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Knoppix Hacks 190

Posted by timothy
from the props-to-klaus dept.
norburym writes "The publishers' blurb on the back cover describes Knoppix as 'a veritable Swiss Army knife in CD form.' Knoppix Hacks by Kyle Rankin is no less astounding in revealing the hidden versatility and power inherent in this unassuming tool." Read on for the rest of Norbury-Glaser's review.
Knoppix Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips and Tools (with CD)
author Kyle Rankin
pages 336
publisher O'Reilly
rating 10
reviewer Mary Norbury-Glaser
ISBN 0596007876
summary Knoppix Hacks

Most Linux users will recognize Knoppix even if they've never given it a whirl, but this book goes beyond the simple "how to create and boot from a Knoppix Linux Live CD." Rankin displays the raw power that lies beneath the surface of simply running a clean distro of GNU/Linux free from fear of installation issues. Proper Knoppix books are lacking in the wild, with mere chapters in general Linux volumes mostly dedicated to larger issues for both the novice and the intermediate user. One or two Knoppix books are out there (and one by Samuel Hart, Knoppix Komplete, is in press) but what sets Knoppix Hacks apart is not that it is one of the few available on the subject, but rather Rankin's skill in exposing the underutilized potential in the Knoppix tool set.

This book begins with a forward by Klaus Knopper, creator of Knoppix. It's always entertaining and enlightening to read a first-hand account of some clever soul's chance involvement with an "experiment" that turned out wildly successful and this is no exception. The "Knoppix Story" is engaging and leaves the reader with a sense of awe at the ingenuity of this dedicated and resourceful individual.

Rankin has collected a "who's who" of Linux hackers to contribute to this book: John Andrews, creator of Damn Small Linux; Fabian Franz, creator of FreeNX server; Alex de Landgraaf, creator of Morphix; Simon Peter, developer of klik; Wim Vandersmissen, creator of ClusterKnoppix and many others no less accomplished, all of whom have contributed to the future of free software/open source development.

As is expected with the O'Reilly Hacks series of books, the chapters are structured with clean typographical conventions identifying URLs, directory/folder/file names, code examples and excerpts, sample text delineation and cross-references. Tips and warnings are clearly identified with pushpin and screw graphics, respectively, and indented. There are a helpful number of tips without getting too overwhelming or annoying by breaking the flow of the text. The thermometer icons next to each hack indicate the level of expertise required: beginner, intermediate and expert. Screenshots are placed where needed but again, the reader isn't left distracted by unnecessary filler.

The nine chapters cover hacks ranging from beginner to expert: "Boot Knoppix," "Use your Knoppix Desktop," "Tweak Your Desktop," "Install Linux with Knoppix," "Put Knoppix in Your Toolbox," "Repair Linux," "Rescue Windows," "Knoppix Reloaded" and "Knoppix Remastered." The book includes a CD with v.3.4 of Knoppix (3.6 having just been released; the author wisely chooses to stay with the tried, true and debugged version).

The first two chapters are pitched to beginners, with Chapter 1, "Boot Knoppix," leaping directly into downloading Knoppix and creating a bootable CD. It then covers "cheat codes" - options passed at the boot: prompt to work around hardware detection and support failures. Tweaking X settings, desktop and laptop scenarios, language settings and optimizing the Knoppix CD are also included here. Chapter 2 introduces details of the KDE desktop and encourages the reader to become familiar with the Knoppix desktop, the applications included and connecting to the Internet (even via GPRS over Bluetooth!).

Chapter 3 concentrates on saving settings and documents, using Knoppix as a kiosk or terminal server to boot multiple computers over a network from the same Knoppix CD, and how to use the live installer feature to add extra packages directly to ramdisk.

Chapter 4 covers the inevitable situation when you will find yourself using Knoppix so often that you decide to install it onto your hard drive. Rankin includes single and dual boot system installs.

Chapter 5, "Put Knoppix in Your Toolbox," is where admins should head. The full list of 15 indispensable hacks in this chapter include running remote desktops via rdesktop or xvncviewer, running X remotely with FreeNX, browse Windows shares, create an emergency router, emergency file or web server, wardriving with Knoppix (including how to capture GPS coordinates along with data), audit network security, check for root kits, collect forensics data, clone hard drives, wipe hard drives, test hardware compatibility, and copy settings to other distributions.

"Repair Linux" (Chapter 6) is for those of us who spend a lot of time "breaking" things in the course of experimenting and need to recover the system. Rankin shows hacks for repairing both lilo and grub, how to: back up and restore the MBR, find lost partitions, resize linux partitions, repair damaged file systems, recover deleted files, rescue files from damaged hard drives, backup and restore, migrate to a new hard drive, create Linux software RAID, reset Linux passwords, repair Debian and RPM packages, and copy a working kernel. We will always break something along the way and these hacks help minimize the frustration.

Chapter 7, "Rescue Windows"...well, need I say more? Put these hacks into practice and you'll probably be using them every day. Use Knoppix to: fix the Windows boot selector, backup files and settings, write to NTFS, resize Windows partitions, reset lost NT passwords, edit the Windows registry, restore corrupted system files, scan for viruses and download Windows patches securely. A must for any systems administrators with Windows machines lurking everywhere.

Knoppix Reloaded, in Chapter 8, takes on Knoppix variants Morphix, Gnoppix, Mediainlinux, Freeduc, Damn, Small Linux, INSERT, L.A.S. Linux, Knoppix-STD, distccKnoppix, ClusterKnoppix, Quantian, GIS Knoppix and KnoppMyth. There is also a well-deserved pitch at the conclusion of this chapter to become a Knoppix developer and contribute to the ongoing work.

The final chapter includes seven hacks that help the reader create their own customized Knoppix CD. Knoppix Remastered walks the reader through the steps of customizing and personalizing a live CD.

This is one of the liveliest technical books I've read in a long time. A few of the easier hacks can be found on Knoppix.net or elsewhere but I think Rankin has managed to put the majority of Knoppix related material in one book that could be subtitled the "First Knoppix Manual." The admin hacks, in particular, will add a whole new arsenal of Knoppix wonders to an admin's repertoire. Kudos to O'Reilly for publishing such an outstanding volume, to Rankin for compiling some damn useful material, and to MacGyver for inspiring many of us to look for simple solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems.


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Knoppix Hacks

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  • by bujoojoo (161227) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @03:03PM (#10844694)
    Amazon link [amazon.com]
  • Morphix (Score:2, Informative)

    by quamaretto (666270) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @03:16PM (#10844810) Homepage
    I'm a big fan of Morphix. I've used Morphix Lightgui (Comes with XFCE) and GNUStep [linuks.mine.nu] (The distro) at various times and I think the project is headed good places. But then, I haven't used the original Knoppix in quite awhile. I should pick it up again.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @03:34PM (#10844998)
    Windows can do this too ya know, have a look around the net for BartsPE.
  • Danix (Score:2, Informative)

    by alarch (830794) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @03:47PM (#10845160) Homepage
    LOL :)) You made me laugh. Danix stand for DANIels's linuX i believe, which is name of the main developer. Similar case as with Knoppix itself. BTW: I do not live in the eastern Europe. I live in central Europe. You woudlnt say that Austria or Germany is in eastern Europe, would you?
  • Ultimate Boot CD (Score:3, Informative)

    by scubacuda (411898) <scubacudaNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @04:03PM (#10845357)
    Many of these tools are on Knoppix, but useful nonetheless: Ultimate Boot CD [ultimatebootcd.com]

  • by NETHED (258016) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @05:44PM (#10846569) Homepage
    Holy crap thats an awesome app. I Love it. Thanks, its links like this that make surfing /. for hours worth it.
  • Re:Knoppix (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @06:31PM (#10847223)
    Someone else already said using /dev/zero or /dev/[urandom|random].

    But doing an entire drive is going to take a while. Even my fastest drives using a /dev/zero would take somewhere 40-45 mintutes to wipe because of their shear size.

    How about a:
    (change drive letters as exist on machine)(a bunch of partitons because if you hit a logical partition you don't want to skip the contents, otheriwse it would just be 1-4. Machine here has one drive that goes hdb1 hdb2 < hdb5 hdb6 hdb7 hdb8 >)
    ---
    for driveL in a b c d e f g
    do
    for partN in 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
    do
    dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/hd${driveL}${partN} bs=1024k count=30
    done
    dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/hd${driveL} bs=1024k count=1 &
    done
    --
    So you have 30MB of semi-random data at the start of each partition, and you've wiped the boot sector and partition table out(probably wouldn't need the meg, 1024 bytes I think is enough, but eh, whats the difference). Good luck trying to recover data from that drive with simple utilities. (Unless of course you like to view the raw drive contents, or use grep, or you don't want to hire a data recovery service)

    I'm sure someone could optimize this and make it work on drives in parallel (seperate channels perhaps, so do hd[a|c|e| in one run, then hd[b|d|f] in another).
  • by mogrify (828588) on Thursday November 18, 2004 @12:10AM (#10850210) Homepage
    If you have enough RAM, you can load the entire image into memory at boot time with the 'toram' option... then remove the key. I haven't actually done this, but it should work...

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