Since support for Beryl is still experimental, the 3-D desktop is provided in Knoppix as an option. To enable it, you have to use the
knoppix desktop=beryl cheat code on boot. Considering the current status of Beryl, the new 3-D desktop works surprisingly well; it starts without any problems on a lowly Acer TravelMate 243 laptop with an Intel 82855 GM integrated graphics controller, and it feels snappy and is a joy to use. While some may consider the inclusion of Beryl in Knoppix a gimmick, it provides a great introduction to the whole 3-D desktop idea. Installing Beryl can be a tricky and time-consuming business, so the ability to try the fancy 3-D desktop with zero effort is a boon for all users looking for some Linux eye candy.
As usual, most software packages have also been updated. Knoppix 5.1.1 comes with KDE 3.5.5, GNOME 2.14 (available in the Knoppix DVD edition only), and OpenOffice.org 2.1. Following the recent Mozilla/Debian controversy, the Firefox browser and the Thunderbird email client have been replaced in Knoppix 5.1.1 with Iceweasel and Icedove respectively. Among useful software additions is the mkbootdev script, which allows you to create a bootable USB stick -- a handy tool for making a USB version of Knoppix. Of course, the most important software news in Knoppix 5.1.1 is without a doubt the inclusion of the latest Frozen Bubble game, which now supports multi-player network games.
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Knoppix 5.1.1 also features a number of significant changes under the hood. The UnionFS file system has been replaced with aufs (Another UnionFS). According to the changelog, aufs is a more streamlined implementation of UnionFS that fixes many bugs still found in the original file system. The latest version of Knoppix comes with the NTFS-3G driver that offers full read/write operations on NTFS partitions. This makes Knoppix an even better tool for troubleshooting Windows-based machines.
As always, the new version of Knoppix comes in CD and DVD editions, which are available for download from mirrors listed at the Knoppix Web site. All in all, this release continues the fine tradition of delivering solid updates to the already great live CD Linux distro.
Dmitri Popov is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Russian, British, German, and Danish computer magazines.