KNOPPIX 5.1 - Live Linux Filesystem On CDKnopper.Net Consulting

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KNOPPIX 5.1.1 Update

Just released, and already an update available... From the KNOPPIX-CHANGELOG:

  • "kicker-bug" repaired: Updated xsession-knoppix, kicker and kdebase (fixing an annying bug that made kicker "disappear" in all but the first desktop)
  • Updated ntfs-3g (02.01.2007) (writing speed improvements)
  • xorg updates from Debian/unstable
  • iceweasel/icedove (firefox/thunderbird) updates
  • kwlan for WLAN w/ WEP/WPA in Knoppix menu
  • added vlan configurator
  • fixed "2nd reboot fails" bug when installing Knoppix with reiserfs by downgrading grub
  • added french translation for mkbootdev (contributed by Jody Noury)
  • [CD] removed KDE docs and java demos
  • [CD] re-added spanish language support for KDE
  • [CD] installed Java-Plugin for iceweasel (firefox)

Finally, it's done. Just in the past couple of months, there has been quite a lot of new and exciting development in the GNU/Linux world, which of course should also be present in the current Knoppix version. Even that some of the new and optional features (like the 3d-desktop beryl) are still in experimental stage. Repeatedly, new Kernel-/KDE-/OpenOffice releases have spoilt our planned release dates, but on the other hand, now all these are available in the new release as well (2GB of software on CD, 10GB on DVD):


(Apart from the usual tons of updates and bugfixes)
  • Update to Debian etch/testing as base distribution
  • Linux Kernel 2.6.19(.1) + fuse 2.6.1
  • cloop 2.05 Realtime Decompression with extended block-buffering for reduction of CD/DVD access latency
  • Replacing unionfs by aufs for better stability & performance
  • KDE 3.5.5
  • OpenOffice 2.1
  • ntfs-3g (12.12.2006) for full transparent NTFS write support, also tested with boot options knoppix tohd= and knoppix fromhd=. Please note the hints about ntfs-3g below.
  • ntfsprogs-Update (ntfsresize, ntfsmount, ntfsfix)
  • integration of 3D desktop beryl+emerald as add-on for KDE (manual start with gnome is also possible), via boot option knoppix desktop=beryl. Please note the hints given below.
  • Experimental script for creating a bootable flash-pendrive from a running KNOPPIX live session (mkbootdev by Martin Öhler)


In order to (seemingly) change files on CD or DVD in a live-session, and for saving your personal settings and data over reset by using the persistent Knoppix-image option, KNOPPIX starting from version 3.8, has been using unionfs as overlay filesystem. unionfs is derived from a much larger project, which has unfortunately lead to very complex code that has become, from our exerience, highly susceptible to errors. Even that stability of unionfs was in most cases sufficient for applications, we have decided to switch to the lesser-known, but cleanly written-from-scratch aufs ("Another Unionfs") by Junjiro Okajima, who has also contributed a lot of bugfixes for unionfs already. This does not mean a change in functionality at all, i.e. changing files, up to large sofware updates in the live session, are also possible with aufs.


NTFS-3G allows writing to NTFS partitions with almost no restrictions. Being based on the Linux-NTFS project, NTFS-3G has been successfully tested as "Filesystem-In-Userspace"-plugin in many installaions, and is also being used for GNU/Linux-based virus scanners like "Knoppicillin".

Like with all dynamically ram-buffered filesystems, there are some things to be aware of when using NTFS-3G as well. If you access filesystems in write mode, you should not just "switch off" the computer, or hit the reset switch, because there CAN be loss of data this way. If files have been written to disk, you should end KNOPPIX (when you decided to finish your session) by a regular shutdown using the menu, which will be acknowledged by the CD or DVD being ejected. (We just mention this here because NTFS has meanwhile become very widespread, and if, for example, the "Knoppix persistent image" option is active, or you are using swapfiles on NTFS, there will be wrie access to your harddisk. When not using these options, Knoppix will normally NOT write anthing to harddisk unless explicitly requested!)

3D-Desktop beryl+emerald

Known from various forums and newstickers this year are the newly developed 3D desktops, which on one side make a spiffy optical appearance of the virtual destops on a rotating cube, transparency and amazing animation effects, on the other side being useful especially for presentations with overview and annotation functions. compiz and beryl are two of these desktop extensions. Using the boot option

knoppix desktop=beryl

tells Knoppix to change the setup of the X-server to support hardware-aided transparency and accelleration, and starts beryl as addon to KDE. An overview of beryls hotkeys and functions, for example desktop-rotation, continuous zooming and transparency etc. can be found in the beryl-Wiki.

When booting into KDE with beryl using the knoppix desktop=beryl cheatcode, you can still try other desktops (gnome, for example) with beryl, using the Knoppix "Desktop Restart" utility, and after the new desktop is up, type in a shell:

beryl --replace & emerald --replace &

Because the X-Server has to be prepared for this (especially Composite and AIGLX must be enabled), you will still have to boot with the aforementioned desktop=beryl option in order to get accellerated 3D and transparency in oher desktops.

Warning: Some graphics card manufacturers are not releasing technical specifications because of (as they often claim) "trade secrets". For these cards, there are only very basic, or no, accellerated drivers. Some of these cards can display, according to our tests, reset-fast (!) distortions when trying to use desktop=beryl, which sometimes can only be fixed by a "hard reset", i.e. unplugging the power cord for a few minues (sic!) after, of course, a regular shutdown. We have observed this behaviour for some NVidia® cards, but can't rule out that it also happens with others.
Possible Workaround: If you install, during a live session, the accellerated, proprietary drivers from the graphics cards manufacturer's Linux driver support pages, chances are good that the accellerated 3D functions work fine after restarting the graphical desktop session. But we can not include those proprietary drivers on the free Knoppix-CD or DVD, because of security and license considerations. If you don't want to attempt installing such drivers on your own, yet you would like to see beryl (or other 3d effects), please feel free to check out Games-Knoppix of Martin Öhler, Erik Auerswald and Unix-AG at the University of Kaiserslautern, which also contains some proprietary graphics drivers with permission of their manufacturers, which will also be used for fast 3d games.

The most successful candidates with DRI and transparency in our tests were "older" ATI® cards (i.e. Radeon Mobility) and Intel® onboard graphics chipsets. With these cards, many features of beryl worked flawlessly and stable.

For working with beryl, your computer should have at least 512MB of RAM, or a Linux swap partition about that size, because the 3d and transparency features are notoriously memory-hungry.


As always, KNOPPIX 5.1 can be downloaded from the Knoppix Mirrors or Bittorrent (Caution: For downloading the DVD-Version, your download-client program must support files larger than 4GB!), or ordered via postal mail from the independent Knoppix-shops.


Thanks to all volunteers who tried the new release and sent bugreports even before we knew it was "safe enough" to enter the public beatesting stage.

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