Knoppix Linux Live CD on Dell Inspiron 6400

The need to improve my Linux skills has arisen at work, so I decided it was about time I installed a Linux system for personal use. However, I was reluctant to install Linux on my Dell Inspiron 6400 laptop alongside Windows in case things went wrong. So I looked into running Linux directly off a so-called Live CD and managed to get it working quite easily.

The most well known Live CD package is Knoppix, by Knopper. The idea is you download an "image" which is then burned onto CD, after which you can boot your computer from the CD to use a full Linux system without needing to install Linux on to your hard drive.

The standard download is over 600MB, which is decompressed on the fly to offer over 2GB of free software. There is also a "Maxi" DVD edition, which of course requires a bigger download, but offers 10GB of software on decompression. I downloaded the standard version, which took a few hours to complete.

I then made a few mistakes trying to burn the image to disk such that it could be used to boot up from. Initially I pressed a button to make the disc "bootable" in Roxio CD Creator, which I realized when reading the Knoppix FAQs should not be done. Then I tried to simply copy the downloaded image onto the the disc, but that didn't work either. Eventually I discovered that Roxio CD Creator has an option to create an image, and that worked. When you insert a CD with an image successfully created on it, it appears as a structured series of files and folders in Windows Explorer.

With the CD successfully created, I found that my laptop would not automatically boot from it. I had to press F12 as the BIOS loaded and then select the option to boot from the CD. This worked and before long I was staring at the Knoppix desktop.

I have yet to explore the system extensively, but I was impressed by being able to run Linux (with a GUI) off a CD. Everything works a bit slower as a result of running off the CD-ROM drive, but as a Linux demo, Knoppix is ideal. I was able to locate the files on my hard drive created by Windows and use them to test some of the free software that comes with Knoppix, such as MP3 players and text editors.

I'l continue to play with Knoppix and update this article when I have some more info!