Last modified on 22 February 2008, at 05:33

Knowing Knoppix/Alternatives to KDE

Alternatives to KDEEdit

Knoppix has six alternative desktop managers. These let you run the X Window System on a computer that doesn't have enough RAM for KDE. They also save loading time, because they load much more quickly.

Ice Window ManagerEdit

A small and fast window manager in the Microsoft Windows style.

Ice Window Manager screenshot

Window MakerEdit

A simple and elegant window manager with a very solid feel.

Window Maker Window Manager screenshot


Similar in style to Window Maker.

Fluxbox Window Manager screenshot


Xfce stands for “The Cholesterol Free Desktop Environment”.

Xfce Desktop Environment screenshot

Lars Window ManagerEdit

An alternative window manager. In Lars Window Manager, almost everything is done with the keyboard instead of the mouse. Lars Window Manager is designed for programmers that spend most of their time working with text.

Lars Window Manager screenshot

Tab Window ManagerEdit

TWM is designed to use as little RAM as possible. If you start Knoppix on a computer without enough RAM to run KDE, it will run Tab Window Manager instead.

Tab Window Manager screenshot

Starting an alternative window managerEdit

once knoppix has loaded you can go through the configuration options, to switch between various window manager(except beryl).

Use one of these commands at the boot prompt.

knoppix desktop=icewm          # IceWM
knoppix desktop=wmaker         # Window Maker
knoppix desktop=fluxbox        # Fluxbox
knoppix desktop=xfce           # Xfce
knoppix desktop=larswm         # Lars Window Manager
knoppix desktop=twm            # Tab Window Manager
knoppix desktop=beryl          # Beryl with kde

For example, to start Window Maker in the UK locale:

knoppix desktop=wmaker lang=uk 

Accessing disks and partitions while outside KDEEdit

You may have noticed there are no desktop disk icons when you are using an alternative to KDE. Luckily, you can still use KDE's disk management tools, even when you are outside KDE. For example:

  1. Start Knoppix into Window Maker.
  2. Click the “XTerm” icon, which is on the right hand side, second from the top. Enter this command:
  3. Wait while “KDiskFree” starts.
  4. Right-click the icon of the disk or partition you want. Click “Mount”. Right-click the icon again, then “Open in file manager”.
    Knowing Knoppix (Accessing disks and partitions while outside of KDE 1).png
  5. The files on the disk or partition will be displayed.
Important: KDiskFree mounts in read-write mode, not read-only.

Text modeEdit

Text mode is the fastest way to start Knoppix. Text mode is meant for those who are familiar with the UNIX command line interface. There are many excellent books on the subject, such as “Sams Teach Yourself UNIX in 24 Hours”.


To start Knoppix in text mode, enter this at the boot prompt.

knoppix 2

For example, to start with UK keyboard/language, with DMA for faster hard disk access, and without PCMCIA because you're not working on a laptop computer, enter:

knoppix lang=uk dma nopcmcia 2


Enter this command to exit Knoppix:



Text mode is called “runlevel 2”. When started in text mode, Knoppix uses the “C” locale. The C locale is defined as the “default” locale for applications, meaning that their strings are displayed as written in the initial code, without passing through a translation lookup. Just plain old ASCII. Literally, the “C” locale turns off localisation.

To enable localisation, specify the locale that you want to use with the “lang=” option. For example, enter this at the boot prompt to load Knoppix in text mode with the UK regional settings:

knoppix 2 lang=uk

Adjusting the keyboard layoutEdit

To switch to a UK keyboard layout, type this and press Enter:

loadkeys uk

The keyboard map will be changed to UK layout.

Accessing disks and partitionsEdit

Use the “mount” command. For example, to mount the first partition on the primary master IDE hard drive:

cd /mnt
mount hda1

The files on the device /dev/hda1 will be mounted to /mnt/hda1. To view the files on the partition:

cd hda1

The files will be displayed. To learn more about navigating and copying files in text mode, refer to a UNIX manual or text book.

Disks and partitions are mounted read-write by the mount command.

Identifying hardwareEdit

Use these commands to get hardware information:

Command Shows
lspci PCI devices
lsusb USB devices
cat /proc/cpuinfo Processor information
cat /proc/meminfo Random Access Memory details
cat /proc/scsi/scsi SCSI device information
dmesg Kernel messages
Press Shift + Page Up to see the lines that have scrolled off the top of the screen.
Press Shift + Page Down to go back down again.