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Will Knoppix remain relevant?

Today, we boot a Live-CD and we find it normal that all the 
paraphernalia is configured automagically. But, a few years ago, 
things wen't so simple. It's Knoppix -- read Klaus Knopper -- that 
brought automatic material recognition to the forefront. IANAP, but I 
do believe it would have taken much longer otherwise.

Knoppix iniatives were pupping up all over the place: KNOPPIX.net *
Knowing KNOPPIX * klik Live Installer for KNOPPIX * Games KNOPPIX *
Accelerated KNOPPIX * KNOPPIX Denmark * KNOPPIX France *
KNOPPIX Italy * KNOPPIX Japan * KNOPPIX Poland * KNOPPIX Spain *
KNOPPIX Taiwan * Knoppix Thailand * KNOPPIX auf Festplatte
installieren * LinuxWIKI KNOPPIX

Links, see: <http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=knoppix>

Today, many distros, whether from a Live-CD or from Install CDs, offer 
automatic material recognition. IANAP again, but I wonder how much 
they still owe to Knoppix. What I do know is that some, a very 
limited amount, offer a system that is usable.

I tried PCLinuxOS (PCLOS), recently. Manual partitioning is still 
flaky -- most probably using GParted and the "use existing 
partitions" option would do the trick -- but it's all stars 
otherwise: auto configuration, easy set-up (firewall, printer, etc.) 
choice of softwares, security and all other updates, etc. Apt-get, as 
adapted to rpm packages, doesn't delete dependencies when a package 
is removed. But, who cares, with disks of 250 GB or more?

Is Knoppix so far behind? I don't believe so. All that would be needed 
is a commented link to debianmultimedia.org in /etc/apt/sources.list, 
explaining that, in some countries, the use of such packeages might 
be completely illegal. Checking with local authorities is advised. 
Includinfg Christian Marillat's key would certainly ease things. Etc. 
A few quick tricks would ease things off for newbies.

Of course, we would all be for content being offered in OGG/Theora 
format, but the fact is that Microsoft's clout on know-nothing 
sysadmins of... even national television, such as radio-canada.ca or 
cbc.ca, are only available in MWV format. What can you do, except 
wait for them to come forward and explain that you can't watch 
national television unless you subscribe to Microsoft? That would be 

If the next version of Knoppix comes out without support for 
multimedia, it will be completely irrelevant, at least to most users 
who go to telesivion sites, youtube, newsgroups. even newspapers' 
sites, etc. It might still be relevant to developers, though, but it 
would be a different Knoppix.

Some people might say that if PCLOS fits me better I should go for it. 
After all it's free software in a free world, isn't it?

I must say I feel differently from most newbies on these "fun new 
little distros". There was a time were there was Slackware, Debian, 
Red Hat, Suse, Mandrake, tgz, deb, rpm, and that covered 95% of what 
people were using. You knew who you were dealing with.

Now, even with Slackware devivatives since Swaret was rejected by 
Volkerding, every new "fun little distro" has it's own packaging 
format and, of course, don't expect the md5sums to match those of the 
developers in the "standard" format. The source is apparently there, 
somewhere, but who really checks what has now become billions of 
lines of code? Nobody, of course.

And those "fun little distros" are often run by people using 
pseudonyms. If they're run by people with seemingly real names, 
you've never heard of them. 

Who's Texstar, for example. People say he's an ex Mandrake packager. 
Fine! But even Gaël Duval recently told me he knows him only by name. 
He's got no real idea who the guy is. As a matter of fact, Microsoft 
might as well be running PCLOS, nobody would know.

If you ever use PCLOS and get an ssh problem, you will I have to tell 
your banker "Well, it's that distro put together by Texstar and his 
bunch of Hobbits, you know, the Ripper Gang." Gee, I wouldn't want to 
be caught in this situation or with any other security matter when I 
can't name a single person running my distro. Such a situation would 
hurt Linux's reputation for security very badly.

No doubt, some will say that I'm being paranoid. Maybe. But, I made my 
mind clear about this, I want to know the person behind the OS I use. 
I know Klaus Knopper. Many people all over the world, whether in 
Germany or India, had the occasion to shake his hand. I feel his 
personality. I know he won't go overboard on a whim over any idiocy, 
for instance. He's not that kind of freak :)

He might not want to start a distro and get involved in discussions in 
forums with newbies who don't RTFM, and I respect very much this POV, 
but I'm sure he could put out a very good distro for newbies and that 
other sites could take care of support.

I began following the development of Knoppix at version 3.1. That was 
January 2003 according to Distrowatch, and I always hoped that it 
would become very newbie friendly. But, until now, I never could hand 
a Knoppix CD to a newbie saying "Here's a replacement for Windows." 
First a good installer lacked, now it's more MM support.

Of course, I can't blame Klaus for this. I understand he's put in a 
tremendous amount of work, but now, I belive that the objective is 
within reach. Gee, even a packager could do it! (Unless he's got lots 
of outside help :)

So, need I say I expect much from version 5.2. I'm getting older now 
and, not only I know I'll never bocome a programmer, but also that 
whatever you learn using a desktop -- I wrote my own firewall! -- you 
lose very fast because it's knowledge that you don't use everyday. 
People, and that's including me, need an OS that will work without 
too many headaches.

I treid Etch, recently, and it was too many headaches. For instance, 
when you install Synaptic -- because they're not sure enough yet to 
install it by defaut, they provide Aptitude ! -- and open it, you get 
the message "Xlib: connection to ":0.0" refused by server". There are 
tenths of thousands of pages on this error message at Google, but no 
solution whatsoever at Debian's.

I finally found it at Gentoo's. You have to use sux instead of su, 
which is not installed. And that's just an exemple amongst many 
other. Goodness gracious, can you image getting a newbie through this 
nightmare, and for no reason at all? What the hell will he learn from 
the time lost on googling? Wouldn't he be better off learning bash or 

And that's Debian! Haven't they been around long enough? Will Sam 
Hocevar, the Dunk Bank Leader, who wrote «The Dunc-Bank is an 
experiment to see how aggressive bug reporting can delay the release 
of Debian Etch. We hope that by finding more and more RC bugs in 
Debian we can delay Etch» really move things forward?

Not sure. That's also a reason why less than 1% of people roaming the 
net do it with Linux:


I said I was getting old, I believe, and if Linux is not completely 
overcome in fifty years from now for a lack of comprehension of the 
stakes by the public in general, if it finally wins the war -- 
because it really is a war --, I couldn't care much.

If, after more than 15 years of development, Linux still stands at 1% 
and I doesn't get a CD I can offer to Winbees, *to me*, the battle 
will be over. Joining the fray -- the little fray, the Mac fray -- 
will be very tempting whenever a new Mac Mini arrives.

For now, I've been using Linux exclusively for almost six years and I 
put a lot of hope in this new 5.2 version. Summer 2007, we said? Ok.

Excuse me for being so long. Of course, this is just my own situation.

Gilles Pelletier

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