Knoppix Hacks

Knoppix is not just another Linux distribution. Unlike many Linux alternatives, Knoppix doesn’t need to be installed; everything runs from a CD (called a ‘Live CD’ distribution). While Live CDs aren’t unique to Knoppix, it is the way the Knoppix CD is packaged that makes the difference. Knoppix includes intelligent hardware detection – it can automatically identify nearly everything on your machine and then make the bet of it – and the CD includes a wide selection of programs, from typical Linux applications through to repair utilities and tools.In Knoppix Hacks you get 100 tips on using Knoppix, from simply running Knoppix through to customizing your Knoppix installation, repairing Linux and Windows machines using Knoppix and setting up emergency, Knoppix based, routers, file and web servers.In the same way that Knoppix itself is immensely useful in hundreds of different ways, so is this book.

Knoppix Hacks packs a lot of information into a very small space; the book isn’t quite pocket sized, but it’s the smaller format paperback (slightly wider than the Knoppix CD included inside the back cover) and just 300 pages long. Don’t let this fool you though. The book is organized a bit like an FAQ – although organized for tips, rather than questions and answers. They range from a simple two page guides to running Knoppix up to more extensive multi-page tips on specific topics. The book is grouped into sections, starting with the simple tasks of booting Knoppix and using it as a desktop operating system. We then move onto the real meat of the book; using Knoppix in an emergency. Two final sections then look at more advanced techniques and customizing your own Knoppix CD with your favourite list of software and tools.

The book (and Knoppix) will appeal to a wide range of people. Linux users will appreciate the speed with which you can be running within a Linux environment, on pretty much any machine, using the enclosed CD.If you use Knoppix as your desktop operating system (and many do, because of it’s wide support), then the tips in the book will be useful, but you shouldn’t use it as a guide to using Linux. There are tips for desktop users, for example for multimedia playback, browsing the Internet (including a useful guide to mobile GPRS users), but the main focus is definitely at the more expert user and system administrator.Because Knoppix runs entirely from the CD it makes an ideal solution when you need an emergency system, but don’t have time to install it, or when you want to repair an existing system, and can’t do so using the existing operating system tools. Knoppix Hacks shows you how to use Knoppix to set up a quick server, for example for file sharing or web serving. It also includes extensive details on using Knoppix when repairing both Linux and Windows systems.There’s a good gamut of topics here. For example, under Linux you can repair Lilo and Grub boot loaders, repair and reconfigure partitions and filesystems and even tips on migrating to new hard drives or RAID volumes. For Windows users there are tips for repairing the bootloader, re-organize partitions and even tools and information on editing the Windows registry, NT passwords and downloading patches. Put together, the repair tools alone should get you out of the majority of holes with relative ease.

In the same way that Knoppix itself is immensely useful in hundreds of different ways, so is this book. It is hard not to get hooked on trying different things from the book, even if you don’t really have a direct need for them.The books content and style is easy to use and understand and each hack is both straightforward and detailed. There’s more than just a quick overview of what needs to be done here; you get side information, background details and dependency information too. If a particular hack needs more than Knoppix (for example, the wardriving example also needs a GPS system and USB to serial adaptor), then information is included on that too.

If there is a downside to the book it’s that it ends just slightly to quickly. Once you start using Knoppix and the tips in the book you want to know how to do more and more. The books tone is light and welcoming, and so packed with information that it comes as quite a surprise when book is over.This is far from a criticism, but I’m certainly hoping for a ‘Knoppix Hacks Volume 2’ in the near future.