Tuesday, January 4 2011
Though improved a lot over the years, there is still a lot about Linux that is day-destroyingly difficult. Yesterday I was feeling good about the Knoppix Linux distribution, but I still had a serious problem: how to install it on a hard drive. I did a Google search that turned up a bunch of sites referring to shell commands that didn't exist in my version, so I eventually I gave up. Knoppix wasn't going to do me any good if I couldn't install it on a hard drive. I downloaded a menagerie of other distributions with names like Crunchbang, ArchLinux, and Slax, but none of these could detect my WiFi hardware, and so weren't any better than Debian (my favorite Linux distribution).
Google had been no help, but eventually I discovered, hidden away in a submenu in the Knoppix menu system, a simple menu item to install Knoppix on my hard drive. That turned out to be really easy once I'd found how to do it. As with most Linux problems, this one had been a simple user interface issue: some bonehead had decided installing onto the hard drive should be under "preferences."
But even once Knoppix was on my hard drive, it still had a bunch of vexing default configurations that I needed to change (ones I'd never needed to change in, say, Debian). One of these was getting the secure shell dæmon (which allows me to control the box remotely) so that it ran automatically when the computer started up. Whoever had designed Knoppix had made it so you had to explicitly run a program every time you booted the computer to get the SSHD running. That's not very useful in cases, say, where you're rebooting the computer remotely. Then there was a stupid Grub setting that had the computer sit there doing nothing for thirty seconds before booting, even though there was only one possible way to boot. That latter one was easy to fix after a Google search, but getting SSHD running automatically proved to be a real bitch.
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