Every where you go, always take your PC with you

Via Tom’s Hardware I’ve discovered the joy of Knoppix. It’s a Linux distribution that boots off a CD without touching your hard drives. A cd-rom drive and some memory is all it ever needs. Klaus Knopper (it’s creator) has really hit on a good idea here. All you need to do is download the CD image (.iso) and burn it on a disk. A capsule review follows:

The good

On my system it goes from boot to desktop in about 2 minutes including detecting hardware. It’s got web browsers, email clients, office software (office xp compatible), media players, a CD-ROM burner and a bunch of other stuff I’ve haven’t explored yet. You can make custom Knoppix builds with the apps and drivers you want.

The bad

Configuring my Alcatel Speedtouch (the most common ASDL modem in the UK) is a real ball-ache but eventually it will work. It doesn’t detect the mouse in my shiny new MS wireless desktop (in defense it’s brand new gear and my old USB mouse and the new wireless keyboard do work from boot).

The ugly

There is no ugly . Ok, the ASDL modem thing is a drag and the current version can’t write to NTFS volumes but it reads them without problems.

End game

It does what it says on the tin. This is an OS that will boot from a CD on a box without a working system disk and give a you a good GUI afterwards. Even if you’re not into Linux you have to admit that this makes it a damn powerful (and cheap) data recovery tool. The customisation possibilities mean you can build your own virtual PC on a CD that will boot on any relatively modern hardware.