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Knoppix also boasts a comprehensive suite of programs that has almost everything that home/office desktop could be used for. The package list is tremendous, with compression system allowing for over 2GB of stuff to be stored. This is amazing and is certainly more than any other single live CD can hold. For a basic idea as to how you should be fine, Knoppix contains 2 office suites (Koffice and OpenOffice), has KDE, Mozilla (web+mail+IRC), PHP, MySql, samba, xmms and tons more. This is no gaming platform, but more than enough is packed in there to let you do accomplish most of your usual tasks on PC (see http://www.distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=knoppix for a complete list). And if you want more, do an installation and now that you can write on hard-disk, use apt-get upgrade, apt-get dist-upgrade (after making sure your sources.list is correct) to get more.
Knoppix does have a few minor problems. These are limited to a few quirks within KDE, some problems with hardware detection and complaints that 5 minutes to boot a PC is too long (which, by way, is quite quick for a live-CD OS). The reality is that such problems are expected from an Open Source operating system. Linux platforms are not judged by same criteria that Windows, or any other ‘paid-for’ OS is (this is perhaps a major reason behind Linux-bashing that goes on in Microsoft-related circles). No one expects Knoppix to work perfectly when detecting hardware, and fact that it more often than not works extremely well forms basis of our judgment, whereas if Windows XP Professional refused to detect my LAN card I would not stop cursing their ineptitude (no matter that it detected everything else, or everyone else’s card). The standards applied here are totally different, and thus Knoppix survives all such criticism and continues to bathe in afterglow of a job well done.
A few thoughts on customization. One gets a feeling that package is perhaps too comprehensive (how many text editors do you really need?). My view is that at least for downloadable version, there should be a way for user to select or unselect programs that are required. As such, one could select their favorite browser, text editor, office suite, etc. and produce a more compact installation package. Theoretically, you could also build a custom Knoppix installation that would even run your office applications (as mentioned earlier). The possibilities are great, and hopefully Knoppix development team will take into consideration idea of streamlining / customization, if only for downloadable version.
So there you have it. A special flavor of Linux that offers, apart from a live-CD OS, a quite stable operating environment as well (and comes bundled with lots of goodies) that is unprecedented in terms of hardware detection. And more importantly, this could be a precursor of things to come with respect to OS development and how industry perceives role of an operating system, be it Linux or Windows. Maybe it’s time for diversification and specialization in OS market, and maybe, just maybe, Microsoft is set to lose more ground as ‘free’ operating systems get better and better.
Mike Ber is the owner of the Canadian Domain Name Portal called www.Every.ca He is also a contributing author to www.ComputerMagazine.ca, www.Developer.ca, and www.XP.ca