Updated: January 30, 2009
Knoppix is one of the corner stones of the Linux CD experience. It has earned its fame as the distro that would work with just about any hardware, including the most dubious, unknown and rickety drivers that you might have. It is also highly popular with the security community, being used as the official distro in many forensics, investigation and network intrusion workshops and courses.
Knoppix 5.0 was also the first live CD distro that I reviewed here, on Dedoimedo, more than two years ago. It was great. Version 6.0 is out now: a complete rebuild based on Debian Lenny, with some new, unique, stunning features that will leave you simply breathless. Trust me. Follow me.
This is the first distro that I know of that has a screen reader enabled by default, making it usable for blind people, as well. Most of us rarely think of people with disabilities when happily clicking through our shiny desktops, taking life for granted, never wondering about seemingly trivial tasks like finding the right icon to click on. The forethought invested by the developers should be lauded. If nothing else, this highly humane act makes Knoppix worth the effort.
This is the reason why the boot ends up in a simple text menu, with numbered options.
To get into the full desktop, you will have to choose 10 Graphical Programs and then startlxde Full X Session.
You can also selectively boot into specific applications, like Firefox (Iceweasel) or OpenOffice, with the screen reader enabled. This is particularly useful for visually impaired people, as they do not have to mess with the entire desktop. They can only use the browser or an office application if they need. Simply phenomenal.
Inside the desktop, the voice bot named Adriane will talk to you, reading out the options beneath your mouse pointer. Truly impressive.
Knoppix 6.0 features a simple if beautiful, lightweight LXDE desktop, which makes it useful for low-end machines. The choice of fonts and colors is quite reasonable, infusing Knoppix with a fresh, modern look, far from the heavy-duty utilitarian reputation it has won as the rescue and recovery workhorse over the years.
But if you were thinking Knoppix 6.0 is merely a nice-looking utility distro with voice over, then you're in for a big surprise.
Yup. This fabulous live CD comes with all the bells and whistles ready. As you start using the desktop, you'll start noticing the Compiz effects.
I tested Knoppix on several laptops; Compiz worked well on all of them. Absolutely lovely.
Here, there were no issues, either. Adriane handled different Wireless adapters on different laptops without any problems. There were no issues with the encryption methods on either of my two routers.
Knoppix does not lack codecs for MP3 or various Windows formats, either. It will gladly play them for you.
The Flash Player is not included by default, but you won't have any problems installing it, like with any other Debian-based distro. Iceweasel does not offer to automatically download the plugin, but manually running the .deb package or installing from the archive will get you enjoying Flash, too.
Knoppix comes with a highly useful basic array of programs.
Adriane ships with the lightweight Iceweasel browser (version 3.0.5) already impregnated with the excellent Noscript extension, making a great browser into a greater one.
Knoppix 6.0 also ships with OpenOffice 3.0 suite, making it an excellent choice for productivity and serious work.
Another useful program is xgnokii, a frontend for Gnokii, an application which can be used to communicate with Nokia and other mobile phones, allowing you to dial/receive calls, send SMS and more.
There's also Sun Java Runtime Environment (JRE) included:
One of the stronger parts of the new Knoppix is the modularity. With Synaptic / apt-get as your package manager, you won't have any problems finding the programs you need. For instance, Ksnapshot, a screen-capture utility, was no included with the distro by default, preventing me from taking screenshots. So I powered Synaptic, refreshed the repository sources, searched for ksnapshot, and downloaded it.
Knoppix 6.0 Adriane is amazing. It's everything you could hope for. It has excellent hardware detection and low system requirements, running the good-looking LXDE desktop, on top of which you will find the magic of Compiz, out of the box. It comes with the full OpenOffice 3.0 suite. The Iceweasel browser features the Noscript add-on, making it immune to basically any Web threat you can think of. And if you're missing any application, you'll be able to easily install them via Synaptic or apt-get, even in the live session.
Adriane is also very fast and rock-stable. And it is oriented toward all computer users, including visually impaired people, with the screen reader software enabled and running by default. A genuine masterpiece.
Knoppix 6.0 is a complete, completely pleasant surprise. You simply must have it.