BOOT CAMP 404 (27/12/05)

PC RESCUE part 2


Last week in we looked at how to create a ‘rescue disc’ using Knoppix, a cut down version of the Linux operating system (OS), which also includes a suite of utilities. It’s the ultimate Get Out Of Jail Free Card for a crashed Windows PC as it runs directly from the CD, so you can carry on working in the event of a major system failure. Hopefully you will never need it but it’s as well to know what to do should the worst happen so let’s do a dry run.


On most PCs all you have to do is load the Knoppix disc and restart, the machine automatically detects the presence of the new OS and boots up, however, not all machines are configured to check the CD-ROM drive first, so you might have to make a minor change to the BIOS or Setup menu.


The exact method varies but normally you will see a message that flashes up on the screen immediately after switch on saying something like ‘To enter setup press Esc’ (or a combination of keys). Otherwise the procedure will be outlined in the manual. Once the BIOS or Boot menu is displayed change the first ‘boot device’ to your CD-ROM drive, Save the change Exit and reboot and the PC should now boot from the disc. You can safely keep this setting as normally you won’t keep the Knoppix disc in the drive and Windows will boot as usual from the hard drive.


A few moments after the PC is switched on Knoppix will start loading, it pauses for about 30 seconds, you can press Enter or wait and the boot up will continue and eventually a loading screen will appear. Don’t press anything yet; a progress box runs through a list of components as they are loaded and finally the desktop is displayed. A browser-like window called Knoppix Info opens. Click the ‘EN’ link for a short introduction in English otherwise exit the box by clicking the ‘x’ icon in the top right and corner.


Knoppix is now ready to use but there are a few things to be aware of. It’s not as quick as Windows because the operating system is running from the CD-ROM so be patient. Simply ‘hovering’ the mouse over an icon can open a menu or start an application, others require a single or double-click so learn to point first, wait a moment to see if that does anything, if not single click then try a double-click. Laptop touch pads can be quite lively and if you move the pointer around too quickly you may open multiple instances of a program so take it slowly until you get a feel for it.


In most other respects it is very similar to Windows. The desktop icons represent your PC’s CD-ROM, floppy and hard disc drives or partitions. Clicking any of them opens a message box asking if you want to ‘mount’ the drive, if you click OK (or ignore it) an Explorer type window, called ‘Konqueror’, opens showing the contents of the drive. Linux doesn’t use drive letters like Windows and your C: drive will probably be called ‘hda1’, D: may be ‘hda2, 3, 4 ’ and so on, but you can tell which one is which from the contents.


It’s worth setting up your printer, network and Internet connections early on. Click on the Penguin icon, select Configure > Configure Printer, click the Add button follow the ‘Installation Wizard’ prompts and Knoppix will attempt to connect to your local printer. To set up an Internet connection click on the Penguin icon then Network/Internet, select your connection method (ADSL, Modem, KWiFi (Wi-Fi) manager, Network etc.) and follow the prompts.


You will be asked to enter your ISP details, username, password, email account etc., it’s a good idea to have this information ready and keep it with your rescue disc.  Once the connection is made you can browse the web using Firefox and access your emails using Thunderbird, both of which are very similar to their Windows equivalents. 


If you want to open and work on a word processor document the place to begin is the Start or ‘K’ button in the bottom left hand corner. Go to Office > OpenOffice.Org > OpenOffice.Org Writer and this launches a word processor that looks and works a lot like MS word. To open a document select the file open icon, click on ‘mnt’ (mount) and your hard drive icons (hda1 etc.) will be displayed and from there you can navigate to where your documents are kept. To open a document double-click the file icon. If the document has a Read Only attribute you won’t be able to edit it directly but all you have to do is highlight and copy the text and paste it into a New document and when you save it remember to give it a new name. To access other common file types see this week’s Top Tip. 


NEXT WEEK - PC Rescue part 3





The disc drive containing a PC’s operating system



Linux term for the process of recognising the filing system used by a storage device



The division of a single hard disc drive into two or more ‘virtual’ drives, each with its own drive letter




Knoppix can also open and edit many other file types; for spreadsheets use Calc, images can be viewed and edited using The Gimp (Start > Graphics) and check out the excellent sound, video and CD/DVD burning utilities on Multimedia on the Start menu. There are some good games and ‘Toys’ to play with and like Windows the appearance and desktop are all highly configurable so give it a try, you will be impressed, it might even tempt you investigate more sophisticated versions of Linux (see Boot Camp 318)! Don’t forget there are hundreds more great tips in the Archive at:






© R. Maybury 2005, 2112

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