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Knoppix Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips and Tools [Paperback]

Kyle Rankin
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Knoppix Hacks: Tips and Tools for Hacking, Repairing, and Enjoying Your PC Knoppix Hacks: Tips and Tools for Hacking, Repairing, and Enjoying Your PC 5.0 out of 5 stars (1)
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Book Description

4 Nov 2004

Knoppix is a portable Linux distribution with a collection of hundreds of programs and utilities--a veritable Swiss Army knife in CD form. This practical and flexible Linux distribution runs on the fly from a single CD with no need to install anything to your hard drive. Knoppix's excellent hardware detection, collection of programs, and ease of use help explain why Knoppix is radically changing the face of Linux. Though Knoppix is the most popular live CD Linux distribution available, until now there have been no books on the topic. A weighty theoretical tome or a book for dummies won't do--the perfect Knoppix book, like Knoppix itself, must be as useful and clever as a Swiss Army knife. Clearly, Knoppix calls for an O'Reilly Hacks book.

Knoppix Hacks is a collection of one hundred industrial-strength hacks for new Linux users, power users, and system administers using--or considering using--the Knoppix Live CD. These tips and tools show how to use the enormous amount of software on this CD to troubleshoot, repair, upgrade, disinfect, and generally be productive without Windows. With Knoppix you can:

  • Test drive a Linux desktop without the need to install Linux
  • Troubleshoot and repair Linux and Windows systems
  • Create a thin client network with just one CD
  • Replace a web server or firewall in an emergency
  • Perform a security audit on your entire network
  • Virus scan a Windows computer from the safety of Linux
  • Customize Knoppix for personal or business use
  • Easily install the popular Debian GNU/Linux distribution with all of your hardware detected and configured
Knoppix Hacks provides ingenious fixes, clever customizations, and time and resource-saving tips. If you want more than the average Knoppix user, this invaluable book is a must-have.

Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (4 Nov 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596007876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596007874
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 14.7 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,244,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Kyle is a systems administrator for The Green Sheet, Inc., the current president of the North Bay Linux Users' Group, and the author of Knoppix Hacks. Kyle has been using Linux in one form or another since early 1998. In his free time he does pretty much the same thing he does at work--work with Linux.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Hack #5 Free Your CD to Make Knoppix Run Faster
Make Knoppix run faster by loading the Knoppix image to RAM or saving it to the hard drive. This also frees your CD-ROM drive for other uses.

Compared to other live-CD distributions, Knoppix runs surprisingly quickly, considering that it downloads data from a compressed image on the CD. If you want to speed things up, but aren’t ready to install Knoppix on your hard drive just yet, there are cheat codes that allow you to copy the complete Knoppix CD image to either RAM or a partition on your hard drive, and run it completely from there. These cheat codes give you the added benefit of freeing up the CD-ROM drive for other uses—particularly handy if you have only a single CD-ROM drive in a system; you can play music or burn other CDs simultaneously while using Knoppix.

The toram cheat code instructs Knoppix, before it does anything else, to create a large ramdisk and copy the complete CD there. A ramdisk is a virtual hard disk that your operating system creates by setting aside a certain amount of your RAM. When you boot with this cheat code, Knoppix warns you that it might take some time to copy the full image and provides a progress bar while the image is copying. The Knoppix CD image is approximately 700 MB by itself, so this option is only for those of you with 1 GB or more RAM in your system, because even after copying the CD to RAM, Knoppix still needs a good portion of the RAM for loading applications and writing temporary files. If Knoppix runs out of space to copy, it alerts you that it ran out of space and cannot complete the copy and drops back to loading directly from the CD-ROM.

If you don’t happen to have over a gigabyte of RAM in your system, you can still free up your CD-ROM drive by using the tohd cheat code. Similar to the toram cheat code, this cheat code copies the complete CD image to a partitionon your hard drive. This partition can be almost any filesystem that the Knoppix supports, including Windows filesystems such as FAT and FAT32. NTFS (the default filesystem for Windows 2000 and Windows XP) cannot be written to directly, and it will not work with the tohd cheat code. This cheat code expects you to pick the partition using Linux device names, so if you want to use the first partition on your Primary IDE hard drive, type:

tohd=/dev/hda1

If you are unsure which device name to use, simply boot Knoppix from the CD and make note of the names on the hard-drive icons on your desktop. You can use any one of these devices that has enough available space. As with the toram cheat code, tohd requires you to have over 700 MB free on your partition. Knoppix copies its CD image into a directory called knoppix at the root of the partition that you specify.

One advantage to using the tohd cheat code is that the knoppix directory it copies is not deleted when you reboot. In subsequent boots, you can reference the already copied image by using the fromhd cheat code. So, if you have previously used the cheat code tohd=/dev/hda1 on a computer, type this command to use the same image again:

fromhd=/dev/hda1

You can even just type fromhd without any arguments, and Knoppix scans the hard-drive partitions for you.

Boot from a CD Image
A new feature in Knoppix 3.4 is the bootfrom cheat code. With this option, instead of a CD, you can choose an ISO image you currently have on your hard drive for Knoppix to run from. While similar to the fromhd cheat code, bootfrom uses an actual Knoppix ISO that you must already have on your hard drive. One stipulation for this cheat code is that the ISO you choose must have the same kernel version as the CD-ROM you are using to boot. There are different ways to check the kernel version, but probably one of the best ways is to go to a Knoppix mirror and download the KNOPPIXCHANGELOG. txt file. This file lists all of the major changes in each Knoppix release and usually lists the kernel versions for each release. Otherwise, to quickly check the kernel version from within Knoppix itself, run the following command in a terminal:

knoppix@ttyp0[knoppix]$ uname –r
2.4.26

To boot from an ISO, type bootfrom followed by the full path to the ISO file. The bootfrom cheat code expects the same Linux paths as tohd and fromhd, so if you have Knoppix.iso in the root directory on your Primary IDE hard drive, type:

bootfrom=/dev/hda1/Knoppix.iso

The bootfrom cheat code is particularly useful if you are customizing Knoppix [Hack #94], as you can have multiple ISOs in a single directory and choose between any of them at boot time. This cheat loads from an ISO and not directly from a CD, so you aren’t restricted by the 700 MB capacity limit of a CD-ROM. If you are modifying your own Knoppix-based distribution and are having a difficult time squeezing it all within 700 MB, test your images directly from the ISO without having to worry about the CD size requirements.

After you boot off of the stored image, the Knoppix CD no longer needs to be mounted, so you can eject it and use the CD-ROM for other tasks. You can also use these cheat codes as an intermediate step before fully installing Knoppix to your hard drive; though most of the system files will be readonly, you still benefit from the speed of a full hard-drive install.


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic cookbook 7 Mar 2005
By Marcus
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This bunch of tricks for Knoppix was all I was looking for and more. Specifically, I was looking how to make a boot CD for a kiosk in the local village social club - all I need to know is there in just one of the hacks. There are plenty more on there such that I will always keep a copy of the latest Knoppix CD with me for getting out of all sorts of fixes.
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Format:Paperback
1. Most useful to recover data when MS Windows machines fail. Even when remote IT help cannot get machine to start due corrupt Windows OS, this allows data to be retrieved for storage and use on replacement machine; read it and use a copy of Knoppix Live Linux CD/DVD.
2. Its a saving grace, but Knoppix is so powerful you are better to read the book for the bits you want to use.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
67 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow... this book blew me away... 9 Nov 2004
By Thomas Duff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
OK... I'm impressed! I just finished reading Knoppix Hacks by Kyle Rankin (O'Reilly), and I really didn't have a clue as to the power of Knoppix...

Chapter List: Boot Knoppix; Use Your Knoppix Desktop; Tweak Your Desktop; Install Linux With Knoppix; Put Knoppix In Your Toolbox; Repair Linux; Rescue Windows; Knoppix Reloaded; Knoppix Remastered; Index

I'm going to guess I'm like most non-Linux junkies when I say that I had heard of Knoppix and thought I knew what it was. It's a distribution of Linux that runs from a CD, and allows you to load Linux on a computer without installing anything. Just boot from the CD and five minutes later you're running Linux. Remove the CD and reboot, and you're back to your original configuration. A nice safe way to play with Linux and decide if you want to go any further. End of story.

Wrong...

In Knoppix Hacks, Rankin covers 100 "hacks" that you can do with the Knoppix distribution. Beyond just trying out Linux, I quickly learned that a Knoppix CD is like a Swiss Army knife of tools that you can use to do all sorts of cool things. You learn in the first chapter how you can launch Knoppix to load up in a number of different configurations. Using Hack #8, you can use Knoppix to find out if your laptop is going to work well with Linux before loading it for good. But the further you get into the book, the more Knoppix becomes a safety net the likes of which you may never have realized. Hack #41 covers using Knoppix to build an emergency file server, and #42 is how to build an emergency web server. Chapter 6 goes into how Knoppix can be used to repair existing Linux installs, like #59 where you rescue files from damaged hard drives. Even if you're a Windows person, you can use Knoppix to repair Windows installations, like with hack #79 which shows you how to download Window patches securely. He even covers how to build your own custom version of Knoppix with Linux software selections that are important to you. The book comes with a Knoppix CD, so you can try out many of the hacks without having to go hunting for a Knoppix download.

This is probably the first Hacks title that transcends the Hacks philosophy and becomes a "user manual" on Knoppix. There just isn't anything out on the market like this book, and once you read the material you quickly realize how much you've been missing by not having a Knoppix CD in your CD case.

This is an incredible book on an incredible tool that is much more than what meets the eye. Highly recommended.
55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for sysadmins 11 Nov 2004
By Mary Norbury-Glaser - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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.

Most Linux players 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 volumes are lacking in the wild, with mere chapters in general Linux books 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 is in press (Knoppix Komplete) but what sets Knoppix Hacks apart is not the sheer dearth of books available on the subject but 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 so 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, moderate and expert. Screen shots 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 but 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 in 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 ubiquitous 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 7 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 most fun 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.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Intro to this Excellent Tool 10 Sep 2005
By duanez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Knoppix Hacks is a well-organized gettting-started guide to using Knoppix in everyday computer work. Whether you want a guide to using Knoppix to have a no-installation-required way to try out Linux on your PC or need a serious troubleshooting and diagnostic tool for everyday use; this book covers it all. The book is well organized; it even has a section on customizing Knoppix for your own use.

The only disappointment is that the CD is for version 3.4; there are much newer versions available online and I recommend you use one of those rather than the CD that comes with the book. All of the things that I have tried from the book work equally well with the newer versions.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Have Book For Any Administrator 21 Feb 2005
By sixmonkeyjungle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Any network or security administrator that has been around for awhile has their personal "toolbox" of go-to utilities and applications that they use for isolating and troubleshooting problems or just for maintenance and upkeep. Knoppix should definitely be in every administrator's bag of tricks.

The compact disc that comes with the book includes a bootable version of Knoppix along with useful tools and utilities to help you perform an array of tasks. Knoppix is as versatile as it is powerful and the "100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools" in this book will help you to understand and apply both the versatility and power of this great tool.

Just by booting a computer using the Knoppix CD you can perform a diverse range of tasks including setting up an emergency router, auditing network security, checking the system for root kits, resizing hard drive partitions, restoring deleted or corruped data and more. For Windows systems in particular, there is a tip to use Knoppix to safely download patches on a vulnerable machine and then reboot into Windows to apply the patch offline.

In the limited space I have, I can't really do the book justice. if you are an administrator, you need this book. Go get it.

(...)
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bootable linux 10 Dec 2004
By W Boudville - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Knoppix is and surely will only ever be a niche product. But what a niche. To some people, there is a compelling fascination with being able to carry around the essence of a computer in a CD. Much less riskier than losing or damaging an entire computer. Plus the fact that a Knoppix version is usually a sturdy, stable linux, can also be appealing.

If this captures your interest, then many of the hacks will be germane. They show some of the possibilities in booting Knoppix up. Like having your Knoppix desktop environment always with you when you work on a computer.

But the book also shows a second allure of Knoppix. Not to the wandering user, but to the sysadmin. Knoppix gives you a bootable linux that can be used to diagnose and [hopefully] repair linux partitions on a disk. These could be mission critical tasks, and it is really nice to be able to do the hacks in the Repair Linux chapter. Most notably recovering deleted files or retrieving files from damaged disks. There are companies that can do the latter. But usually at exorbitant rates. Knoppix is cheaper as a first pass on that problem.
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