[nSLUG] The state of knoppix -- unionfs 1.1.0

George White aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca
Sun Oct 23 13:20:58 ADT 2005

I haven't made much use of knoppix for about a year, but last week my PC at
broke down, so I found a spare Dell Optiplex GX1 (P3, 600mhz) and booted my the
latest knoppix (3.x) I had on hand.  Knoppix has always needed some manual
tweeks on these Dells because the Dell has ATI on-board and a nVidia PCI card. 
With the 3.x version I had, it tried starting X with the ATI driver and when
that failed it used vesa, but didn't give a mode that supports our mission
critical software (needs 1280x1024 24-bit truecolor).  The old 19 inch monitor
from an NCD X-terminal probably contributes to the problem.

Luckily, the GX1 has both a CD reader and a writer that still work, so I
downloaded knoppix 4.0.2 and burned a CD (with a short side trip to "fixate"
the CD on another machine because that step failed).  4.0.2 used the nv driver,
but I still had to edit the config file to get truecolor (I think it
can also be done via a menu).  However, the big improvement in today's knoppix
is unionfs, which means you can use apt to install new software.  I gather
there is a way to save the installs across sessions.  At worst it might require
replaying some installs during startup using a modified version of the saved

Unionfs is so powerful it is certainly very dangerous.  I plan to use it for
those cases where I want to try a test configuration without disturbing the
setup, but there are a number of big packages we use that want each user to
have their own installation.  The disk space isn't a big an issue as the 
divergence which means every user ends up with different configurations and 
diverging answers to the same question.  I envison a shared read-only install
with the individual settings in a different unionfs overlay for each user.
This makes it easy to get back to the base configuration and makes it easier
to see what changes each user has made.

Unionfs is still evolving, but version 1.1.0 was recently released (with
support for 2.4 kernels removed) and seems to work well for many people.
I had no trouble installing it on FC4.

George N. White III
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia


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