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Frequently Asked Questions:

General Questions:

What is this CD?

See This CD... for more details.

Linux? Knoppix? What's the difference?

The terms "Linux", "Knoppix", "ED&L", "Engineer's Desktop and Library" and "MDP Knoppix CD" may often be used interchangeably in the documentation. The following is an attempt to clarify exactly what these terms mean...

Linux is an operating system - the piece of software which controls and provides the basic services for all the other programs which are running on a computer. Microsoft Windows is another common example of an operating system. Unlike Microsoft Windows, there are many different distributions of Linux. The distributions are all fundamentally very similar but have slight differences - for example, they may come with different support applications, etc.

Knoppix is one example of a Linux distribution. Knoppix is useful because it can run directly off a CD and does not need to be installed onto a hard-disk. It also provides the ability for customisation, which allows a tailor-made CD to be created containing custom applications.

The EDaL disk is the MDP's customised CD/DVD based on Knoppix. It contains the base of Knoppix, along with a suite of freely distributable applications that could be useful in a Multidisciplinary Design Project.

What do I do if my question isn't answered in the FAQ?

Most of the main programs on the disk have a manual or tutorial accessible from the applications section of this manual, see the side menu for links to Desktop applications (e.g. office suite, text editors etc.) and Engneering Applications (e.g. CAD, ECAD ) Some applications have on-line help, usually accessible from the "Help" menu at the top of the program window. N.B. in a number of cases this has been disabled and replaced by the help in the applications area to reduce spac (very limited on the CD version of the EDaL disk) and to give the user a printable version of the material.

The main project website at contains additional information as does the user forum area

Individual applications often have their own website, with associated faq sections and forums, see the Links section for futher directions.

The Cambridge University Engineering Department's web-pages provide a large amount of help on computers, programming, and the applications that are used within the department. You can access this help at:

If you have a question that is specifically about this CD or you feel should be included in this FAQ, then contact

Hardware and Configuration issues

I've got a problem with running this CD!!!

This is a prototype (beta) version of the CD, which is still undergoing testing. In particular there may be problems with very new hardware. If you find any bugs or problems, then please report them to This will help us to fix any faults as soon as possible.

Why do programs on this CD run slowly?

Access to a CDROM is usually much slower than access to a hard-disk. All the information on the CD is also compressed and it takes time for the computer to uncompress it. The CDROM takes a couple of minutes to startup because it does not save any information - therefore it must configure itself for your particular hardware every time that it starts up.

However, the disadvantages in speed are compensated by the flexibility that distributing software in this way provides.

Why is the clock wrong?

If your clock shows the wrong time, then please inform of this problem.

How do I change screen resolution?

When Knoppix starts up, it asks your monitor and graphics card for information about what screen modes they can handle. It should normally select an appropriate resolution.

With some hardware configurations (e.g. certain laptops) Knoppix may not correctly recognise this information, so we have provided a facility to change the screen resolution. Normally, the computer will refuse to change to a mode which it knows the monitor cannot handle. However if it has no information about the monitor, then it may attempt to change into an inappropriate screen resolution. Therefore, you should NOT try to set the resolution if you are not sure that your monitor can handle it.

If you are sure that it is safe to change resolutions, then you can select =>Start =>Settings =>Change Resolution.

Question about files in Knoppix

Does this CD install anything on my computer's hard-disk?

No, not unless you specifically ask the CD to save your settings, in which case a small file is written to either your hard disk or a floppy disk. Apart from that, nothing is written to your hard disk - all the software runs entirely off the CD. If you restart your computer and remove the CD, your computer will be exactly the same as if you had never run the CD.

You may sometimes want to look at files that are already on your computer. See the section on hard-disks for more details...

What happens when I save a file?

Knoppix has a file system - just like on a conventional computer system. However, the difference here is that Knoppix saves files on a "ramdisk" and not on a hard disk. A ramdisk is only temporary, and will be erased when you restart. This means that these files are saved in your computer's memory and they will be LOST when you reset or turn off the computer. DON'T FORGET to make a permanent copy of any work that you want to keep.

You can view the contents of your file system with the X File Explorer.

What is the X File Explorer?

The X File Explorer allows you to manipulate the files within Knoppix. You can move files, copy files, rename files etc. The interface is quite similar to the Explorer on Microsoft Windows.

Start the X File Explorer by selecting X File Explorer from the Start menu. You can open several file explorer windows and then move files between them by dragging with the mouse. To copy files, hold down Ctrl whilst dragging.

What is my "home directory"?

Your home directory is the default place for you to save your files. On Knoppix, it is located at /home/knopppix/ . You can also access this directory at /ramdisk/home/knoppix/ . (These are two different names for the same directory.) You can view the contents of your home directory with the X File Explorer (see above).

Note that because Knoppix does not use your hard disk, files are saved into your computer's memory. These files will be LOST when you reset or turn off the computer. You should therefore make copies of anything that you want to keep permanently.

How do I save my work permanently?

There are several ways to store files permanently:

How do I use FTP to copy files to other computers?

The File Transfer Protocol, or FTP, allows you to copy files to and from other computers over the internet. The gFTP program is installed on this CD and makes it easy to make permanent copies of your files. Start the program by selecting =>Start =>Programs =>Network =>gFTP.

For example, Cambridge students can use the computer called to copy files to and from the Engineering Department. There may also be other computer systems at Cambridge University for which you have been given FTP access and can use to transfer files.

MIT students can connect to using a secure FTP connection. The current method for connecting securely is:

  1. Connect to MIT using the ssh command. This command will create a secure telnet connection to MIT as well as setup port forwarding. Port forwarding will allow connections sent to port 1234 on your computer to be redirected to the secured connection. Note that the port forwarding will remain in effect only while the ssh session is active. The command should be typed as follows, with your MIT ATHENA username substituted:
           ssh -l MIT_USERNAME -L
  2. Use the gFTP program to connect to the new secure connection. In gFTP, the host address should be, the port should be 1234, and the username/password should be your MIT ATHENA username and password.
  3. If you receive errors, check that your ssh connection is still live, that gFTP is configured for passive connection (under FTP -> Options -> FTP Tab), and that you have correctly entered the settings in gFTP.

Note that you must of course have your network configured for this to work. See this page for more details.

How do I save files directly to the Cambridge University Engineering Department?

First, make sure that you are connected to the network. See this page for more details.

Next select =>Start =>Settings =>Access CUED files. You will need to supply your username and password. You can now save files to /home/knoppix/<username> and they will be permanently saved to the Department computer system.

How do I save files directly to an MIT Athena account?

To copy from the local machine to Athena:

      scp localfilename
To copy from Athena to the local machine:
      scp localfilename

After typing the command, you may be asked a yes/no question about secure transfer then you will be asked for your password.

To properly connect to your ATHENA user locker using scp, you must specify the complete remote path. You can get this path by typing pwd when logged into an ATHENA shell in your home directory. The syntax for the path is generally /afs/, where u1 is the first letter of your ATHENA username, u2 is the second letter of your ATHENA username, and username is your full ATHENA username.

More information on secure file transfers to your MIT account is available here.

Using hard-disks and floppy disks

How do I get the computer to recognise a floppy disk?

Insert the disk into the computer and then click on =>Start =>Settings =>Disks =>Mount Floppy.

When you've finished using the floppy disk, you should always click on =>Start =>Settings =>Disks =>Unmount Floppy. This tells the computer that you have finished using that disk. It will not let you mount a new floppy disk until you have unmounted the old disk

Can I save settings or files to my hard disk?

Yes. Knoppix can write directly to hard-disks that have been set up for Windows 95/98/me and earlier. If you are using Windows 2000 or XP then storing data permanently is slightly more complicated. (But only slightly). See below for more details.

Note that as well as saving to a hard-disk, you could also consider saving your files to some other device (e.g. a floppy or USB disk) or transfering them to another computer via FTP.

How do I save settings to a floppy or my hard-disk?

Click on =>Start =>Settings =>Save Settings. If your computer was set up for Windows 2000 or XP, it may currently only be possible to save settings to a floppy disk (see above). It is hoped that this will improve in a future revision of the CD.

How do I read from or write to files on my hard-disk?

Click on =>Start =>Settings =>Disks =>Mount local HardDisk. This will allow you to access your computer's hard-disk. Depending on your computer, you may only be able to read files and not write to them (see above).

Sometimes your hard disk may be split into one or more partitions. In this case, you can select which partition that you want to mount. You can perform this procedure several times to mount different partitions.

How do I write to Windows XP or Windows 2000 hard disks?

Knoppix cannot write directly to hard-disks that have been set up by Windows XP. However, it is possible to set aside some space that Knoppix can then use. Use the following procedure:

Choose a sensible amount of space depending on how many files you are intending to save. For example, if you plan to save lots of Pro/Engineer then allocate yourself at least 50 megabytes. If you are not going to be using Pro/Engineer then you can probably won't need this much space.

Next time that you boot the CD, you should click on =>Start =>Settings =>Save Settings. This will set up the storage area that has just been created, so that it is ready for you to use. You will notice that there is now a "permanent" directory at "/home/knoppix/permanent". If you save files to here, then they will be saved into the space that you have just reserved on your hard-disk. Thus, they will be available next time you boot the CD.

The KPartitionMaker program works by creating a single file of the required size on your Windows hard disk. This file will normally be called C:\knoppix.dat. If you decide to delete this file at any time, then be aware that you will lose all the data that you have saved from Knoppix.

How do I read from or write to files on my USB memory device?

Noramlly this can be accomplished in the same way as accessing a hard disk. Click on =>Start =>Settings =>Disks =>Mount local HardDisk. Your USB device should be listed as a "Special Disk".

Currently Knoppix does not always recognise USB memory devices that are configured as a single large partition (also known as a super-floppy). If you cannot mount your USB device using "Mount local HardDisk" then you could try using an Xterminal and typing:

sudo mount -o umask=000 /dev/sda /mnt/sda1

Depending on what other USB devices you have, you may need to try the replacing "sda" with "sdb", "sdc", etc.

If you insert the USB memory while the computer is running, you may need to wait a few seconds before attempting to mount it. You should also unmount the USB memory before you remove it from the computer to ensure that all your data has been written.

The Window Manager on this CD

I've seen FVWM mentioned? What is that?

FVWM is what is known as the "window manager". It is responsible for positioning the windows on the screen for the various applications. It also manages the task-bar at the bottom of the screen, and the virtual pages.

Read on for some hints about how to get the most out of the window manager...

What are virtual pages?

Virtual pages provide you with a working area that is larger than your monitor screen. The Knoppix CD is set up with 9 pages. You can move between pages by using the "Screens" display in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. If this display is hidden by other windows, you can press Ctrl-Alt-F12 to make it visible.

You can move windows between pages by dragging them off the side of the screen, by dragging them with the middle button in the "Screen" display, or by right clicking on the icon at the top left of every window.

How do I switch between application windows?

The task-bar at the bottom of the screen allows you to see all the windows on the current page. However, you may also wish to see a list of windows on all pages. This can be done by clicking the right button whilst the mouse pointer is over the background. Or you can click on =>Start =>Programs =>Admin =>Window List. You can also select the active window from a list of windows on all pages, by holding down the Alt key and repeatedly pressing Tab.

The virtual pages panel is hidden underneath another window. Is there a quick way to make it visible?

Yes. Press Shift-Alt-F12.

The root menu is a menu of useful and commonly used functions. You can access it by pressing Shift-Alt-F1.

What is the root menu?

The root menu is a menu of useful and commonly used functions. You can access it by pressing Shift-Alt-F1.

I've lost the task-bar and/or virtual screen manager. How do I get it back?

Bring up the root menu (e.g. by pressing Shift-Alt-F1) and select "Restart fvwm2". This should sort out any problems related to the window manager. Don't worry - it shouldn't close any of the applications that are running. Although you should save any work first, just in case there are problems.

Using the Applications

Can I use Microsoft Word, Excel or Powerpoint files?

Yes. Open Office can both read and write Microsoft Office files.

I'm having problems with the gEDA electronics design suite.

gEDA has recently undergone some significant upgrades, some carried out by MDP and some the gEDA group. Please report problems another improvement is due on the next issue of the dvd.

Octave won't run my Matlab scripts.

Please read the main on-line Octave wiki on Matlab/Octave Compatibility . Octave does not fully support all the functionality of Matlab, especially some of the toolboxes, however it is hoped this will improve with version 3 of Octave which due to be released soon. If you find problems please email and we will try and add additional functionality