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Re: First version of Knoppix supporting ALSA?

Dear John,

On Tue, Nov 13, 2007 at 02:48:40AM -0800, John Conover wrote:
> Its a complicated issue, Klaus.
> Thanks for asking, though.
> You never intended Knoppix to be used this way.
> I have production machines that use stock Knoppix-these are the
> machines that make money.

Wow, you put a lot of trust in "experimental software". ;-)

> Knoppix is re-mastered from one of the production machines, with
> various files/packages changed/omitted, to a CD-for other machines
> that do not need all of Knoppix.
> Finally, a 1.44MB floppy, (read locked,) is made for the routers,
> using SYSLINUX for the gateways/NAT/routers, (that have no HD, for
> security.)
> Thus, all machines, (10 of them,) have a common base, common
> configuration, and common files, that can be derived from the Knoppix
> distribution CD, and can be installed into a cold machine in only a
> few minutes, (rsync(1) will take care of any updates, once the install
> is done,) in case of catastophy.
> At issue is that the 2.6 kernel will not fit on a floppy, and the
> production machines are now requiring ALSA because of flash/skype.

I could make a 2.6 kernel that fits on a floppy, if the hardware
that is supposed to be supported is known EXACTLY, i.e. not much
diversity between computers that boot from this floppy.

The main problem with kernel size is the diversity of supported hardware
nowadays. There are so many ifferent processors, boards and faulty
controllers around that all require their very own drivers and
workarunds, and it is this fact that makes a kernel really big. If you
restrict the hardware that is to be supported, a kernel, even 2.6, can
be amazingly small.

But another issue (floppies: danger, alert... ;-) is that floppy disks
last only for about 2 years (even read-only)! After this time, the
magnetic surface has degraded in a way that data becomes corrupted.
Burned CDs last for about 5-10 years, pressed CDs for about 50. DVDs
even shorter. But, actually, the CD or DVD drives tend to deadjust their
lasers before that time, and produce read errors on their own.

Hardware vendors have managed to make the digital age losing its memory
rapidly because of short lifetime of data containers by-design. It's
very sad. The best thing you can do is copying data to a fresh medium in
a period shorter than the mediums mean time between failures.

Maybe it would be better to boot from a read-only flash card in the long
term. This would also get rid of space restrictions for kernel and
initrd. Some wireless routers (or access points) run Linux from a
flashcard, some of them can be completely reprogrammed
(http://openwrt.org/), and since they are diskless and have no other
moving parts as well, chances are that they survive for a very long
time. Some of these can be extended by USB harddisks or flashcards.
I'll give one of these a try when my 10-year-old pentium 1 router dies
one day (in the old times, hardware was made to last ;-)

-Klaus Knopper

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