Knoppix 6.0 on Netbooks Redux

Dmitri Popov

Productivity Sauce

Mar 17, 2009 GMT
Dmitri Popov

In the previous post, I extol the virtues of Knoppix 6.0 as an ideal distro for netbooks. In fact, I was so impressed by the 6.0 release that I replaced Puppy Linux on my trusty Eee PC 900. Although Knoppix detected all key hardware components such as the webcam, the wireless cards, and the microphone, there were a few things that needed tweaking to make this distro run smoothly on the netbook. So here are a few simple tricks that can help you to get the most out of Knoppix on your Eee PC.

By default, Knoppix uses 16-bit color depth, which makes the graphics appear dithered. To fix that, use the depth=24 cheat code. As soon as you boot your netbook, type the following command and press Enter:

knoppix depth=24

In a similar manner, you can disable Compiz Fusion using the no3d cheat code.

If you are using a netbook with a non-US keyboard layout, you will immediately notice that the LXDE graphical desktop environment doesn't provide any graphical tools for switching keyboard layouts. To solve this problem, run the following command in the terminal (replace "us" and "dk" with the keyboard layouts you want):

setxkbmap -option grp:switch,grp:alt_shift_toggle,grp_led:scroll us,dk

This command enables switching between specified keyboard layouts using the Shift+Alt shortcut.

Although Knoppix doesn't detect hotkeys on Eee PC, enabling them is trivial. All you have to do is to install the eeepc-acpi-scripts package using the apt-get install eeepc-acpi-scripts command (dont' forget to become root first by executing the su command). On Eee PC 900, you need to edit the eeepc-acpi-scripts file to enable the Volume Up, Volume Down, and Mute keys. Open the file using the nano /etc/default/ eeepc-acpi-scripts command and locate the VOLUME_LABEL='LineOut' line. Change it to VOLUME_LABEL='Master'.

While Knoppix does detect the built-in microphone, the default settings make it practically unusable. So if you want to use your notebook to make Skype calls, then you have to tweak the microphone's settings. This can be done using the quasi-graphical alsamixer utility. Run the alsamixer command in the terminal to launch it. Use the arrow keys to select the Capture setting, enable it by pressing the Space bar, and set its value to 65%. Make sure that Front Mic is selected as the Input Source and set the Front Mic and Front Mic Boost values to 65%. You may need to change these values to achieve a better effect.

That's all there is to it. By the way, since Knoppix is based on Debian, all tips and tricks in the excellent Debian on Eee PC wiki work for Knoppix, too. In fact, some of the described solutions come from this wiki.

Comments

  • New eeepci-acpi scripts

    First of all thank you VERY much for this article. It convinced me to try it out. And it was really worth the try. Knoppix 6.0 is awesome on these little machines. I moved from Xandros pretty quickly to different distros and ended up with a custom debian. It worked reasonably fine, but it was a pain to set it up. I have a 700 Surf series with only 2GB SSD. None of the distros I've tryied managed to ran smoothly on 2GB. On the other hand the last Knoppix I used was a 4.0 and moved onto Ubuntu for my other computers. Until few days ago I was assuming that the project was dying (or already dead) because of all the high quality concurrence able to run from a live-CD. Well, I was wrong! Knoppix rocks once more. I had the same old feeling as the first time I saw Knoppix running from a CD for the first time (for those who know what I mean). It was the dark times of Win95 back then.



    I'm considering now switching my other machines to ADRIANE. I just wonder how fast it must be on a Centrino core 2 Duo.



    But this is not the purpose of this post. Just for your information, here's an update on the new eeepc-acpi scripts. The recent eeepc-acpi-scripts (07/2009 or a bit before) handle the sound controls (Fn+F7/F8/F9) fine out of the box. So no more need for special tweaks there, don't waste an hour before realizing that, like me ;-P However, the default SOUND_VOLUME_STEP is probably too low and you might not realize that it's working at first. Interestingly, keeping pressing the shortcut will cause the CPU to overload, and will ultimately NOT do the job.

    It is trivial to fix that by running:

    sudo cp /etc/default/eeepc-acpi-scripts /etc/default/eeepc-acpi-scripts.bak
    sudo nano /etc/default/eeepc-acpi-scripts

    (The first command is not necessary and is intended for anybody who doesn't feel overconfident with modifying the config files. It will just to make a copy of the file (sudo cp /etc/default/eeepc-acpi-scripts.bak /etc/default/eeepc-acpi-scripts will restore the original file in case anything goes wrong). It is a good habit to have.)

    finding the SOUND_VOLUME_STEP line and setting it to something like 5.

    SOUND_VOLUME_STEP=5

    Done.
  • Knoppix tips

    Awesome tips! Thanks!!
  • What do you recommend then?

    Don't
    JFM Mar 18, 2009 10:48am GMT
    Put it bluntly you shouldn't use a general distribution on a netbook.

    So what is the best distro for netbooks & low end laptops?
    Knoppix is praised for it excellent hardware detection - a big plus I can tell you!
  • 2GB Memory

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Joannah

    http://2gbmemory.net
  • Re: Don't

    >First because the usual mount options and disk flush policy will drastically reduce an SSD disk's life.

    True, but you can run Knoppix off a SD card or a USB stick. These are cheap as chips, so you can easily replace them when they are worn out.

    >Second: because the usual UIs and application defaults are not tuned for their tiny screens. And last because the Atom processors are for optimization purposes closer to superfast 386s than to processors used on desktops and laptops: they lack sepculative execution, branch prediction (less sure about the later), register renaming and many of the refinements who have been standard since the Pentium. Given that general use distributions are optimized for the Pentium 4 or the Core timetable (even when due to Gcc limitations they restrict to 386 instructions) they will be noticeably slower on an Atom than a distribution built specifically for netbooks.

    This is a valid point, but earlier Eee PC models use Intel Celeron processors.
  • Don't

    Put it bluntly you shouldn't use a general distribution on a netbook. First because the usual mount options and disk flush policy will drastically reduce an SSD disk's life. Second: because the usual UIs and application defaults are not tuned for their tiny screens. And last because the Atom processors are for optimization purposes closer to superfast 386s than to processors used on desktops and laptops: they lack sepculative execution, branch prediction (less sure about the later), register renaming and many of the refinements who have been standard since the Pentium. Given that general use distributions are optimized for the Pentium 4 or the Core timetable (even when due to Gcc limitations they restrict to 386 instructions) they will be noticeably slower on an Atom than a distribution built specifically for netbooks.
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