual
  • A forum and an IRC channel (link goes to a Web-based interface) for quick answers to problems
A bit of background is in order for those unfamiliar with Debian. Debian is an excellent, if somewhat geek-oriented, version of Linux to use, mainly due to its package management system, APT. I remember trying to install a new version of Pan, the newsreader, on a 7.x version of Red Hat (before the days of Fedora), and getting stuck in RPM dependency hell. Long story short, I ended up having to upgrade to version 8 (which had, thankfully, just come out) in order to get the mess sorted out. Nowadays, with front ends such as YUM, this isn't such a big issue. But the benefit of having an APT-based system is that dependencies are normally all sorted out for you, and running the command apt-get install pan would be all it takes to get pan, and all its dependencies, either installed for the first time, or upgraded to the latest version. (And there's a huge amount of software available in Debian's repositories, around 15,500 packages.)

Debian software comes in three distributions: Debian Stable ("Sarge"); Debian Testing ("Etch"), and Debian Unstable ("Sid"). (The nicknames are based on characters from the movie Toy Story.) As mentioned earlier, KANOTIX is based on Debian unstable. "Unstable" is a bit of a misnomer; generally speaking, it's as stable as any other bleeding-edge distro out there. However, as the Debian Reference notes, "The advantage of using the unstable distribution is that you are always up-to-date with the latest in the Debian software project—but if it breaks, you get to keep both parts. :-)"

And sometimes, changes do break things. For example, X.org was recently updated from version 6.9 to 7.0, with major changes to existing directory structures and configuration files. As any Linux user has experienced, documentation often doesn't keep up with changes, and that's especially true of Debian Sid. Fortunately, the KANOTIX team was there with advice on when it was OK to upgrade and how to upgrade; and they wrote custom scripts to make things work correctly.

Since KANOTIX is based on Debian Sid, you can upgrade all packages to current by running apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade Of course, you can always run KANOTIX without making any updates whatsoever, and just upgrade when a new version of KANOTIX comes out.

Debian has a repuation for being a bear to get working, especially for the newbie. And if CDs are only available for Debian Sarge, how do you install Debian Sid? As they say, you don't; you install Debian Sarge and upgrade to Sid -- or, you can install KANOTIX.

Some are put off by the fact that the KANOTIX forum has a large German section, and that a lot of the conversation on the IRC channel takes place in German. The reason for this is that KANOTIX's largest user base is in Germany, where it's produced. However, the English section of the forum is large and growing, and all the KANOTIX developers speak (and answer questions in) English.

Also, don't be put off by KANOTIX's latest offering being called a "preview" release. It's installation-ready.

So, please try KANOTIX and see what you think. Hopefully you'll end up liking it, and its community, as much as I do.

More in Tux Machines

Software: Bashtop, Cointop and Auto-cpufreq

  • Bashtop – A Resource Monitoring Tool for Linux

    Bashtop is a terminal-based resource monitoring utility in Linux. It’s a nifty command-line tool that intuitively displays statistics for your CPU, memory, running processes, and bandwidth to mention just a few. It ships with a game-inspired and responsive terminal UI with a customizable menu. Monitoring various system metrics is made easy by the neat arrangement of various display sections. With Bashtop, you can also sort processes, as well as easily switch between the various sorting options. Additionally, you can send SIGKILL, SIGTERM, and SIGINT to the processes that you want.

  • Tracking Your CRYPTO INVESTMENTS Is Dead Simple With Cointop
  • Automatic CPU Speed & Power Optimizer Auto-cpufreq 1.2 Released

    Auto-cpufreq, automatic CPU speed & power optimizer for Linux to improve battery life, released version 1.2 with AMD support. Different to cpufreq indicator and / or TLP, Auto-cpufreq automatically make “cpufreq” related changes based on active monitoring of laptop’s battery state, CPU usage and system load. Ultimately allowing you to improve battery life without making any compromises.

today's howtos

Security, Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt

SUSE/OpenSUSE: Tumbleweed, YaST and Corporate Stuff

  • Skopeo, xxHash, GCC 10.2 are Among Updates in Tumbleweed

    openSUSE Tumbleweed had continuous daily snapshots with a handful of software package updates this week. Many minor-version updates and one major-version update became available to Tumbleweed users and the newest snapshot, 20200804, updated the iso-codes package, which lists country, language and currency names; the new 4.5.0 version updated translations and the subdivision names for Belarus. The Greybird Geeko theme was updated to improve contrast of gtk2 selection background color. The desktop calculator qalculate was updated to version 3.12.0 and improved exact simplification of roots. The fast hash algorithm xxhash 0.8.0 stablized the XXH3. Both libyui-ncurses and ncurses had minor updates. The snapshot is trending stable with a rating of 97, according to the Tumbleweed snapshot reviewer.

  • Digest of YaST Development Sprint 105

    Although a significant part of the YaST Team is enjoying their well deserved summer vacations, the development wheel keeps turning. During the latest two weeks we have fixed quite some bugs in several parts of (Auto)YaST. But listing fixed bugs it’s quite boring, so let’s focus on more interesting stuff we have also achieved.

  • Open Source for the Edge at IoT World

    As technologies converge to drive new innovation at the edge, organizations are working together more than ever to pave the road forward by combining the likes of 5G, AI/ML, Embedded Systems, High Performance Computing, Kubernetes, private/public environments and more. Companies are bringing specific domain expertise to the table, and SUSE is uniquely positioned with 28 years of Linux and open source expertise to serve as the foundation for developing, distributing and managing edge systems and the critical workloads they will support.

  • SUSE Partner Summit – Coming to a digital platform in mid-September!