Knowing Knoppix/Knoppix essentials

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Knoppix essentials[edit | edit source]

“If I ever met Bill Gates, there wouldn't be much of a meeting point. I couldn't tell him about business, and he couldn't tell me about technology.” -- Linus Torvalds

This section contains important background information that will help you understand the rest of this book. If you are in a hurry, skip over this section. The terms explained in this section will be used often, so you may need to refer back to this page later.

File names[edit | edit source]

The following rules apply to file names in Knoppix.

  • Case sensitive. This causes the most problems for beginners. For example, “myfile.txt”, “MyFile.txt” and “MYFILE.TXT” are all different names.
  • Long file names are allowed. File names can be up to 255 characters long.
  • There is no “C:” drive. Instead, all files are arranged in a tree beginning with “/”, which is called the root directory. The “root directory” is like “My Computer”. It is the starting point for everything stored inside in the computer.
  • Forward slashes. For example, in Windows, part of the location of an image file might be:
    My Documents\My Pictures\duck.jpg
    In Knoppix, the backslashes that represent the path to the file are written as forward slashes instead, like this:
    My Documents/My Pictures/duck.jpg
What's the difference between a directory and a folder? Not much.
A folder is just the icon that is usually used to represent a directory.
The words “directory” and “folder” are interchangeable.
Remember, a hard disk is like a filing cabinet.
Partitions are like drawers, directories are like folders, and files are like individual documents.

Drive names[edit | edit source]

You may be used to Microsoft Windows' naming scheme for disk drives. For example, you may be used to “drive A:” for the first floppy drive; “drive C:” for the first visible hard drive partition, and so on. Knoppix has its own drive naming scheme. This section explains how the naming scheme works.

Disk types[edit | edit source]

The naming scheme starts with a two-letter code for the type of disk.

Name Drive type
fd Conventional floppy drive
hd Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) drive
sd Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) drive

IDE drives[edit | edit source]

IDE drives are the most common in desktop PCs and laptops. A single letter indicates how the drive is connected. Most PCs and laptops have two IDE channels: primary and secondary. Each channel can have up to two devices: master and slave.

Name IDE drive
hda Primary Master
hdb Primary Slave
hdc Secondary Master
hdd Secondary Slave

SCSI drives[edit | edit source]

For SCSI drives, a single letter indicates its location. This is called its position in the SCSI chain. Zip, USB and Firewire drives are also treated as SCSI drives.

Name SCSI drive location
sda First SCSI drive
sdb Second SCSI drive
sdc Third SCSI drive

Disk partitions[edit | edit source]

IDE and SCSI hard drives are divided into partitions. Zip, USB and Firewire drives also contain partitions. A partition is like a compartment within a disk. There may be a single partition that covers the entire disk. There may be more than one partition. Each partition is indicated by a number.

Name Drive Partition
hda1 Primary master IDE drive First partition
hda2 Primary master IDE drive Second partition
hda3 Primary master IDE drive Third partition

SCSI emulation for IDE CD-ROM drives[edit | edit source]

IDE CD-ROM drives are treated as SCSI drives. This is called SCSI emulation. SCSI emulation is there so that CD burning applications can use the same language to talk to SCSI and IDE drives.

Name CD-ROM drive
scd0 First CD-ROM drive
scd1 Second CD-ROM drive
scd2 Third CD-ROM drive

Conventional 1.44 Mb floppy drives[edit | edit source]

For ordinary floppy disk drives, a number shows the drive number.

Name Floppy drive number
fd0 First floppy drive
fd1 Second floppy drive

Drive detection[edit | edit source]

Knoppix automatically detects all IDE and SCSI devices. The names of the devices are printed in the startup messages (Ctrl+Alt+F1). Here is an example:

hda: [FUJITSU MPA3026AT]
hdb: [LS-120 VER5 00 UHD FLOPPY]
hdc: [HITACHI DVD-ROM GD-2500]
hdd: [MATSHITA CD-RW CD-7586]

This example shows that the primary master is a Fujitsu hard drive. The primary slave is an Imation LS-120 SuperDisk drive. The secondary master is a Hitachi DVD-ROM drive. The secondary slave is a Matshita CD-RW drive.

Partition detection[edit | edit source]

Knoppix automatically detects all partitions on all IDE and SCSI devices. For example, given a single Windows partition on the primary master IDE hard drive, the following device name will be created:


This means the partition will be called /dev/hda1 in Knoppix.

Some removable disks also have partitions, notably Iomega Zip disks.
For the partitions on an Iomega Zip disk to be detected properly, you must insert the disk into the drive before you start Knoppix.

Mount points[edit | edit source]

Each device name has a mount point. This is a special place where the files on a device appear. A mount point is created automatically for each device name. For example, given the Fujitsu drive above, the following mount point will be created:


This means the partition /dev/hda1 will be mounted to /mnt/hda1.

Auto-mounting of floppy and CD-ROM drives[edit | edit source]

Conventional floppy and CD-ROM drives are auto-mounted. This means Knoppix takes care of mounting and unmounting them automatically. The auto-mount locations are:

  • First floppy drive: /mnt/floppy
  • Second floppy drive: /mnt/floppy1
  • First CD-ROM drive: /mnt/cdrom
  • Second CD-ROM drive: /mnt/cdrom1

Login accounts[edit | edit source]

When you start Knoppix, you are logged in automatically. No passwords are needed. All passwords are locked by default. Knoppix bypasses all the usernames and passwords of the operating system installed on the hard disk.

Keyboard shortcut Virtual terminal Logged in as user account
Ctrl+Alt+F1 Console number 1 root
Ctrl+Alt+F2 Console number 2 root
Ctrl+Alt+F3 Console number 3 root
Ctrl+Alt+F4 Console number 4 root
Ctrl+Alt+F5 X Window System (KDE) knoppix

You can switch between the virtual terminals at any time. For example, to switch to the first console, press Ctrl+Alt+F1. The Knoppix startup messages will be displayed. To switch to the second console, press Ctrl+Alt+F2. To get back to the X Window System, press Ctrl+Alt+F5.

The X Window System is on virtual terminal number 5.

User accounts[edit | edit source]

The user account[edit | edit source]

The Knoppix user account is called “knoppix”. This account is for all productivity tasks, including CD burning and printing. When the X Window System starts, you are logged in to that user account automatically, without a password.

The superuser account[edit | edit source]

The superuser account is for system administration tasks. The superuser account is called the root account. When Knoppix starts, you are logged in as root to all four consoles automatically with no password. It is also possible to use the root account within the X Window System.

As with other Linux distributions, use the user account for all your everyday tasks.
Only use the root account when you need it.
For example, when you are logged on as root, you have the power to instantly delete every file on every disk with one simple command. When you are logged on as a user, the system will not let you do that. This helps you to protect yourself against accidents. Get into the habit now and it will save you later!