Thursday, March 26, 2009

Maybe I like my Gnu/Linux harder

Edit: If you found this page searching for knoppix 6 and ssh, please go to this post.

So I was excited when Knoppix released version 6. I was expecting great things.

The one thing I wasn't expecting was a great disappointment. I installed Knoppix6 on the work laptop this week. They said they wanted to go back to the smaller cd architecture over the DVD one. I thought that was a great idea.

However I think a fresh install should include a few simple things.

  • a login screen
  • ssh pre-installed (maybe not turned on but at least installed)
  • su working like a proper su, not an alias for sudo su.
  • a system that doesn't make me feel like I'm using a windows want to be.
  • the ability to create a user account and host name on set up.
  • the ability to use the file system of my choosing.

Knoppix 6, boots and goes straight to a gui. No login, no nothing. Even if this was a home box, I would want someone to have to login to the box, not just drop them in a directory for everyone. Since this is a laptop, I'd want a login for even more reason. I do different thing than other people that use the laptop. It's a shared resource for the team. I don't want them accessing something I'm doing when it's not finished. Something that has always been an issue I've had when working on scripts. It won't be finished, people try to run it, and break things as a result.

SSH is a common tool in the Nix world. At least I, and an developer I talked to today think so. What's the point of a Nix box that doesn't have SSH installed? Sure it doesn't have to be automatically started when the box boots, so you can make config changes the first time. But eventually auto start would be the goal. I use ssh to talk to other boxes. If I hadn't had a external net connection (like where I was Tuesday, when I broke the network) I wouldn't have been able to download ssh and install it. (Luckily this laptop is set for dual boot, and I could do things from Windows with Putty).

I created the user account I wanted. The first of 4 I'm making. It's the generic backdoor account for the department. The people who are going to have access to the laptop will each get their own accounts at some point. However su is aliased as sudo su. Which is great for the default knoppix user, but my account (net-eng) wasn't in the sudoer's file. And wouldn't let me into su. Of course I got around this by using the full path, but still.

net-eng@Microknoppix:~$ which su
net-eng@Microknoppix:~$ type su
su is aliased to `sudo su'

I'll set my own aliases thanks.

The system has limited packages, yes I know they wanted to save size, but half the reason of using a distro is got get packages on the install. If you're not going to include packages then why bother? Then there is the case of the live cd. It gives you cheat codes for boot, kde, gnome etc. But when I tried kde, nothing happened. Seriously it feels like it has the functionality of a Windows install. Other cheats, like kiosk mode wouldn't start for me either.

When I'm doing an install, I'd like to be asked who I want to use the computer, and be able to create an account on the install. Not be given a generic one of the maintainer's choice (the knoppix account in this case). I want to have the setting options. I want to put the name and password I want. As far as I can tell, there is no knowing the knoppix user password. And it doesn't ask for it when you sudo, because it has the no password option set.

Secondly I work in an environment where I have more than one computer. For the last 2 years, because of the previous usefulness of knoppix, I've been pushing to move some of the boxes to that. But when they all install to Microknoppix as the host name, and don't ask for any kind of domain information, it makes setting the systems up slower. Because now I'll have multiple with the same name and lack of domain information, I'll have to touch the boxes multiple times to get them set up.

Lastly, the new simpler 0wn installer forces you to use the reiserfs system. Personally I like EXT3. Just what I prefer. I'm not the only one in that camp either. One of our clients is requesting that all the drives we send to them, with their data on them are the EXT3 format.

But there is more to 0wn being useless than just that. I preconfigured the laptop with an EXT3 and a NTFS partition, since it is dual boot. 0wn couldn't see the EXT3 partition. It has an option to start gparted to modify the table but it would never load, it looks like it's not installed / not on the live-cd. Pre-configuring reiserfs didn't work either, the automatic option couldn't find it, and it wasn't showing a list of drives. Running 0wn from the command line did work, and I was able to get cfdisk to run, instead of gparted even though I used the gparted option. Then it saw the reiserfs partition no problem.

I used to think that knoppix was one of the most useful distros out there. It lived up to it's claim to be the swiss army knife of linux distros. I can also understand the developer's desire to shrink the growth down some. However, they've gone too far and the distro is no longer a swiss army knife in my book.

I loved the kiosk mode, I've used older versions as emergency web servers, nfs servers, and to make disk images when I had to do forensics work (which I'm not an expert on). I got a few co-workers to start using it too. One even went out and bought the Knoppix Hacks book (second edition). The problem is, Knoppix 6 just doesn't live up to what it's previous versions were, at least in my book.

No comments: