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Before You Toss Out That Infected PC, Try Knoppix
Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 01:30 PM EDT

We have two stories this morning, and you can choose which way you want to go:

The Times says that malware in Windows has become such a serious problem that more and more users are throwing out their computers and buying new ones rather than detox their computers, now that it's possible to get a computer as cheaply as $400:

Tucker, an Internet industry executive with a doctorate in computer science, decided that rather than take the time to remove the offending software, he would spend $400 on a new machine.

"It was cheaper and faster," he said. . . .

In the face of a constant stream of pop-up ads, malfunctioning programs and performance slowed to a crawl or a crash -- the hallmarks of spyware and adware -- throwing out a computer "is a rational response," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a Washington-based research group that studies the Internet's social impact. . . .

No figures are available on the ranks of those jettisoning their computers, but the scourge of unwanted software is widely felt. The Pew group published a study this month in which 43 percent of the 2,001 adult Internet users polled said they had been confronted with spyware or adware, collectively known as malware. Forty-eight percent said they had stopped visiting Web sites that might deposit unwanted programs on their machines.

The number of viruses has more than doubled in just the last six months, while the number of adware and spyware programs has approximately quadrupled during the same period, said Vincent Weafer, a senior director at Symantec, which makes the Norton computer security programs.

Computers can be protected from infection through anti-virus and spyware-removal software and digital barriers called firewalls, but those tools are far from being completely effective.

Evidently. But I have a suggestion for you. Before you jettison your infected computer, try Knoppix Live DVD first. You have nothing to lose but your malware, which will be stopped dead. And it's free, in every beautiful sense.

Knoppix 4.0 comes as a live DVD, as well as a live CD, which means you get "instant access to 8GB of software - 5,300 programs - without the need to install a single file on your hard disk," thanks to Knoppix's decompression-on-the-fly techniqe. You'll get several browsers, including Firefox, several email clients, including Thunderbird, Evolution (my favorite), and Kmail, more than one office suite in multiple languages,, the Gnome office suite, and KOffice, as well as games, 11 different shells, or desktop environments, including KDE, Gnome, Enlightenment, and the elegant Fluxbox. Note if you are a business, it provides LAMP, because it has Linux, Apache Web server, the MySQL database, and PHP.

Not only that, you now can update the software:

It takes advantage of a system for installing, removing and updating software devised by the developers behind Debian (the version of GNU/Linux underlying Knoppix) that is so easy it makes Windows' approach look positively ham-fisted in comparison. To install or update a program under Debian, users just need to select it from a list of software available online and then let the operating system do the rest.

The fact that Knoppix comes on a read-only CD (and now DVD) might seem to pose a problem. But a clever piece of software called UnionFS, which overlays new software, held in the computer's memory on top of code burned on the disc, means you can still upgrade old programs and install new ones even when running from a live CD/DVD. A USB memory stick is all you need to make such updates and installations permanent, as well as to save your configuration and data files.

Somebody sent somebody at the Guardian a Knoppix DVD, huh? See the result? We should really send one to all reporters everywhere, I think. Give one to your mom, too. The article at the end suggests that there is no reason not to have computers come with this DVD, or preinstalled on the box (they don't know Microsoft like we know Microsoft), and then notes that on the other hand, "when you have instant access to 50,000 free programs, why bother paying extra for a proprietary operating system that only comes with 50?" Why indeed?

So you can choose, toss your computer out and pay $400 every time the malware writers defeat you, or speaking of rational responses, you might try a Knoppix DVD and let it come to your rescue. It doesn't cost $400 either. So here's my suggestion, whether you are a business, a school, a nonprofit, or an individual. Just try Knoppix on that computer you are thinking of tossing out first, and find out what you are missing. If you are thinking of throwing it away anyhow, what have you got to lose? You will find that your sick PC works just fine with Knoppix DVD, and the malware won't be able to function any more. Try out all the thousands of software programs. Just kidding. But try the ones that do what you need a computer to do.

Need things like Adobe Acrobat Reader and worry you won't have it? Stop worrying. It's on the DVD, along with several other PDF viewers and converters. Yes, there's a RSS feed aggregator. Yes, there is a spell checker. Dictionaries in French, Italian, Polish, English, German, Spanish, Bulgarian, Japanese. Yes, text editors galore, including GNU Emacs, GEdit, and my favorite, Kate.

Yes, you get Audacity, a cross-platform audio editor and player along with music utilities of all kinds, including some to help you create your own music, Bluefish, an HTML editor, firmware for Bluetooth devices and tools and daemons, including a gui for entering your pin, access software for the blind using a soft braille terminal, zip file compressors/archivers, security tools you don't have to pay extra for or install yourself separately, including an antivirus scanner (not that you are likely to need it these days), ethereal, a network analyzer, an easy dialog-based firewall configuration GUI, kismet, a wireless 802.11b monitoring tool, wipe, a secure file deletion program, and encryption, including GNU Privacy Guard (and GPGME, GnuPG Made Easy).

You also get OCR programs, printing systems and fax utilities, a flowcharting program, instant messaging, data rescue tools, file system defragmenters, a diagram editor, diff, a file comparison tool, backup tools, multimedia goodies, DVD+-RW/R tools, Eclipse, Java, including the Java development platform, compilers, mathematical tools, a calculator, gphoto2, digital camera clients, XML tools, GnomeMeeting Voice Over IP Suite, GNUCash for folks who need a finance tracking program, GNUmeric, a spreadsheet program, KDE sticky notes, a scanner program, a personal organizer, a business report maker, an image/slideshow viewer, the GIMP and other image viewers and tools, graph drawing tools, mobile phone access applications, html2text and htmldoc, for converting HTML to text, PS, or PDF, news readers, kphone, a Voice-Over-IP phone application, Palm Pilot sync tools, API for smart card readers, presentation software, web site development programs, and documentation. It even has educational games for small children.

If you can think of it, it's probably in there, including software to teach Latin. Oh, and Windows emulators like Wine, so you don't get the bends. Yes, you can open Word documents just fine. Need to make a poster? It has poster, a program that creates large posters from PostScript pages. Want physics tools? A way to transform bitmaps into vector graphics? A medical image conversion tool? A statistical analysis tool? An application for manipulating bibliographic databases? It has them all. Then for a nice change of pace when your neurons need a break, you can watch a cat chase a mouse around the screen or play chess or a tetris-like game. It's all in there. And remember, all you do is insert the DVD or CD and start your computer. It configures itself.

So unless you're made of money and you like throwing it away by paying out hundreds of dollars over and over and over to deal with a problem you shouldn't have in the first place, try Knoppix. You likely will find that you just kissed all that malware misery good bye. If you never use anything but Knoppix, forever. Even if you developed a problem, when you remove the CD, it's gone. You can save things permanently if you wish, of course. In fact, there is a built-in installer. But you don't have to. Here's how Knoppix is described on its web site:

KNOPPIX is a bootable Live system on CD or DVD, consisting of a representative collection ofGNU/Linux software, automatic hardware detection, and support for many graphics cards, sound cards, SCSI and USB devices and other peripherals. KNOPPIX can be used as a productive Linux system for the desktop, educational CD, rescue system, or adapted and used as a platform for commercial software product demos. It is not necessary to install anything on a hard disk. Due to on-the-fly decompression, the CD can have up to 2 GB of executable software installed on it (over 8GB on the DVD "Maxi" edition).

A complete list of software packages present on the KNOPPIX 4.0 DVD can be found here.


Before You Toss Out That Infected PC, Try Knoppix | 233 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections Go Here
Authored by: Weeble on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 01:52 PM EDT
FYI, PJ, the Knoppix 4.0 live CD is not yet available
(though 3.9 is), and the live DVD is only available so far
via Bittorrent. I just checked on Knopper.Net to be sure.

You Never Know What You're Going to Learn--or Learn About--on Groklaw!
(NOTE: Copying Permissions Are Stated in My Profile Bio)

[ Reply to This | # ]

off-topic here, please
Authored by: kjs on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 01:52 PM EDT
HTML, clickety, preview. All that, thanks.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is This the Prequel?
Authored by: Weeble on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 02:02 PM EDT

You told me a long time ago that you were going to write an article on ways you have used Knoppix to fix your Mom's WinPC. I'm still waiting on the article.

How about writing that article (including step-by-step what you did) as a follow-up to this one? I think many of us (including me) who are on the Windows/Linux cusp would find it helpful.

BTW, if you own "Knoppix Hacks" by Kyle Rankin (O'Reilly) and what you did corresponds to one of the hacks documented in there, that would be helpful, too (example: "equiv. to Hack 59"). A kind soul here (you know who you are--thanks again!) sent me a copy of that book and I found it to be helpful and interesting reading.

You Never Know What You're Going to Learn--or Learn About--on Groklaw!
(NOTE: Copying Permissions Are Stated in My Profile Bio)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Free FOSS CDs/DVDs With Newspapers?
Authored by: Simon G Best on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 02:08 PM EDT

In another place, someone suggested that the Guardian could include a free Knoppix DVD with their newspaper. (Free discs are so common now, why not?) So, I emailed that suggestion to the Guardian, along with the suggestion that they might like to consider TheOpenCD.


FOSS IS political. It's just that the political establishment is out of touch and hasn't caught up.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Before You Toss Out That Infected PC, Try Knoppix
Authored by: kjs on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 02:11 PM EDT
It's worse than that! Even if your Windoze isn't infected you trash a lot of
valuable time into patches (for whatever reason they call it upgrade).
After 4 months I decided to power up my dust-collector (an old 1.6GHz AMD
running XPee) and made the mistake to click "Update". Install a new
update program, reboot, install SP1, reboot, install yet another version of the
update program, reboot, install 48 security updates, reboot, install 17
recommended updates, reboot, install 1 driver, NO REBOOT (I'm impressed!). Minor
issue, the network connecion was broken.........
While the machine was basically useless during the update I installed a complete
SuSE 9.3pro system on two brand new machines (AMD64).

I was tired of it and the previous XPee machine now has a new use: it's running
as a second server in the home network (naturally under Linux). The sad part: I
still have to maintain 3 XPee's as the family insists on playing games....

I will never be able to comprehend how journalists can write that Linux is
lacking in ease of installation! Even an old SuSE 7.3 is easier then an XPee
installation. Sure, a gentoo installation is a bit more challenging but there
are many others which are as easy as SuSE.

kjs (on the way to reformat a fully infected machine of the kids, despite
current virus scanners and adware protection)

[ Reply to This | # ]

There are loads of Linux Live CD's out there.
Authored by: TAZ6416 on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 02:14 PM EDT
Knoppix is probably the best one for "newbies" to start with as it's hardware support is very impressive, but there are loads more out there, this is a good resource.

FrozenTech's LiveCD List

My favorite is BeatrIX probably because I have the same cat :)


Donkey Does London

[ Reply to This | # ]

Before You Toss Out That Infected PC, Try Knoppix - or donate it
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 02:21 PM EDT
It's a shame these machines can't be donated to organzations that need them
instead of thrown in the trash. A decent machine running a linux distro or bsd
variant would be a Godsend to a charity or rural school.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Another use for old computers
Authored by: Chris Lingard on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 02:25 PM EDT

There is an article on the BBC suggesting that we donate our spare machines to the third world.

I still have two K6 machines and a Duron 1300MHz doing nothing, except making my storage look untidy. And computers often get thrown into a skip, when they could be refurbished.

The organisation is called Computer Aid International But the thing that puts me off are the following paragraphs:


As standard our machines do not come with operating systems or with any applications software. You must obtain and install this yourself. This is because it will be cheaper for you to obtain it than for us to buy it here. If you require assistance sourcing Microsoft products in your own country then we may be able to help.

Computer Aid International is, however, a Microsoft Authorised Refurbisher, which allows us to install a Microsoft Windows 98 or 2000 operating system only at an additional cost of £5 per machine.

We can also supply Gnu/Linux open source software on disk, please ask if you require this service.

If they supplied machines with a Linux CD, then I would gladly donate excess machines. But since when has our competitor charged £5 per system?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Before You Toss Out That Infected PC, Try Knoppix
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 02:47 PM EDT
This article was perfect timing. This Saturday I went to
an office were I'm starting a 'cooperative development' of
a business. My business associate asked me to help 'fix'
a Windows ME computer for an employee. I asked the
employee what seemed to be the problem and she stated that
her machine was running a bit sluggishly. So I asked her
when was the last time she defraged the hard drive. Her
response was typical for a Windows user. She looked
puzzled and asked what that meant. I knew this was going
to be a challenge.

I sat down at the desk and ran scandisk first. Than I
started to defrag the disk. The process started but
quickly reset to 0%. After a couple of resets I checked
to see what processes were running. I hadn't started any
other than defrag. CTRL + ALT + DEL brought up about
15-20 processes. I started killing them off one by one,
many with names that looked suspicious. Eventually I got
defrag to complete....

Next, I thought of viruses, spyware, malware and all that
good stuff. But first I deleted several programs that
were probably spyware 'friendly'...The woman who's
computer this was said she didn't even know what these
programs were for, who put then in there, etc...(yeah

Next, I decided to use the ONLY piece of software that I
recommend for Windows users (besides Linux). This is/was
something I discovered before I upgraded to Linux in early
1999. An antivirus package from Trend Micro called
PC-cillin. I went to their site and started their free
online checkup (HouseCall) to check out her computer.
After downloading the newest virus engine and scouring the
hard drive the report stated that she had a whopping 52
viruses, 141 spyware/malware programs and one 'suspicious'
e-mail !!! I was not amazed. In five years of
unprotected use this was probably typical. So I told the
program I was running to delete all that bad stuff. It
crashed soon after it started! Well, I'll leave the
details out other than to say it took many restarts of the
program, reboots from here to there and lots of patience
to finally succeed in removing all that crap. About 11
hours later her computer was finally clean !!!

Then, I ran Windows update and installed all the latest
patches. She never did that either !! Afterwards I
restarted the machine and everything seems to be running
about three times faster.

So my observations are that your 'average' Windows user is
pretty ignorant of the threats posed to an unprotected
box. They may or may not update very often if at all.
They use unsafe protocols like chat. They don't update
there anti virus signatures very often. (Her anti-virus
program had been disabled/removed by hackers apparently!)
They probably don't defrag there disk often. In sum total
they live in 'blissful ignorance' of the real threats out

Now, since this computer is one on which this company does
business including credit card transactions,
client/customer information is stored, etc..., that this
is absolutely unacceptable behavior!! To top it off, as a
side line they are also a U-haul franchise. While I was
working on the computer a customer came in to the front
office area. I mentioned to him that I was disinfecting
the computer, which was badly compromised and I was doing
it as a favor to the business owner. His remark, which is
the reason I am writting this story, was something like

"Well, why don't you just throw that one (computer) out
and buy a new one ???" I chuckled inside. I thought to
myself, "How long before the new box gets infected if this
typical Windows user behavior persist?" A better way to
handle this is to clean up the box and teach the person
safe practices. Installing a strong firewall, good
anti-virus/spyware/malware software and keeping these up
to date are a better investment than simply buying a new
computer. And a new computer would require purchasing
these same products anyway. So I guess the attitude of
throw out the old and by new is prevalent out there....

My final thought on this matter is that I am so glad to be
a Linux user. I use SuSE Linux and have a Firewall,
multiple antivirus programs running and up to date as well
as anti spam software (Spamassasin) etc...And they're all
free !!! I update daily. I don't use chat. I don't go
surfing haphazardly. I never open un-solicited e-mails.
I don't open attachments unless I know exactly where they
came from and I expect them. In short, I believe that the
level of awareness is much greater for the average Linux
user. Throwing out an infected computer that's used in a
business will still most likely require that the data be
copied out to another media if it's possible. So why not
do that and then simply do a low level reformat and
reinstall. Or, if posssibe, upgrade to Linux ??

P.S. The customer who walked in to the office was covered
with tatoose and was definitely a typical guy....(LOL)

And, yes, this is a true story !! I couldn't make up
something this good.

M. Soibelman

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Windows Sales?
Authored by: Simon G Best on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 03:36 PM EDT

A thought: what does this practice of dumping infected PCs and buying new ones do for Microsoft's Windows sales figures?

Could this be the making of a 'nice' symbiotic relationship between Microsoft and PC vendors, a la Microsoft and Norton?

As long as people keep thinking that MS Windows is (an unchangeable, inevitable, essential) part of the computer...

FOSS IS political. It's just that the political establishment is out of touch and hasn't caught up.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Stupid Knoppix Tricks
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 03:55 PM EDT
Knoppix has come in handy for me several times, but my favorite is this:

I was on a business trip with my Windows laptop, at a hotel that offered
high-speed internet (via ethernet hookup) in the hotel rooms. No sooner had I
paid the $19.95 for the week's worth of internet service, than my Windows PC
started crashing every time I tried to access the on-board ethernet port.
Something was terribly wrong with the on-board NIC driver. Rebooting, trying to
mess with the network settings, nothing helped. The PC worked until the poinnt
I tried to access the internet - then BSoD every time.

A person I was with had another laptop and I tried connecting with it - no go.
I found out after calling the service that they had tied my $20 to the MAC
address of the NIC on my laptop. They insisted that to use the other person's
laptop, I'd have to cough up another $20 for the week's service.

I then remembered the Knoppix 3.7 CD I had with me (I often carry one around,
thankfully). I popped it in my laptop, booted up, and had Internet access right
then, right there - no questions asked.

Other times, that Knoppix CD has been especially useful helping others recover
important files from Windows PCs that are so inundated with malware that they
can't even copy over their important files to prepare for a reformat/reinstall.
Knoppix and its variants make very good rescue disks if you know how to do it.
It's also a handy way to make online banking safe again when you don't trust
what's going on in your Windows PC (and you shouldn't!). Just insert, reboot,
and safely access your financial records without worry of spyware, adware,

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 03:59 PM EDT
Here I sit with my 233 MHz Thinkpad running Knoppix/Debian.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Before You Toss Out That Infected PC, Try Knoppix
Authored by: Bas Burger on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 04:33 PM EDT
Please tell me where in Amsterdam these are thrown out? I be glad to pick them



[ Reply to This | # ]

some people are morons...
Authored by: Latesigner on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 04:47 PM EDT
I quite like knoppix and I do have a live cd that has pulled more than one
friend or relative out of trouble with a windows box but buying a new pc just
because yours has malware is nonsense nor do you need LINUX to avoid malware.
Could we have a little commonsense here please?
I can only assume these people keep nothing important on their machines and have
never backed up a file in their lives.
Only that last guy seems to have heard the word "format".
Am I being harsh?
While I'm at it if you have friends who borrow your pc to "check their
e-mail" and leave you with a load of spyware you have two choices, drop the
friendship or learn how to set-up a guest account.

The only way to have an "ownership" society is to make slaves of the rest of us.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Before You Toss Out That Infected PC, Try Knoppix
Authored by: darlmclied on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 05:08 PM EDT

Re: someone gave a reporter at The Guardian a Knoppix CD

The article was by Glyn Moody, the author of Rebel Code. The book is a few years old now (dates back to before the SCOundrels started suing everyone), but gives a pretty good history of open source and linux in particular.

Great to see that The Guardian has Glyn writing from them. The article was pretty good, it was clear it was written by someone with more than a passing interest in linux when he smentioned ratpoison as a window manager.

[ Reply to This | # ]

There are bigger issues to consider...
Authored by: XORisOK on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 05:10 PM EDT
I am running XP, SE, ME, and SuSe 9.1 PRO on my home LAN. While there is not a
need to do a lot to keep the Linux box secure, your average user running Windows
simply needs to take advantage of several *free* utilities to keep thing

SpyBot S&D, Ad-Aware, even M$ AntiSpyware are what I (have to) run, and they
keep all of the bad guys out. Unfortunately, the AVERAGE Windows user is either
too ignorant, or, worse, too lazy to install and run these scanners on a regular

I do not have a lot of sympathy for someone that thinks it is "easier"
to throw a machine away instead of simply re-ghosting the drive.

Cogito Ergo ZOOM - "I think, Therefore I drive fast!"

[ Reply to This | # ]

    Have you ever seen this surfing GOOGLE
    Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 05:11 PM EDT

    We're sorry...

    ... but we can't process your request right now. A computer virus or spyware
    application is sending us automated requests, and it appears that your computer
    or network has been infected.

    We'll restore your access as quickly as possible, so try again soon. In the
    meantime, you might want to run a virus checker or spyware remover to make sure
    that your computer is free of viruses and other spurious software.

    We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope we'll see you again on Google.

    Even Using a Windows computer is dangerous and inconvienient.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Before You Toss Out That Infected PC, Try Knoppix
    Authored by: dkpatrick on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 05:33 PM EDT
    A timely article. My daughter called from AZ and she has the Antivirus Gold
    virus/spyware. She and her husband use the computer rarely and are not the geeks
    most of us here are, so fixing something like that is impossible for them
    (probably for me too ... I'd re-install the OS). I can easily name 5 of my
    friends who cannot fix their machines and have resorted to a) re-installing the
    OS every few weeks or b) stop using it in favor of using their work machine.

    I wonder if our government representatives even have a clue about how much
    consumer money and time is being spent coping with these activities. We hear
    about the businesses that are infected but they typically have trained staff to
    fix the problems. The average home user doesn't have those resources.

    Let me put in a plug for the Sygate Personal Firewall. It detects outbound
    requests that it doesn't know about and asks if you want to allow them to
    continue or cut 'em off. When I first installed it I was surprised at the number
    of times Microsoft software (Win2K) wants to "call home" for no
    particular reason.

    I've asked my daughter to catalog the things she really uses under Windows.
    Assuming that it's nothing dramatic, I'll fly down and install Fedora or SuSE
    for her so she can get to the net without the fear she has now. If she wants to
    play games, we'll recycle another computer she has stored away and make it a
    network-less Windows system.

    "Keep your friends close but your enemies closer!" -- Sun Tzu

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Before You Toss Out That Infected PC, Try Knoppix
    Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 05:44 PM EDT
    As a geek I really look forward to neutralizing Windows machines that have
    malware. Some malware just cannot be got rid of so I reformat the HD then
    usually install Suse or Ubuntu.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Window Managers
    Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 06:13 PM EDT
    The thing about a lot of distros, including Knoppix, is they default to a KDE
    desktop. This is a fine desktop, until you have to run on a slow machine. If
    you are having difficulties because you graphical desktop is too slow
    (especially if it's KDE), seriously, try a faster window manager like icewm or
    fvwm. You may be pleasantly surprised at all the bells and whistles you get to
    keep, while working *way* faster on your computer. Highly recommended. I have
    switched my laptop over to running icewm because it's "only" a 750MHz

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    The Security False Economy
    Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 06:22 PM EDT
    I know that we all complain about the insecure Windows PCs attached to the
    Internet and how it interferes with our lives. However, one must realize that
    over the last decade or so a large sector of our economy has grown up around
    combating these security issues. In effect a false economy, the same as is seen
    in war time for example the war on drugs, has developed. One that continually
    consumes resources yet provides little if no return.

    Now if all these insecure computer all started running Linux and therefore
    became inherently more secure what would the effect on our economy be in both
    jobs and other costs. It could be that it is sufficiently high that the disease
    itself may not be as bad as the cure.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Copy Protection makes flush and restore hard.
    Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 06:44 PM EDT
    Windows security is commonly derided and I think with good reason. I would like
    to leave that aside for now and consider how one might recover from a corrupted

    The safest thing to do of course is wipe it totally clean and reinstall from
    trusted backups or original installation media. So, why don't people do that?

    1. Many PCs don't come with installation media.

    2. Doing an installation is hard. That is why they come preinstalled in the
    first place.

    3. Even if the PC came with media for the OS it probably doesn't have the

    4. Even if you have another PC with access to the net to download drivers it is
    hard to know what hardware you need drivers for.

    5. Backups are impractical and this is mostly because of copy protection.

    5a. Complete backups don't work any more considering how large hard drives are
    and how small removable media is.

    5b. Windows is designed to be hard to back up. One can not write a copy of
    Windows on a CDR and restore the operating system by copying it back. At least
    not with just Windows tools you can't.

    5c. Windows applications are designed to be hard to back up. One can not simply
    copy an application onto a CDR and restore it onto the rebuilt PC preserving
    documents and settings. It is necessary to re-install all applications, a
    process which is painfully slow.

    A lot of this comes from the vendors wanting their software to be hard to copy.
    Without this intended difficulty users who simply copy the stuff they care about
    onto a CDR once in a while could flush and restore a corrupted machine quickly.

    Windows of course has the worst of this. A part of the problem exists in Linux
    too although for technical reasons and not copy protection. The widespread use
    of shared libraries creates complex dependencies between applications and other
    packages making their installation more than simply untaring their directory
    tree some place convenient. Even so, Linux is enormously easier to backup and
    restore. It is the difference between technical complexity and deliberate
    obstruction. Not all proprietary computers are bad. The last time I worked
    with Macs I found restoring my environment on a new one quick and easy.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Before You Toss Out Windows
    Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 08:11 PM EDT
    While I am aware of the many advantages involved in a move to Linux users need
    to remember there is a bit more to it than that. If I was a user and someone
    just switched me to Linux then I would not be able to run things like Office,
    CAD software, Pre-press software, games and quite a few others. It is all very
    well to suggest that Open Source alternatives exist but the issue with that is
    the existing files, I still need to open and use them. Also not all FOSS
    software is up to scratch - yet but I am confident that it will get there. I
    cannot find a decent CAD package. OOo cannot handle all Office files yet and a
    few other lurking issues.

    Yes, I will be moving to Linux but I still have to look after the legacy stuff
    and users need to be aware of this as well. It's one thing too get people
    excited with the Knoppix CD but a little care needs to be taken as well.

    Incidently I do like the CD but I would like to see some solid anti-
    mallware/spyware/virus software on there ready to run that can pick up the
    latest definitions automatically and run. However the issues with writing to
    NTFS may make that a non-starter untill NTFS support becomes native.


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    One of my favorite uses for Knoppix is...
    Authored by: Jude on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 08:58 PM EDT
    ... as a quick diagnostic. Whenever I have a problem with a PC-type computer,
    my first step is to pop in a Knoppix CD and see what happens. If it boots and
    sees the important hardware, the problem is likely with the OS. I give Knoppix
    CD's to my non-technically-inclined friends for this purpose. If they get
    curious and start playing with Knoppix, so much the better.

    Knoppix is also the first thing I try to boot when I'm building a new PC. It's
    a lot faster and easier than trying a whole OS install and wondering why it
    didn't work.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Stupidity is its own reward. *Sorry if this sounds harsh – Truth is Truth*
    Authored by: SilverWave on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 09:08 PM EDT
    I can see that this looks to be a good way of converting users over to LINIX but
    I don’t, on reflection, think this to be the case.

    The people who would throw out a PC and buy another are not going to use LINIX

    Anybody who would do this falls into at least one of the following categories:

    1. Too busy to RTFM.
    Fair enough but… a PC is not a toaster, and you will have to pay for your
    willing ignorance.

    2. Too stupid.
    Knoppix may help, limits the damage they can do as it is a DVD after all. But I
    feel they would not be happy as they will still want that which they know e.g.
    Windows and if they cannot cope with Windows then LINIX is probably out of their

    3. More money than sense.
    The same behaviour that got them into this mess will be repeated - consider that
    having to buy a new PC every year is the least of their problems. Anyone this
    daft will soon be too poor to own a pc - problem solved.

    Previous post from me on this subject:

    >You have got to be kidding!

    >Even the most clueless user knows how to use the dreaded "restore"
    disk - the one that rebuilds the software after reformatting the drive - ouch!

    "They [each] put in one hour of work,
    but because they share the end results
    they get nine hours... for free"

    Firstmonday 98 interview with Linus Torvalds

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Not much to do with Groking the Law
    Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, July 17 2005 @ 11:25 PM EDT

    Is groklaw becoming the new slashdot? I don't really mind. Not a lot of news
    from scox these days, so it's something.

    Anyway, slashdot does a lot of Law stories that sometimes don't have much to do
    with technology. So, I guess, fair is fair.

    - walterbyrd

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    • MOD PARENT UP - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 18 2005 @ 07:25 PM EDT
    Before You Toss Out That Infected PC, Try Knoppix
    Authored by: producer on Monday, July 18 2005 @ 02:30 AM EDT
    "rather than take the time to remove the offending software, he would spend
    $400 on a new machine.

    "It was cheaper and faster," he said. . . ."

    If laying out $400 is a better use of his time, he must be worth quite the money
    per hour. My Linux OS, from CD placement to desktop, takes all of 15 minutes.
    I wonder how many PhD's the N.Y. Times had to interview to get the response they

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How to avoid infections
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 18 2005 @ 05:29 AM EDT
    1) Turn off Javascript, ActiveX, Java and Flash.
    2) If you really need the above for a few trusted Web sites, add them to your
    Trusted sites group.
    3) Use Windows automatic update. Except for this...
    4) Answer "No" if asked to install anything.
    5) Do not run email attachments
    6) Do not run downloaded programs.
    7) You'll be fine.

    Why do people prefer panic and bad laws to a few simple precautions?

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Union file system
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 18 2005 @ 07:33 AM EDT
    Of course, the BSDs have had a union file system for ages...

    -- You author it, and I'll reader it.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Wish it wasn't so ugly
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 18 2005 @ 07:58 AM EDT
    I've found Knoppix to be a superb tool.

    However, the desktop and theme it uses is always extremely ugly (busy, cluttered
    background, and Kermaic, possibly the ugliest KDE theme going) which makes it
    look rather 'thrown together' and 'amateurish' (which it isn't). I'd never dream
    of giving a Windows user a Knoppix disk without remastering it first and making
    the default theme look cleaner.

    What'd be nice if Knoppix started using themes similar to RedHat's Bluecurve
    which is functional and easy on the eye instead of the lurid desktop it boots up
    with now.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    It Isn't The Infection, It's The OS *)
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 18 2005 @ 08:36 AM EDT
    In the New York Times article, the malware isn't the problem.

    Both cases described in detail are four year old systems.

    Running Windows for four years straight, even in a completely internet- and
    virusfree surrounding, without the machine destabilizing into an unbootable
    state, is a miracle.

    Four years ago, XP wasn't out yet, so these people were running Windows 98/Me.
    For four years. Of course the BSOD rate on those machines is high.

    Mr PhD Computational Science should know, that the occasional format &
    reinstall is necessary to keep those pipes clean.

    After four years, I know I would have a choice between reformatting and buying
    new. (After four years, I would have reformatted half a dozen times, but that's
    personal.) And I would use just about any excuse in my book to buy new.

    The "slowing down" can of course also be an effect of the kids
    downloading HDTV quality movies, and noticing slowdown during playback on their
    600 MHz processors...


    *) I'm not saying that alternative operating systems are inherently better cruft
    repellants, because I've never used one for longer periods, although a
    live-cd/dvd seems to insure against that rather well.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    ... and the TCO is ?
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 18 2005 @ 09:12 AM EDT
    How long did they say it takes to infect a Windows PC? 12 minutes? I'd better
    phone Dell now with an order for 120 new PC's every day.

    Thank goodness Dr Tucker has made me realise what a fool I've been, wasting time
    fiddling around with Debian and firewalls. Time is money! It will be a favour
    to the environment too, helping to fill those ugly holes in the ground outside
    the city. $48,000 per day on new PCs will be money well spent!

    Microsoft did include this factor in their TCO of Windows, in their "Get
    the Facts" campaign, didn't they?

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    And if you can't deal with Knoppix...
    Authored by: bwcbwc on Monday, July 18 2005 @ 09:32 AM EDT
    Try just replacing the hard-drive, rather than tossing the whole PC. Yeesh.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Image your computer
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 18 2005 @ 09:42 AM EDT
    For Windows

    Load the OS and all updates possible without connecting to the internet;
    load all your programs, including a good firewall;
    configure your system the way you like it;
    Image your hard drive using some removable media like a removable hard drive.
    using your firewall, block all except from microsoft, then connect to the
    internet and update your OS and all of your programs.
    Make a second image of your hard drive if you want with all of the updates.
    (Since it is programs and OS only, it should only be a few gigs at most.)

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Glynn Moody
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 18 2005 @ 10:06 AM EDT
    "Somebody sent somebody at the Guardian a Knoppix DVD, huh? See the result? We should really send one to all reporters everywhere, I think. ... The article at the end suggests that there is no reason not to have computers come with this DVD (they don't know Microsoft like we know Microsoft)"

    PJ, Glynn Moody is well known OSS advocate and writer, British I think. He wrote the book "Rebel Code", and I'd be suprised if you had not at least heard of that. You can be sure he knows all the issues with Microsoft too.

    Opentia Link

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Before You Toss Out That Infected PC, Try Knoppix
    Authored by: Groklaw Lurker on Monday, July 18 2005 @ 10:54 AM EDT
    This weekend my son-in-law called me to complain about his PC. He runs Windows
    XP and his complaint was that over the last few months (since he bought it), it
    has become slower and slower, it crashes frequently and often fills the screen
    with layers of advertisements for everything imaginable (they have a DSL

    My daughter and son-in-law are completely non-technical computer users. I mulled
    over their predicament for a while, mentally considering and discarding various
    Linux distros before I suddenly remembered that Linspire had a new version. I
    decided to take a closer look at it as Linspire is well suited for Windows
    people who are utterly reliant on the graphical interface for interaction with
    their computer.

    I downloaded and burned the CD, picked up their computer and installed Linspire
    5 (my daughter and son-in-law wanted their whole hard drive wiped and
    re-installed with something fresh, be it Windows or something else). I purchased
    an account on Linspire's CNR (Click-n-Run) web site for $50.00 and started to
    download stuff. I installed about a hundred games and dozens of other
    interesting programs from their selection of what must be a thousand available

    This took a few hours even on my high speed home connection. Then I returned
    their computer and we re-connected it to their DSL modem. The Linspire GUI is so
    intuitive they were surfing the Internet in minutes. They are still concerned
    that the machine will gradually become unusable due to viruses and spyware etc.,
    but over time I think they will grow to accept that they are now on a platform
    that is at least an order of magnitude more robust and resistent to the
    contamination they have become accustomed to with XP.

    I doubt they will ever look back!

    (GL) Groklaw Lurker
    End the tyranny, abolish software patents.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    A thought
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 18 2005 @ 01:52 PM EDT
    Without getting drawn into benefits of one OS or another a simple thought has
    struck me. Always use a seperate partition or drive for your data. Yeh, should
    be obvious but it helps keep OS and data seperate. If the OS gets smegged then
    you still have your data. Touble is that recovery disks will overwrite but it
    still gives more options especially if you use a second drive, their pretty
    cheap now. While you are about it many new mobos have some sort of raid
    capability so you could put in 2 drives for data and raid them for backup.

    Just an idea. A bit techie for a luser but if called in to help may be worth the
    consideration. A second drive to rescue data onto would be neat with the Knoppix
    CD as well.


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Why Users Throw Infected PCs Away and the Proper Way to Fix This
    Authored by: DaveJakeman on Tuesday, July 19 2005 @ 12:38 PM EDT

    This is an expansion of the post "Image your computer" above, with a few things thrown in besides.

    The reason users throw their PCs away when its disk is infected or corrupted is that they are stupid. Maybe I should qualify that. That isn't to say they have a low IQ; they are being stupid because they have been "educated" with false data. False data makes one think stupidly, or not at all. They have been comfortably cajoled into thinking everything in the garden is lovely, simply because everyone else seems to do it this way too. Everyone that is, except the pro.

    If a user:

    a) uses a PC that stores important data on a hard disk


    b) does not backup that data (or the entire PC)

    then s/he is not using a computer, but playing with a toy. A toy that will break. And when it breaks, the mis-educated user is tempted to throw the toy out of the pram rather than fix it.

    Hard drives fail. It's not a question of whether they will fail; it's just a question of when. First-time users often have to find this out for themselves and this is a shame. This omission is something you can place the blame fairly and squarely, not on the user, but on the consumer computing industry.

    But there are many other reasons one might need to restore a PC from a backup:

    - virus/spyware/malware infection;

    - a malicious virus actually gets to deliver its payload, like wiping your disk;

    - undesirable software installed (you installed that game and it didn't work; do you trust it to de-install cleanly?);

    - most software deinstallation (there are not many pieces of x-windows software that will leave a PC in the exact state it was in prior to installation)

    - Microsoft slow-down (for which, read: crappy OS);

    - accidental file deletion;

    - partition table corruption;

    - fire/flood/disaster;

    - theft;


    One time, I pressed the "Hibernate" button on my fresh-out-of-the box laptop to see what would happen. Unsurprisingly, it hibernated. Surprisingly, it hibernated permanently. The hibernation dump file had been thoughtfully configured by the vendor to coincide with the partition table. Result: rebuild. Just because I pressed a button on the keyboard. Fab.

    This same laptop appears to have a corrupt system disk if I switch it on when the disk is below about 16 Centigrade. The data isn't actually corrupt, it's just cold. When it once had Win 98 installed, the OS would see the "corrupt registry" and automatically roll back to a previous version. It would keep doing this until it ran out of previous versions of the registry to boot from, after which, I had to rebuild. Just because it was cold. Fab.

    Possibly it is only experiencing pain such as this that correctly educates users into the importance of backup.

    So there are many reasons to backup your PC. Reinstalling the OS, then applying all the necessary patches, applications, customisations, etc, is not the answer. That takes too much time. What you need is a full backup you can protect properly and can restore from easily.

    A floppy disk is not a backup device; it's a laughably inadquate piece of temporary storage media greatly suited to transferring small files, but not much else.

    A real backup device is something large enough to hold all the data on your PC, including the OS, that can be quickly and easily removed from the PC and stored somewhere safe. And a real backup is one that can be restored quickly and easily from your real backup device, onto a replacement disk in the same PC, or a different PC altogether. And after booting up the restored PC, it will be ready to go with no further messing about. That's what a real backup is.

    (See this one I wrote earlier)

    (To clarify: the best all-round backup solution for home PC's is an industry-standard hard disk mounted in a removable caddy. You also need some backup software that can backup any disk on your PC without the OS running (so you boot from a diskette or CD). I won't mention names, but there are several solutions available. An external USB hard disk as a backup device is not a good idea unless supported by your stand-alone backup software - there's no point in doing a backup unless you can do a full restore from it after a disk failure.)

    But back to the point: how many PC's are sold to first-time users without a proper backup device? How often is the word "backup" even mentioned in the sales pitch? Therein lies the problem.

    Knoppix may be nice, but rescue is too late. The time to "rescue" your PC is before it gets infected, corrupted, slow, problematic, broken, etc. This is called taking a backup. A real, pro-style backup that is. A backup taken under your control, at a suitable point in time. A backup that you would be happy to roll back to. A backup that you can do a rapid restore from, reinstating a desired state of any hard disk, to a particular, known point in time.

    So the fix to this problem does not lie in Knoppix, nor even backup. It lies in user education. It lies in somehow changing the widely held expection that all you need is a screen, a base unit, a keyboard and a mouse, at the best price you can find on the internet or Joe's Budget PC's down the road. That's just toy computing.

    So when your toy breaks, don't cry and throw it out of the pram; just remember these four words: I told you so. Then cry and throw it out of the pram.

    Should one hear an accusation, first look to see how it might be levelled at the accuser.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    knoppix to the rescue
    Authored by: Sparticus on Tuesday, July 19 2005 @ 04:30 PM EDT
    Another knoppix true story. My brother, an ardant XP user, called not long ago
    complaining that his computer kept crashing. Knoppix is a standard part of my
    software toolbox so I set his bios to boot from the cd, popped in a knoppix disk
    and watched the boot up messages. This is something that is impossible to do
    with XP. From this I noticed some errors during the boot up sequence. This made
    me think that there was a problem with the hardware. To the credit of knoppix
    developers, they have included a memory testing application (also availble on
    other live cd's). Micrsoft either does not provide a memory testing application
    or do not advertise one. I immediately found lots of memory errors. So I
    reseated the memory module booted up again and found the same problem. After a
    quick trip to the store for a new memory module, I rechecked the memory and
    problem was solved. Booting back to XP (oh the pain). Is NTFS a journaling file
    system? XP fails to boot. My brother has a new baby and lots of, how should I
    put this, PRICELESS baby pictures. So it's knoppix to the rescue agian.
    PRICELESS baby pictures backed up. Check. And yet after this he still insists on
    re-installing XP. Two hours later and half a dozen re-boots installing various
    drivers, security patches, virus scanners, yadda-yadda and all is well. It's sad
    how brain washed people have become thinking that Micrsoft makes a quality OS.
    The point is a knoppix or SimplyMepis distro. installs faster, is more secure,
    more reliable and comes with tools (readily available), to diagnose and fix
    computers. All at an inexpensive cost. Sure I'll use windows at work, if I have
    to.. I guess. But my personal computer will always run GPL software, not inspite
    of the license but because of it and I "Got the Facts".

    Linux is compose of 1's and 0's, but sco appears to be full of #2.

    I. M. Sparticus

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Before You Toss Out That Infected PC, Try Knoppix
    Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, July 21 2005 @ 02:13 PM EDT

    The single most-important thing that you can do, with XP or Linux or otherwise, is to always do your regular, day-to-day business with a limited, non-Administrator, user-ID! This user should be dumb-as-toast, with no special access rights whatsoever.

    Establish a separate user-ID, call it sysmaint or whatever, for "all forms of software maintenance." This should be in addition to root. Use this ID only when actively maintaining the system software or application software. Disable it for logins when not in use.

    "Spyware" is able to infect a system only because you allow it to. Only because the spyware program asks the system to do something unusual (like modify a global registry-entry), and the system says, "Yes, Lord..." instead of "Nice Try, Loser!" :-)

    There is, after all, no plausible reason for "you" to be accessing any files that do not belong to "you," and your system's security should always be set in such a way that "you" can't do so, no matter how hard you (or a virus running in your name) try.

    Any modern version of Windows can support such restrictions and do so very well. Trouble is, with Windows as it is typically deployed to millions of web-connected consumers, those security provisions are turned off. "For convenience," I suppose... Thus, Linux and OS/X get a reputation for security that's a little bit better than they deserve, simply because in those systems as-deployed, security is normally "on."

    I urge all of you Windows users... (a) to upgrade all of your machines to "NT-variant" versions (like XP... in other words, "no more [DOS-based] Windows-9x or Windows-Me") ... and (b) take the time to carefully read the Windows help-files associated with the "Users and Groups" control-panels. Set up permissions as I've described. Ditch any old applications, especially games, that don't work under those rules. Then finally, (c) drop by the computer store and buy one of those mega-gigabyte little USB hard-drives (mine's by DataStor) that will fit in your shirt pocket ... or in your local bank's lock-box. Buy two. They're an excellent backup-device, and if your system supports USB 2.0 they're just as fast as any other hard-drive. Make regular backups to this device a regular part of your daily routine. It's worth the slight effort. (And if the bank happens to be next-door to a coffee shop, so much the better!) "Treat the data on your computer with the same attention to ordinary security that you give to your coffee-maker, which is locked in your office every night, and you'd be amazed at the difference."

    [ Reply to This | # ]

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