KANOTIX 64 bit

KANOTIX 64 bit

Among the many Debian derivatives out there, there is one I had never tried until this very week, KANOTIX. Visiting the distro website, one may get the impression that the project has been discontinued, for the most recent news speak of the release of Kanotix 2007-Thorhammer-RC7. Indeed, the only download link points to that preview release from 2007.

However, this impression is wrong. The thing is that Kanotix life is far more evident on the IRC channel that it is on the website and it is expressed mainly in German language. This means to me that probably the Kanotix team has no intention to develop a main-stream distribution competing on the OS marketplace. Rather, it seems that they are developing this system for themselves and that they wish to share it mainly with very interested members of the community (those who enter the chat room to ask how things are going).

That is how I managed to find the download links to the testing versions of Kanotix (code name Excalibur). I downloaded the 64 bit images with the 2.6.31 kernel and KDE3 and KDE4, respectively. Finally, I kept KDE4.

Both live CDs recognised and configured correctly all the hardware in my laptop. But I found KDE4 to be too heavy for a live CD (my computer is equipped with a Core 2 Duo 2.53 GHz processor, 4 Gb of RAM and a NVIDIA 8800M GTX with 512 Mb). Perhaps the desktop effects should be deactivated by default for the live CD.

The installation was very straightforward, except for some partitioning issues with Gparted in the KDE4 version. Apparently the swap partition is mounted immediately, even before Gparted has finished working, and therefore I had too boot into a system with no swap (this is not a big issue and it can be corrected by re-creating the swap partition and adding the corresponding entry to fstab once the system is installed). This problem does not occur with KDE3.

Despite all the criticism, I think KDE4 is nice. Aesthetically it has improved a lot and it is quite intuitive even if one may argue that some menus are now oversimplified as compared to the functionality-focused KDE3. However, with all the desktop effects activated, KDE4 it is too bloated, even for my relatively powerful laptop. I have opted for deactivating everything. I have also installed LXDE which works pretty well except for the wired network, which is working with KDE but not with LXDE (it connects to the router and can obtain an IP address by DHCP but it is unable to reach any external network). Puzzlingly, the wireless connection works in both cases. The network manager is Wicd and, initially, it refuses to connect to an encrypted network. You just have to display the details of the network and go to Advanced Settings in order to configure this.

For the rest, Kanotix 64 seems to be Debian Lenny (do not expect up-to-date packages, except for the kernel and maybe some others) but with improved hardware detection and auto-configuration (for instance, my wireless card was not working properly with Lenny, maybe due to the old Lenny kernel). This far Kanotix is very stable and reliable and therefore is just what I have been looking for a few weeks now.

As usual, I have compiled a preemptive kernel, installed the NVIDIA drivers and performed a few others performance tweaks more or less as explained elsewhere.

NOTE: See comments for some interesting tips!

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