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Article from Issue 167/2014

What’s new in Knoppix 7.4?

Knoppix News

What's new in Knoppix 7.4?

For a grand overview, please see the release notes at the Knoppix website [1].

Version 7.4.0 of Knoppix is based on the usual picks from Debian stable (wheezy) and newer Desktop packages from Debian/testing and Debian/unstable (jessie). It uses kernel 3.15.6 (Figure 1) and Xorg 7.7 (core 1.16.0) for supporting current computer hardware. The bootloader now starts the 64-bit version of the kernel automatically once a 64-bit-capable CPU has been detected, so more than 4GB of RAM is correctly addressed, and chroot into a 64-bit Linux installation is possible for rescue tasks.

Figure 1: Booting.

Typing knoppix at the boot prompt (Figure 2) will fall back to the 32-bit kernel version. One of the most distinguishable desktop features (Figure 3), Compiz, has been upgraded to version from the new repository at Ubuntu's Launchpad (thanks to the maintainers for providing support). More about Compiz follows in another answer.

Figure 2: The boot prompt.
Figure 3: The desktop.

Firefox, Chromium, LibreOffice, and GIMP have been updated to the newest available versions. For the Windows API emulator Wine, I compiled a snapshot of the 1.7 series to get decent desktop integration, menu entries, and less dependency trouble compared with the official Debian/unstable version.

If you have a computer that's only capable of booting from a USB flash disk via EFI and does not follow the standard of providing a compatibility support mode (CSM) for a normal BIOS boot, you might try to boot with the included EFI bootloaders inside the EFI/boot directory. At least without "secure boot," I had success booting Knoppix on some UEFI-only computers.

The utilities presented at CeBIT 2014, such as the starter scripts for Tor, VND/RDP, and Samba, are now also included. For starting up with Bitcoin [2], the Bitcoin core client is included. Please be aware that downloading the blockchain takes a very long time and requires about 20GB of space, so you need a USB flash drive of 32GB or more. If you want to experiment with Bitcoin, it is recommended you use the Knoppix encryption feature during flash disk installation to keep your wallet secure.

For computers that cannot start from DVD or USB flash disk, booting from CD may work; a tiny CD image (15MB) is included that will start just the kernel and initial ramdisk from CD, then switch to DVD or USB flash disk (recommended). It's located in the KNOPPIX directory.

Flash Install

Why don't you provide an image for direct flash disk installation, instead of just DVD?

This has become a frequently asked question because DVD drives seem to be disappearing from modern notebooks.

Although some Live distros offer USB or hybrid Live images, the Knoppix flash installer does somewhat more than just create another container for the same data present on the DVD. Flash-knoppix asks you interactively to repartition the USB flash drive, optionally encrypt the partition holding your valuable data, or update an existing installation.

Because Knoppix is designed as a system for everyday work – not just as a demo or rescue Live system or to promote a regular installation of a product  – the requirements for flash disk installation are somewhat higher than a simple "flash disk writer" would provide.

Also, because it seems more difficult to create bootable USB flash devices on operating systems other than Linux, flash-knoppix is a rather simple shell script when run inside a Linux system, whereas it would become a rather complex program when ported to another OS. Still, maybe I'll add a portable installer that creates a bootable USB flash disk as well as a bootable DVD from the same image.

Currently, there are still enough bootable DVD drives around – even if they have to be attached to an USB port – to provide a reliable installation method for starting flash-knoppix from the menu. Running the DVD image from within a virtual machine is another option, of course.

Is Compiz Dead?

What about Compiz? It disappeared from Debian, is it really dead?

Because Debian does not maintain the Compiz 3D window manager packages anymore (which, opposed to what the Debian bugtracker [3] suggests, is alive and under continuous development), I'm now building Compiz Debian packages on my own, especially for Knoppix. I like Compiz for its accessibility and for the presentation features, which are very versatile for teachers.

The new version of Compiz  [4] finally fixes a bug that has been haunting me in Knoppix since I first added Compiz to LXDE: The "disappearing window borders" are now history. Still, the new Compiz has a few new glitches: Writing on the screen with Super+Alt-Left+mouse-click only becomes visible after activating and de-activating the magnifier with Super+M. The preset colors in the Compiz configuration manager (ccsm) are sometimes not applied to effect plugins; overall, however, it seems to be usable. Some effects like the "window explosion" are still missing, so the default settings are perhaps less spectacular. If you don't want Compiz on startup or if your graphics card does not handle the effects well, boot with: knoppix no3d or knoppix nocomposite.

You can find sources and updates for all additional or changed/forked packages of Knoppix online [5].

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