[conspire] Kanotix -> Sidux (was: Updating the CD/DVD collection)

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Feb 22 17:55:16 PST 2007

I wondered for a while whatever happened to the Kanotix distribution 
(live CD, KDE/Knoppix derivative, excellent hardware recognition,
especially for laptops), having heard nothing much about it lately.
So, I looked it up, found a recent developer squable and departure of
almost everyone but Jörg "Kano" Schirottke, with the dissidents
splitting off and creating, yes, a new distro, Sidux.  Which I've 
now burned (i686 and x86_64) as a _highly recommended_ addition to the
library.  And _probably_ Kanotix will get dropped.

I found the story behind the above interesting.  Now, I'm going to
attempt to make it interesting to _you_.  ;->

Themes to note:

o  Live CDs are cool.
o  Knoppix-style hardware recogntion is cool.  Knoppix itself as an
   installed system is a non-starter.
o  Sticking to all DFSG-free aka open source contents for the CD _itself_
   creates orders of magnitude fewer hassles for the developers, for a
   large number of reasons -- and also makes the image redistributable
   and reusable for other projects without legal questions.
o  However, providing easy ways to backfill desktop users' traditional
   proprietary sludge and patent-encumbered codecs, etc., is appreciated
   by those users.
o  Debian "sid" ("unstable") is an amazingly complete and cutting-edge
   foundation for both server and desktop systems, and is amazingly 
   stable and problem-free almost all the time, except when it's not,
   against which occasions there are no guarantees.
o  Distros tend to either embody (rarely) or are stabilised periodic forks 
   from (more often) a continuously evolving "head" branch.  Examples of 
   the latter:  Mandrake Cooker, Rawhide/Fedora, Debian "sid", Gentoo.

Kanotix got its start around 2004, when (I gather) Kano noticed the
separate virtues of Knoppix (hardware recognition, advanced apps) and
the continuously evolving Debian "sid" aka "unstable" development branch
(maintainability, policy, tools).  So, Kano took parts of Knoppix (esp. 
hardware recognition in the installer) and parts of "sid", worked out the
rough spots, and did periodic releases. 

(This is also the model used at the time by SimplyMEPIS.)

So far, so good -- except "sid" never stands still.  Kano ended up
forking "sid" repeatedly; each time, he and fellow developers ended up 
doing stabilisation and polishing work slightly differently, but
partially redundantly to last time.  And other goals, such as keeping
Kanotix itself upgradable both to newer Kanotix versions and to
more-recent contents of "sid", added to the difficulty.

And that gets _tiring_, you see.  Kano's release schedule started
slipping greatly, even with the help of other developers, most recently
going almost a full year with no usable, release.

Late last year, some of Kano's fellow developers got tired of waiting
for this to be fixed, and departed, citing a series of complaints that 
all (my inference) trace back to Kano's forking policy, and problems 
stemming directly from it.

Two months later (yesterday), they brought out their first release:
Sidux 2007-01 "Chaos" for i686 and x86_64, with newer releases promised
every three months.  Their difference?  Let me quote one of the
developers, writing on lwn.net:

  Just to clarify, sidux does not "fork" debian unstable, it sticks as
  close as possible to pure debian sid, including using the same

  What sidux attempts to provide is timely patching/package holding/highly
  visible warnings for problem packages in dist-upgrades, current kernels
  - stable and rc (for the game) as well as a community to help when
  things go awry.

  It provides open source livecd-from-scratch building tools, as well as
  various other live cd related utils.

  It (will) provide a fast hd installer in a similar way to Kanotix, which
  at best I've managed to boot and do a full install in under 10 mins
  (using the toram cheatcode).

  It's aimed at desktop users who want bleeding edge software with the
  least amount of pain.

Their bit about _not_ forking "sid" over and over is key:  This is the
decision that's likely (my guess) to keep Sidux feasible to maintain
over the long run -- in precisely the way that Kanotix has not been.

Early reports suggest that the 2007-01 image meets several needs very
well:  It's a really good one-disk installer for Debian "sid", with
cutting-edge hardware support (kernel, X.org 7.2).  It's also a
good KDE 3.5.5 or Xfce 4.4 desktop system.  And it's a live CD
standalone system (with graphical installer option).

Proprietary sludge?  They're aware of the oft-felt desire, so the 
release announcement covers that:

  Hints for hardware with non-free needs:

  sidux contains only dfsg free software, so you'll probably want to add
  contrib/ non-free to your /etc/apt/sources.list and ensure internet

  # See sources.list(5) for more information, especialy
  # Remember that you can only use http, ftp or file URIs
  # CDROMs are managed through the apt-cdrom tool.

  # Unstable
  deb http://ftp.de.debian.org/debian unstable main contrib non-free
  # deb-src http://ftp.de.debian.org/debian unstable main contrib non-free

  # sidux
  deb http://sidux.com/debian/ sid main contrib non-free firmware fix.main fix.contrib fix.non-free
  #deb-src http://sidux.com/debian/ sid main contrib non-free firmware fix.main fix.contrib fix.non-free

  * ATi Radeon graphics: 3d acceleration for older cards up to r35x
    should work, newer Radeon X1xxx cards need non-free drivers for
    accelerated performance, please use get-sidux-binary-gfx to fetch
    install scripts for these cards.
  * Atheros/ "madwifi" wlan: m-a a-i madwifi.
  * Atmel AT76c50x 11 MBit/s wlan: apt-get install atmel-firmware
  * AVM ISDN/ ADSL PCI/ USB Karten: AVM's closed source driver are not
    compatible with kernel 2.6.20 yet.
  * Broadcom/ bcm43xx wlan: apt-get install bcm43xx-fwcutter.
  * Eagle USB ADSL modem: fetch the firmware from
    http://eagle-usb.org/ueagle-atm/non-free/ and place it under
  * DVB firmwares for various full featured DVB TV cards (most budget
    cards won't need this): fetch the needed firmware (check dmesg)
    from http://www.linuxtv.org/downloads/firmware/ and place it under
  * hostap based 11 MBit/s wlan with loadable firmware (e.g. D-Link
    DWL-520 rev. E1 and others):
  * Intel ipw2100, 11 MBit/s wlan: fetch the firmware from
    http://ipw2100.sf.net/ and place it under /lib/firmware/.
  * Intel ipw2200, 54 MBit/s wlan: fetch the firmware from
    http://ipw2200.sf.net/ and place it under /lib/firmware/.
  * Intel ipw3945, 54 Mbit/s wlan: apt-get install ipw3945d firmware-ipw3945
  * Intersil prism54, 54 MBit/s wlan: fetch the firmware from
    http://prism54.org/firmware/ and place it under /lib/firmware/.
  * nVidia graphics: 3d acceleration isn't possible with free drivers
    yet, please use get-sidux-binary-gfx to fetch install scripts for
    these cards.
  * RaLink rt61 54 MBit/s wlan, fetch the firmware from
  * Texas Instruments ACX100 (22 Mbit/s)/ ACX111 (54 MBit/s) wlan,
    fetch the firmware from http://acx100.erley.org/acx_fw/acx1xx.htm
    and place it under /lib/firmware/.
  * ZyDAS zd1201 11 MBit/s wlan: apt-get install zd1201-firmware
  * ZyDAS zd1211 54 MBit/s wlan: fetch the firmware from
    http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=129083 and
    place it under /lib/firmware/.
  * We will check if we can provide packages for at least some of
    these devices, but the legal status isn't necessarily easy.

Kanotix itself?  Well, the uncharitable view would be that Kano is
floundering, and that the distro seems likely to go dormant.  He's 
been talking about possibly switching to basing Kanotix on Ubuntu
(as Warren Woodford is supposedly doing with MEPIS), and also talks
about converging to Debian 4.0 "etch" (leaving unclear what the
long-term strategy would be) -- but isn't visibly getting much done that
I've seen yet.  However, certainly, I'd not count Kanotix out, and will
definitely look in occasionally.

Cheers,              "If these walls could talk... they'd probably say 'No! 
Rick Moen            Not the nails again!  Not the hammer!  NOT THE HAMMER!!!!'"
rick at linuxmafia.com                                -- Jennifer A. Ford

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