I get a lot of email asking me how to get started in GNU/Linux. I usually suggest trying Knoppix out first. What is Knoppix?
KNOPPIX is a bootable CD or DVD with a collection of GNU/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 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 8 GB on the DVD "Maxi" edition).
By the way, as many of you will know the Knoppix Live DVD is now available. Yum. Here's everything you get.
For all of you who are maybe thinking about trying GNU/Linux or Knoppix yourself, I thought I'd say an encouraging word. It's nowhere near as hard as you may have heard. Here are two newbies, both women, one a mom and one a grandmother, and they both managed to function just fine when they decided to give it a whirl.
A site called linux-noob.com asked the mom, who isn't particularly computer knowledgeable, to try out Fedora (installed for her), and she explains exactly what she tried (GAIM, Gimp, her digital camera, etc.) and if something didn't immediately work, how she solved it, with some help from the linux-noob.com forum participants. She points to their how-to helping her set up mplayer, for example, and here's their "How to read your NTFS partitions in 5 minutes or less". I'm sure we can guess whose fault it probably is that it is somewhat complex to set it up to run Windows Media files in Linux. Even with the few things that caused her some preliminary issues, she solved everything and then she fell in love. It's fun to read a complete newbie enjoy Fedora.
The grandmother is our own brooker, who decided to try to save a relative's files on an ailing XP computer using a Knoppix CD.
She had read on Groklaw about how wonderful I think Knoppix, the CD, is and how you can rescue files on an ailing Windows computer with it, and so she tried it on a friend's computer to save a few Word files, and then when her niece found herself with a Windows computer that wouldn't boot at all, cram full of urgently important files, brooker just plunged in, and without any help at all, not even documentation, she successfully saved most of the files. She didn't try to fix the Windows side instead of saving the files, which is what I would have looked at first, myself. Because she decided to save files and did it by trial and error, it naturally took longer than if she'd had a friend show her, and she definitely took the long way around, but I thought it was so interesting to see that trial and error actually works for a newbie to Knoppix, I asked her to tell us what happened, the detailed version. Some of you will no doubt be willing to share with her some better ways, and that's fine.
I'll let her tell you the rest of her adventure. And keep in mind she is new to GNU/Linux, not just to Knoppix, although certainly above-average competent in the Windows environment. I guess Windows users simply must learn a few things to stay afloat at all, or have a designated tech support family member to help. It's not like you can just call up Microsoft for free and ask them how to access your files when your computer won't boot any more.
She just plunged in, but for those who prefer at least a star to guide them in Knoppix, there are books. Here's one in English. There are books in German and Japanese too, on how to use Knoppix. You can use Knoppix without installing it, just live from the CD or DVD, or you can install it on your computer, and brooker did both. Here's a NTFS FAQ from the Linux-NTFS Project. Here's what they are about:
A free (GPL) NTFS write support is currently under development. Experimental-oriented developers may find the corresponding tools and instructions for accessing rw-mounts of NTFS-Partitions, on the DVD (use at your own risk).
Here's some documentation.
Remember as you read brooker's account that she took the scenic route. With a book, nothing would take you three days. And with a friend to ask questions, things she couldn't figure out would have been doable. But I find it encouraging to know that even with nobody available to walk her through it, with a little persistence, using her Windows skills, she was able to rescue almost all files from Windows using Knoppix. The next time you are faced with such a problem, perhaps you can try Knoppix too.
A Knewbie's Knoppix Rescue Adventure,
~ by brooker
First things first...
Who am I?
I'm a decidedly ordinary person, certainly no tech guru, not a programmer, or a scientist, nor particularly well-educated.
I am an artist/illustrator and work from my home studio, full time, and have been doing this type of work for almost 35 years, but have only been using the computer as a drawing and design tool since '94. (I still keep my old pens & ink, colored pencils, t-squares and triangles handy though!)
Most of my work is for publishers of educational materials for grades K-12. The most used programs on my computer -- in fact, just about the only major programs installed on my computer -- are Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign for book layouts, and an old version of Quark, though I avoid Quark unless absolutely forced to use it.
I am an older woman (yes, a grandmother many times over), and I have deadlines that I must meet without fail. Excuses like "Windows ate my last assignment" are not acceptable when the publisher has printing deadlines of their own to meet. It's a good way to lose a contract job, which is why it was very important to me, early on, to learn how to take care of my computer systems and maintain as secure, stable and dependable work tools as possible.
Wrestling Windows into submission was NEVER easy. It was a process of many years, during which I killed many a system by experimenting (mostly trying to fix them after a crash). These days I maintain an uneasy truce with Windows, and my main system has now run steadily for 3 years without problems. I can tell that it's beginning to slow down a bit though, and constant vigilance is still required to stay on top of things.
Over the years my family and friends began to call and ask for help for their own computer problems. It's always been a labor of love for me to help them whenever I could. My son always showed tremendous patience with me whenever I'd call him for help, so it only seems right to pass that help on. Doing so also helped me to learn more and gain a little confidence with my own computers. Scary as it might seem to more tech-savvy folks, among my small circle of family and friends, I am the Tech Support Lady, not because I particularly know all that much, but because they know I'll do my best to help out, and to teach them whatever I learn without making them feel badly about making mistakes, which is why I always keep my eyes peeled for utilities and tools that can help make fixing ailing Windows systems faster and easier.
When I heard about Knoppix, I had to try it.
I have 3 computers in the house, but the one I love and work with the most was given to me by my youngest son. He airbrushed pretty blue flames on the case, so I have to admit to being sentimental about keeping it running. The motherboard is an ABIT VP6, with dual PIII processors, 1GB RAM, and a rather elderly D-Link network card. It was a couple of years old when I inherited it, and I've used it for almost 5 years now. At one point its capacitors began to leak and needed to be sent off for repair, but that has been the only down time this computer has ever had. It is a dependable and much beloved work horse, and I'm rather proud of it.
The case cover isn't on it any more (I didn't want to chance scratching the wonderful paint job), and I've attached a mishmash of hard drives to it, in fact 2 are hanging outside of the case right now, braced on small cardboard boxes covered with anti-static bags, easy to unplug and swap with another, if necessary. I have the whole thing resting on the floor (not inside a desk enclosure), on a piece of wooden shelving with plastic "sliders" under it, so I can easily move it out to swap hardware when needed. This is the computer that I use to plug other people's hard drives in to to rescue files and run anti-virus on them. It only has one CD-burner on it.
I might add here that my ability to gracefully climb under my computer desk to "swap parts" has diminished considerably over the last few years (along with my enthusiasm for doing so). I can still manage it, but not without a few groans and crackles from knees and elbows.
All 3 computers in my house share a cable modem through a Netgear router. There are shared folders on all systems, and two external storage drives are connected by USB and mapped for easy access from the other computers. It's not a fancy setup, but it works. I try to keep things simple because I am not particularly knowledgeable about technical things and don't always have the time to figure them out. My main interest is doing work using my computer, not working on the computer itself.
I had helped save a couple of files (Word docs) off of a friend's ailing Windows computer, using Knoppix 3.8 on her computer, a system much newer than any of mine.
That first experience doing a "for real" file rescue was a snap. Once Knoppix had booted up and opened to display the desktop, it showed icons of the two hard drives that were available.
In Windows, whenever I can't think of what to do next, I just try right-clicking on things to see what sort of menu choices I get. I found that it works in Knoppix too.
I right-clicked on each of those drive icons and found a nice menu. One thing I have learned from my adventures with Linux is that drives need to be "mounted" in order for them to be accessible. In the right-click menu the option to "mount" or "unmount" makes that task very easy to do. Opening a mounted drive only requires one click on the icon, or select "Open" from that same right-click menu. Pretty easy stuff.
The files that needed to be retrieved were all Word docs, and by clicking on the drive icon, navigating to and opening the folder where the Word docs were, I was able to copy and paste them into a disk in the floppy drive. Piece of cake.
The Big Files Rescue Operation Begins
I had another opportunity to use Knoppix recently when my niece was scheduled to bring her computer for me to look at.
My niece had called about her newest computer having "problems", and she said she would be bringing it over a few days later. Now I figured it'd be fun, just like my first trial run. Actually, it WAS kind of fun, and lots of things were easy, but it was not at all like my first file rescue using Knoppix. In part, it was because my computer is so old, I think, and mostly because it was a much larger project, saving everything on the computer, some files too big for a floppy.
My niece's computer is a Shuttle, with a Maxtor 250GB hard drive, 512MB RAM, and a Siluro FX5200 graphics card. I believe the network and sound cards are integrated into the motherboard.
I started on Saturday, and on Tuesday there were notes scattered from here (my studio room) to the kitchen (where the ailing computer is set up on my "island" counter). This time the rescue was not so simple, it was a long and wearying task. My niece's computer was completely unbootable. When I pulled her hard drive out and plugged it into my own computer, Windows wouldn't even recognize it, just popped up error boxes.
However, Knoppix not only recognized the drive, it let me access her files as well.
When Knoppix had the contents of her hard drive displayed on the screen, I asked which files she needed to save. She then began to point to folders that, added together, made up around 320MB. These files weren't just Word & Excel files (though there were plenty of those), they were AutoCad files (she works for an architect,so a great many of those files were .dwgs), client project files (she also does custom work for a remodelling company), images from job sites (about 200 of them), and her entire past portfolio of personal artwork. And she hadn't backed any of them up.
She had recently finished moving ALL of her archived portfolio of design and past client project files off of several zip disks, using her old external zip drive, onto her Shuttle. She had been in the process of organizing them for burning on CDs when her computer crashed. Her computer is a daily work tool for her, like mine is for me, so I understood her distress when it crashed and hoped to be able to help.
We set the Shuttle up in my kitchen and turned it on. As she had described earlier, it booted to the point of starting to load Windows then went to a blue screen and would go no further, not even in Safe mode.
I inserted the Knoppix Live CD into the CD drawer and restarted. We watched as Knoppix began listing the parts on her computer (I'm sorry not to be better at terminology), and it opened onto a screen that offered a choice of exiting entirely, or continuing to load into Knoppix. By hitting return (or "enter"), the desktop began to load.
Knoppix always opens a browser window first thing (Konquerer), which I closed. The desktop then displays a cheerful group of icons along the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. Rolling the cursor over just about anything in Knoppix will bring up small descriptions, so getting a basic idea of what those taskbar icons do is pretty easy.
Icons for all the drives that Knoppix "sees" are displayed right on the desktop.
From my previous experiments with the Knoppix Live CD, I knew where to find the "Home" directory from the taskbar (it's the house icon), and how to access the hard drives that are displayed as icons on the desktop (just click on 'em; remember to "mount" them first).
Because Knoppix displays the contents of a hard drive in the same way that Windows does, it was easy to navigate to the folder that my niece wanted rescued. I opened it and asked her to show me which files she needed. That's when she hesitantly confessed that she hadn't backed up any of her time sheets and other Word and Excel docs in over a week, and explained the fact that her entire portfolio of past projects and artwork was in there too (from those old zip disks), plus several folders full of photo files taken at job sites (.jpgs and .pngs).
All together there were 320MB worth of Auto-Cad, Excel, Word, .jpg, .png, Quicken, and TurboTax files. Many were not backed up anywhere.
Because her Shuttle doesn't have a floppy drive, and neither of us have USB thumb drives, I knew I would have to plug that hard drive into my own computer, which I did.
Once the Shuttle's hard drive was connected as a slave to my computer, I restarted into Windows hoping I could just run my anti-virus through that drive and then grab that huge block of files and transfer them directly to another drive. I've done that before many times on ailing windows drives. However, this time Windows wouldn't even recognize that drive at all. It popped up error boxes (I didn't write the Windows error messages down, but do remember that they contained exclamation points and discouraging words like "unreadable disk" & "I/O problems"). Windows couldn't even read the drive enough to do a scandisk, and my AV couldn't recognize the drive to run a virus check on it.
I was afraid to mess with it too much in Windows, so I put the Knoppix CD in the CD drawer and restarted my computer. I have learned that using Knoppix from CD does not touch or alter the hard drive at all, so I felt safer using it on that sick hard drive. All of the drives on my computer were listed as icons, and though I did get a few errors at first when I tried to open that damaged drive again, I kept trying and it did finally do it.
My first goal was to get a copy of those folders into the Knoppix "Home" directory where I could work with them away from the ailing hard drive. I didn't move all of them at once, because I knew that running Knoppix from CD means that there is only a limited amount of memory to work within. I'm afraid I only minimally understand how that works (magic, maybe? :o), but I did feel that it would be wisest to do things in smaller workable chunks. I asked her to prioritize those files and tell me which ones to go for first. I stressed that, not knowing how close that drive might be to total failure, there were no guarantees that I could save them all, if any.
I don't think she really understood my pessimism, but did point to some folders that she felt were most urgent to save, about 129MB worth...and then she left for work.
Planning a course of action
Left to myself to think the project through and (I hoped) to come up with a solution that didn't involve using the floppy drive, I began looking through the various bundled programs in Knoppix and found K3b for CD burning. I ran the program and could see that it recognized my Lite-on CD burner...which was where the Knoppix Live CD was sitting at the time.
Now, I know this will likely sound dumb to others, but I remembered once when I had installed an upgrade to one of my Adobe programs from CD, during the authorization process, when the installer asked where to find the previous version for the upgrade, if it couldn't find the "prev install" folder on the hard drive it instructed the user to insert the original CD in the drive instead, and even says that it's ok to take the upgrade CD out and replace it with the original CD if necessary. Which I remember doing, and the Adobe installation and authentication process continued just fine, though to go beyond that stage it did require the upgrade installation CD to be reinserted.
I don't know if I explained that very well, but basically I wondered if Knoppix could actually let me replace the Knoppix Live CD with a blank CD for a short time, and let me burn those files. (Hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained :o)
It didn't work, but I learned something by trying and didn't despair. I just decided to install a second CD burner on my computer. Piece of Cake. I didn't think it would take but a few minutes to do.
Now, over the years I've acquired a variety of rag-tag computer parts, and in my cupboard there were several orphaned, slightly dusty CD drives lined up like books on the shelf. I had no idea if any of them actually worked, so I piled them up beside my computer desk and picked one to try. Two hours later, I had a Lite-on DVDR-W installed and recognized by Knoppix (I had pulled it out of my niece's Shuttle).
*My CD installation adventures during those two hours would make quite a humorous tale (with bits of slapstick that Laural and Hardy might appreciate), but it's best left to another time. I'll just note here that the knees and elbows were now groaning and crackling quite emphatically.
Because I had shut my computer down to install the CDburner, I had to once again boot into Knoppix, open the ailing hard drive (it still took several tries before it opened), and copy those folders back to the Knoppix "Home" directory.
I opened K3b again and was pretty excited to see the second burner listed for me to select, so I proceeded to give it a try. I navigated to the "Home" directory and dragged those folders into the Data Project window and hit the "Burn" icon with great anticipation.
Everything looked like it would work, but very shortly into the process an error box popped up. I am sorry to say that I didn't write it down. I am not a good multitasker and tend to get too absorbed in things...I'm also a little forgetful. Sorry.
The next idea was to try to move those files to another drive on my computer. My first choice was an external USB storage drive. However, when I tried copying and pasting a file to that drive, I got an error message that said:
"Could not write to /mnt/uba1/archway.dwg"
I right-clicked on the desktop icon for that USB drive, and found an option to change the read/write permissions. So, thinking that might be a solution, I chose that. A dialog box popped up that asked "Make partition/dev/uba1 writable?" (I checked, "Yes")
I was asked to confirm: "Do you really want to change partition/dev/uba1 to be writable?" I chose "Yes" again, and it only took a second or two for that change to be made and confirmed.
I tried once more to copy/paste a file to that USB drive. That's when a rather disconcerting warning message popped up:
Warning: "The partition/dev/uba1 is of type NTFS! Writing to this file system can cause data loss. You can try using the captive-ntfs driver (see Knoppix utility menu), or only do write operations manually & expect to have to reinstall the file system afterwards. This dialog won't do this risky thing for you, and will quit now without changing anything."
Quite polite and to the point, and I felt that it was best not to argue. I also appreciated a program that would not do anything risky for me. Feeling that I might be getting in over my head if I tried to mess with file systems, I decided to look for something that was more within my newbie abilities.
That's when I decided to just install Knoppix to a hard drive. Then I could set up my own passwords and give myself "root" authority. I felt it was very likely that I could burn a CD from an installed Knoppix.
So, I installed it. I had a short little video tutorial on installing Knoppix from a website called irongeek. I ran that tutorial on another computer (which is basically a storage computer on the other desk in my office that I use as a juke box to play music while I work...it has a CD burner, but no floppy drive).
Because I didn't want to inadvertently mess up anything on my other drives during the Knoppix install, I unplugged all of them and pulled a spare little 20GB drive from my spare parts cupboard and plugged it in. The Knoppix installation was a breeze, not one single problem, and within 30 minutes I was booted into Knoppix for real. How fun!
Unfortunately, the ailing Windows drive wasn't accessible from within the installed Knoppix. I don't know why, or what made the difference, but no matter what I tried, Knoppix just wouldn't open that drive anymore. I was heartbroken and very upset, afraid that I might have somehow caused the drive to fail entirely.
At this point, there were thunderstorms brewing outside, so I powered everything down and quit for the night.
Around noon the following day, I decided to try the Live CD once more, just to see if it might read that hard drive one more time. It took a few attempts and I almost gave up, but it DID open at last.
After moving a chunk of those files into the Home directory again, I began digging through them to see what I was dealing with. It was becoming clearer to me that I might not have many more chances to save anything from that Windows drive, so I considered just seeing how much I could get transferred by using the floppy drive, if it came to that.
The bad news was that many of the folders were full of other folders, which were full of zipped files, which were full of more folders with more zipped files.
The good news was that when I unzipped them using a little utility that comes bundled in Knoppix called Ark, most of the individual files were of a size that would fit on a floppy disk. I was extremely impressed with Ark, it made the job of unzipping and organizing the files into floppy-sized chunks a breeze. It literally runs rings around WinZip.
My next task was to see if any of my old floppies were even still good. I hadn't used them in ages. I actually found about 30 of them in a box. So, the file transferring task began.
The only other computer I have with a floppy drive, is a little-used, rather elderly machine (without a CDburner) located at the other end of the house. It is connected to my network though, and has a shared folder. I spent the rest of the day copying files to floppies and carrying them to the other room, feeding them into the old computer's shared folder, then coming back to fill up some more. I had to stop once again for thunderstorms (and food and sleep), and called my niece with the good news that I had about 2/3 of her files saved. She was glad to hear it, but asked if I could, please, keep trying to save the rest.
There was one folder in particular that I was afraid would be too much to save...and of course, that was the very one she wanted the most. I didn't have the heart to say no, or to stop trying.
I held my breath the next morning as I fired up the Knoppix CD once more. It took several tries, but Knoppix is a trooper and opened the drive again, and I started the process of filling floppies again.
When I got to the image folder there were over 200 images. Many were too large to fit on a floppy. So, I opened The Gimp image editor and saved them as .jpgs, which brought up a slider allowing me to reduce the file size. It reduced the quality a bit as well, but at least the image was saved.
By afternoon a friend pitched in to help me with the transfers, as I filled floppies, he fed them into the other computer, while I filled more. It helped a lot.
By 7:30PM that evening, Knoppix, a couple of floppy drives, and 30 blank floppy disks had helped save 308MB of files. I immediately ran a virus scan and then transferred the whole thing to a computer with a CD burner and burned it all on CD.
By 8:00PM I had both the DVD drive and the sickly Maxtor drive back in the Shuttle with the Maxtor analysis utility running, and my own computer put back to normal. The little 20GB drive with Knoppix installed was unplugged (I'm still a little shy about trying a dual boot setup with Windows). Then I had to get back to my job for a while.
It was a long and wearying few days, but I was proud that with a lot of patience and that little Knoppix CD, I managed to recover 309 MB of files.
There were some very frustrating moments. I could see those files and open them, and saving them to floppy was easy, but because there were so MANY I really didn't want to have to break them down and save them one floppy at a time.
I've since found information about burning CDs here: http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/linux/library/l-cdburn.html .
With all the files saved (and checked over with my anti-virus program) I was free to try to get that Windows system repaired and running, but it was not repairable. It was (as the Munchkins declared of the squashed witch in the Wizard of Oz) "not merely dead, but truly, most sincerely dead".
Looking back I have to laugh, because it was a little like a crew of teeny-tiny tug boats rescuing the cargo off of a big wallowing tanker. Transferring files onto and off of floppies was such a slow process -- waiting for the little floppy drives to stop ticktickticking each time was a serious lesson in patience.
That should be the end of the story, but there is a little follow up. I wrote to PJ and told her the experiences I'd had with my niece's Shuttle, and she asked if I could try again to burn a CD, maybe be more specific with the steps I took, and suggested that I not do anything to that ailing hard drive yet, because maybe some readers might know how to save the rest of the files from it.
So, this morning I plugged the 20GB drive with Knoppix installed back in to my computer, also pulled that DVD-RW drive back out of the Shuttle and added it back into my computer, and booted into Knoppix.
In the installed Knoppix, I opened K3b again and was given a "writer Speed Verification" box. The speed for my older Lite-on is 40x and the default setting was correct. Both Lite-ons were listed, and the blank CD was acknowledged, but the DVD-RW drive was greyed out.
I picked some random files off of one of my hard drives and pasted them into the Home directory, and then dragged them into the Data Project window in K3b and hit the "Burn" icon. That CD was burned in the blink of an eye! It was SO easy that it made me laugh. I loved it.
I'm rather proud of saving those files off that drive even though I apparently did it the hardest way possible. I'll likely look back on this weekend someday and laugh at my muddling efforts. I still have much to learn about GNU/Linux.
What are my conclusions about using Knoppix, or any GNU/Linux software as a newbie? Is it too hard for ordinary users to figure out?
Well, I USED to believe that, mostly because I had read it so often. I don't know about anyone else, but I can't think of one single skill in this world that doesn't require at least a little bit of patience and effort to learn.
I used to think that, for longtime Windows users like me, using GNU/Linux would feel like visiting an alien planet. But it's not that way at all, especially not in the newer versions. To me, it's been more like visiting a new friend's house. The furniture and floor plan might be different from yours in your home, and there might be different pictures on the walls, but the things that matter are basically the same. For instance, the faucets still work like faucets, the toilet flushes like any other, the refrigerator door takes no time to figure out, and there's no problem understanding which room is the kitchen and which is a bedroom.
It would not take long to wander down hallways and open a few doors (with the host's kind permission, of course) to learn your way around the main areas of a new house. Knoppix is very much like that. A great many things work in standard ways. It's not at all scary to explore, in fact exploring seems to be encouraged, and it doesn't take long to feel at home with Knoppix. I liked seeing at one point during the boot process, that the word "Welcome" is displayed in several different languages. It's a nice touch.
There is definitely some learning needed to do more complex things with Knoppix, but anyone that thinks the basics might be hard to learn will be pleasantly surprised to find how very easy it is. Personally, I honestly wouldn't want an OS that I couldn't grow with.
If you think about it, most people just learn a few basic things with Windows programs and don't mess with more complex things. It's easy to keep to simple things in Knoppix as well.
Was I disappointed that some things didn't work for me as I hoped on my first attempt? No. The bottom line is that an ordinary newbie user just managed to save 309MB of files, using a variety of tools on Knoppix, like Arc, Gimp, OpenOffice (I used OO to turn several documents into PDFs), and even though I was not able to successfully burn CDs while using Knoppix Live from CD, the K3b software worked like a charm in my installed version of Knoppix.
I attempted a rescue that happened to be a bit larger and more complex than I was prepared for, but that was not the fault of Knoppix. When I used it the first time to save just a couple of files, it worked perfectly. In fact, when all else failed, Knoppix just worked. When I booted into my Knoppix installation the last time, I was able to relax and explore a little. It is just plain nice!
Are there things about Knoppix that are too complex for newbies? Sure, but there are also a HUGE amount of things that are not only friendly to users, but LOTS easier to use than the Windows equivalent.
Also, my old computer runs SO fast when running the installed Knoppix that I am floored!
And, the very nicest part of all is that I can now burn LOTS of Knoppix Live CDs and give them away! In fact, I've done quite a bit of that.
I have known for a long time now that I never would upgrade my Win2K systems to any newer Windows versions. I also want to help my family and friends get off of the Windows treadmill. I am more confident now than ever before that GNU/Linux is the way to go.
I've wanted to learn how to install a GNU/Linux system for a very long time, but whenever I'd read articles or posts on forums that stated that Linux was still too complex and "not ready for grandma yet", I always felt discouraged, sure that it would be too difficult for me to learn. I really was a little afraid of it.
Then it occurred to me that all of those posts and articles over the years that kept me discouraged might have been intended to do just that. Fear is the first part of FUD, after all, and I fell for it. Hmmmph. Hanging out for a little while each day at Groklaw -- one of the FUD-Bustingest websites around -- has helped a lot to dispel the fear factor.
I've been impressed and happily surprised at how much fun it has been to use and learn Knoppix and other Linux software. Even with my systems that have a lot of old hardware (which would be all of them), I've been amazed at how much is recognized immediately when I experiment with installing different operating systems. So far I like SuSE the best, but I still have a few hardware issues to work out with it. I have Mandriva on one spare hard drive, and it was pretty easy to install, and now I have Knoppix on another. I'm still running Windows 2KPro on my main system, but I I am slowly whittling away at the need to have it at all.
So if you think it's too hard for you, think again, and give Knoppix a whirl, ideally before you need to use it as a rescue vehicle. If I can do it, anyone can. And that's the truth.