Knoppix is a "Live CD" version of the Linux operating system, which means that it runs directly from a bootable CD. In other words it does not install to your hard disk, it does not create new partitions, fiddle with boot records or otherwise mess with your existing system.
What it does do, (and does extremely well), is to boot from the CD, detect hardware and then load a copy of Linux to RAM. Once this has loaded it opens straight into a Linux desktop and from there the user is able to simply click and go.
What is remarkable about all of this is that it works seamlessly, it is fast and that a full version of Linux, the KDE desktop and a fairly wide set of applications has been loaded onto a single CD. Based on the GNU/Debian Linux distribution, this is a system aimed at the single user rather than for use as a server, but it is still a full copy of the operating system.
Just as important is the set of applications included on the CD. These include two office suites (a full copy of OpenOffice.org and KOffice), the well-known GIMP graphics package, two Web browsers (Konqueror and Mozilla), games, development tools, editors, utilities and much more.
Installation is as simple as putting the Knoppix CD (available as a free downloadable ISO image file) in a CD drive and rebooting with the BIOS configured to boot from CD. That's all there is to it.
Just as impressive is the hardware detection process. We tested the software on two different machines and each in case Knoppix correctly identified the sound and graphics cards, attached USB devices, network connections and so on. Not only did Knoppix boot into a KDE desktop that was correctly configured for the hardware, but connection to the Internet was also automatic. No fiddling required. Dial-up and DSL connections were both recognised automatically. [Continued]