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Linux frustration


Linux frustration

I have been thinking about dipping my toes in the "Linux" waters and this months "PC Format" seemed to give me the ideal chance,in that it included a copy of "Knoppix" which runs entirely from CD-Rom.How ever after battling with the burning ISO procedure I put the finished CD-Rom into the drive and it booted up ok.But it did not like the refresh rate of my monitor ( it tells me it is too high) .Do I need to alter the refresh rate of my monitor (not the prefered option, as I have'nt the faintest idea how)),or will there be hidden somewhere on the disc a means of informing this version of Linux the refresh rate of my monitor?

Ian & Linda Jordan

Linux frustration

Good luck! I've spent just about two years dipping my toes in and out of the Linux waters.... Finally last weekend I did an ftp install of SuSE 8.2 via ISDN! (It took 24 hours!) I have to say that it is the very first distro that has ever installed cleanly on ANY PC,and I've tried a few over the past two years.

Anyhows, my last working version of Linux was SuSE 7.2 which jad HUGE problems driving my screen. Things I tried, successfully on the boot command line where:

vga=normal (i.e. so linux vga=normal - I think you type knoppixHuh? not linux?(


vga=791 (Caution.. this one may be SuSE specific, but basically you are describing the screen resolution.)

Under SuSE 7.2 I had to specifiy NO X11 screen and then set it up manuualy later.

Knoppix have a support forum at, though I don't know how active it is. Also, I recently bought a Future Magazine's - The Complete Linux Handbook at £14.99, that had a CD bootable Debian distribution which worked quite well on my PC. (My local WH SMiths still had copies last weekend.) Oh yes, and I haven't tried it but I believe SuSE also do a downladable cd image for a cd bootable copy of their current 8.2 version.

Hope some of that helps move you along a little.


Linux frustration

Just signed up for my first ever DSL account, been on dial up for a good few years, i can't wait for activation! Anyway, on to Linux.

I've never used Knoppix but it should be the same for all distributions.
Linux should boot as long as there's a vga compatible card in your machine but getting X11 (the gui server) working is a different story, which i assume is your problem.
This was a stumbling block for me when i first installed it a few years back.
Here's what to do:

Look in the monitor manual or google search for the horizontal and vertical refresh rates that the monitor can handle, then edit the file (change to user root if need be) /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 using a text editor (nano, pico, vim and emacs are a few text editors) and you should see something like this in there:

Section "Monitor"
Identifier "monitor1"
HorizSync 30-70
VertRefresh 50-160

Obviously this is going to be different for your monitor, but make sure the HorizSync and VertRefresh are the CORRECT values, as the wrong ones could blow up your monitor.

Persevere long enough with Linux and you won't be disappointed, I first tried Debian, which was a bit tricky to install then on to Red Hat, Mandrake and Gentoo, for newer users that are installing it i advise them to go with Mandrake as it is a dream to install and set up, it does everything like detect the monitor settings for you.

Hope this helps

Linux frustration

sunhouse - are you still looking for more help on this subject, or have you moved on?

Linux frustration

Still around,been away for a few days.Am having a good hard think as to if Linux is really the way I wish to go,but there has certainly been some "food for thought" in the comments posted.

Ian & Linda Jordan

Linux frustration

Sundance - don't lose heart. Running linux can be an interesting and
(by not buying into the continual re-licensing cycle of the Windows world)
financially rewarding pastime. Stick with it - you'll learn a lot.

As poker states, if this were your normal linux distro, you would edit the
XF86Config-4 file and set the correct refresh rates. However, poker's
solution will not work for you w.r.t. Knoppix, for reasons I'll explain in a
roundabout way. My apologies for the length of this posting!

The problem you have here is that Knoppix, being CD-based, has all of it's
files either read-only or placed into a RAM disk - which means that the
contents are lost when you reboot.

You can work around this.

The basic method is to:

find the file you want to change
copy it somewhere safe
remove the file you want to change
mv the copy you just made back to the original place
edit the file
save all files changed in this way to floppy
reboot and tell Knoppix to boot and read changed files off the floppy

For instance, I can see that /etc/profile (a file used to create a common
environment for all users) is a symbolic link to /KNOPPIX/etc/profile.
A symbolic link is like an alias. Everytime you refer to that filename (e.g.
examine the contents, copy it, etc.), the OS will silently re-direct you to
the real location. In this case, the real location is on the CD - so the file
will be readonly. By copying it, removing the symbolic link (remember, the
original file is on the CD, it is the symbolic link that is in RAM disk) and
moving the file back again, you are creating a local, writable copy of
the file.

The only problem is that any changes you make will, by default, be lost
when you reboot. To save these changes onto floppy, go to the KDE
menu (bottom left of the screen) and select

KNOPPIX -> Configure -> Save KNOPPIX configuration

This will prompt you for a floppy (apologies, can't remember whether you
have to format this beforehand - you'll find out though!) and save all of your
user files plus any changed config files onto it.

Then, reboot Knoppix and interrupt it's normal boot sequence, by hitting
F2 when prompted. This will give you a help screen with various keywords
you can use to alter Knoppix's booting. One of these re-reads floppy, so
enter the command

knoppix floppyconf

This is especially useful if you have created new users, configured
printers, networking or whatever.

Back to your original problem.

The file /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 is auto-generated during boot using
a template file (/etc/X11/ and a program (/usr/sbin/mkxf86config) which probes your monitor and writes the
values found into the actual X11 config file (/etc/X11/XF86Config-4).

So, there is no point altering the template file, as it does not contain
the refresh rates anyway. You could do a lot of hacking and alter the
program (/usr/sbin/mkxf86config is a shell-script), but that is serious
hacking - too much for a newbie like yourself!

However, looking at the boot-sequence help-screen, I see that there
is an option to manually specify the monitor's vertical refresh-rate! You
need to find this information out for your monitor and then boot (after hitting
F2 when prompted during the boot) Knoppix thus:

knoppix xvrefresh=YOUR_NUMBER_HERE

perhaps adding floppyconf as an additional argument ...

DISCLAIMER - I'm using an old version of Knoppix (v3.1). Things change,
hopefully for the better!

By the way, after you've played with Knoppix for a while, I would advise
moving onto a more permanent installation. I believe that later Knoppix
(v3.2 onwards) can copy themselves onto your hard disk. However, I do
not know if it will cope with making your system dual-bootable between
itself and Windows (preserving your existing installation) - so take care
and investigate the documentation.

Personally, I would recommend Redhat 9 as an alternative. It is free to
download and it will partition up your disk during installation, allowing you
to dual-boot with your existing Windows installation. It has to be said
that Mandrake and SuSE will also do this too, though I have no
experience of SuSE (too expensive) and did not like Mandrake when
I installed it.

Of course, as your confidence grows, you could do what I have done and
swap over to Gentoo Linux - perfect with your broadband connection!


Linux frustration

Just waiting for payday,then I will go and buy a copy of Redhat or something similar,and see how it goes from there.Still busy trying to workout what I would gain by changing to an unknown for me OS when in actual fact Win98SE does everything I need to do,and although some would say Windows is an insecure system,the only virus I have ever been infected with,was my fault for accidently booting the computer with a "floppy" in the A drive.So decided that my best bet is to try it and see I can always revert back to Windows if I can't get on with it

Thanks for the reply

Ian & Linda Jordan

Linux frustration

Your going to buy it?

MS has corrupted you too damned long.

You could download and burn it yourself for free, or for disks and postage, many people may even download, burn and send it to you.

There are a few ISO projects about too, that will send you a copy for free.

There are no benefits these days to buying the box, as most of the features you gain from it, are likely to to be out of your league, with the stuff you get for free when downloading being suficient.

Redhat offers the "Redhat Network", which is simalar to Windows Update. With the box you get free advanced access for a year, when for free, you get access, provide dyou spend 5 mins a month filling a survey (which a pretty damned simple).

Linux frustration

I agree with Philip - download a decent version.

If you're an absolute beginner, go for Mandrake Linux (

Download the three .iso images from here. The first one is bootable, and will take you into a delightful GUI for the setup/installation.

Realistically, you will need a disk partition somewhere for a distribution like Mandrake. Add a second hard drive or re-jig your main hard drive.

My experience - the easiest and safest approach is a dedicated hard drive. You can easily install a very functional Mandrake on an old drive (say, 1.6-2.0 gig).

Mandrake isn't RedHat, but it does have a .rpm-based graphical software update tool. It'll ask you where you want to get the updates from - I use

Hope this helps!

[Moderators note (by Thomas): I've added some display text to one of the URLs, because it was too large to fit on one screen without horizontal scrolling for our 800*600 users.]

Linux frustration

Is Mandrake really the easiest linux? I thought RedHat was?
Community Veteran
Posts: 6,111
Thanks: 1
Registered: 05-04-2007

Linux frustration

Mandrake. I have it on good authority from one of my mods at Computer Talk. Tongue


Linux frustration

I started with RedHat 7, found it really easy to use. Moved onto Debian now..still nice and simple though.

Hope this isn't too off-topic Smiley

Linux frustration

No, madrake is the easiest.

Redhat could be classed as a broad range distrobution.

As for using Redhat as a startup linux, I would say it is well worth the effort to try. There is no harm to try somthing else later.

Redhat was my first ever linux, and I still love it to date. Mandrake went in the bin. I was not simpler to me, however, it wasn't mature at the time.

If you want a good version of linux, go out and buy "Linux for dummies". It includes mandrake on CD (at least it used to).

Linux frustration

I've tried many, many distributions.

I use debian (on an iMac) myself, but the most recent version of Mandrake is by far the easiest-to-get-into version of Linux I've ever used.

Linux frustration

Yay for starting on rh! Have you had a go with 9 yet?