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Building a Retro Linux Gaming Computer - Part 26: Coming to You Live

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Return to Part 1: Dumpster Diving

Continued from Part 25: Quantum Axcess

I have referenced a number of times now some of my experiences with Knoppix, which prompted me to see if I could still find the original CD-R disc I used back in the day. It turns out it was Knoppix 3.4 released in May 2004 that obsessed me as a child, providing me with some of my earliest steps into a larger world. Not only that, but the CD-R disc it was burned on still reads even after all of these years. Considering the volatility of such media, this surprised me.

Named for its creator Klaus Knopper of Germany, Knoppix is a derivative of Debian which pioneered the modern Linux live media experience at the turn of the millennium. While the honour of being the first Linux live CD goes to Yggdrasil close to a full decade earlier, it was Knoppix that truly showed how powerful and effective Linux from a CD could be to the masses. In fact, everything that Knoppix manages can best be described as no small miracle.

Operating out of system memory by use of a RAM drive, the fact that Knoppix does not even flinch at my paltry 512 MB of RAM is impressive enough. Adding to this feat, most of my hardware was detected and configured without the need for any prompting from me. The only exception to this was the DRI module for my Rage 128 Pro graphics card not being loaded by default, but this was easily addressed by passing the "knoppix xmodule=r128" boot option during start up. 

Lack of disk space forced me to be selective when installing Red Hat Linux 7.3 to my hard drive, meaning I just stuck with the default Gnome 1.4 desktop environment and the applications contained therein. As such, getting myself reacquainted with KDE 3 again proved to be a treat. Included here are versions of KAtomic, KAsteroids, KBattleship, KBounce, KMahjongg, KReversi, and KSokoban. There is also the fun if sometimes off putting Potato Guy software toy.

Alongside the bundled KDE games were a few familiar faces. Included on the CD was The Ace of Penguins card game suite as was also featured in 100 Great Linux Games, and I could at long last play and win the final 1.0.0 version of Frozen Bubble that refused to build for me on Red Hat Linux. Level 70 proved its potency once more, although I did spend longer tackling the final level of the game this time. Perhaps Level 70 should be moved to be the penultimate level instead.


Another favourite included with Knoppix 3.4 is iMaze, a client/server pseudo-3D deathmatch game inspired by MIDI Maze for the Atari ST. Alongside multiplayer, iMaze even sports support for computer controlled bots called ninjas through the use of a separate application, which go on to show that even smiley faces can be terrifying. There is just something sinister about their sacharine visages stalking the primitive single level landscape, even if they do get stuck on edges.

Other games bundled on the disc include GNU ChessgTansNetrisXBattleXBoardXBoing II, XGalagaXKoules, and XSkat. Also present is Falcon's Eye, which runs just about as well I remember it did. In a similar boat is Chromium B.S.U. which produced a black screen on launch. Clearly some games are better suited to running off of live media than others. Enigma meanwhile gave me I/0 errors, but that may just be the CD-R showing its age at last.

Having gotten 3D acceleration to work, I decided to do my usual OpenGL test by loading Quake III Arena from the hard drive, which launched without complaint. I did encounter the same graphical glitches with shadows and marks on walls that I had experienced with Red Hat Linux 9 however, demonstrating beyond a doubt that there was a regression introduced into the driver upstream. Beyond this Quake III Arena ran beautifully from Knoppix.

This qualified success got me wondering if could at long last also play the ultimate 2005 release of Cube, which did indeed also start up just fine. No graphical glitches were apparent, although the performance did seem to suffer in comparison to the earlier Cube release I had been playing. Whether this was due to increased graphical demands in the latest version of the game, or simply the fact I was running it from a live environment, I am unsure.

While my principle interest in playing around with Knoppix was that of nostalgia, having a later Linux distribution on hand with support for applications on the other side of the glibc 2.3 boundary may well come in handy going forward. This is far from the only compatibility issue to have frustrated my attempts to get certain games to work in the past, but after having just previously dismissed the possibility of getting one of them running, I suddenly had a major breakthrough.

Carrying on in Part 27: Lost Souls

Return to Part 1: Dumpster Diving 

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
About the author -
author picture
Hamish Paul Wilson is a free software developer, game critic, amateur writer, cattle rancher, shepherd, and beekeeper living in rural Alberta, Canada. He is an advocate of both DRM free native Linux gaming and the free software movement alongside his other causes, and further information can be found at his icculus.org homepage where he lists everything he is currently involved in: http://icculus.org/~hamish
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Hamish Feb 20, 2023
The official news release for Knoppix 3.4 can be read here:

An article on the release of Knoppix 3.4 can be found here:

And the Knoppix 3.4 ISO can be downloaded here:
AsciiWolf Feb 20, 2023
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Nice! My Knoppix that I used around 2003 was written on a similar TDK CD. I still have the disc somewhere...
systmrrr Feb 20, 2023
hi. Your efforts are admirable. Is it possible to share an image of your retro gaming pc?
damarrin Feb 20, 2023
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Those TDK CDs were (are?) very HQ. The last time I tried reading a few from 20 years ago they were all fine.
Grogan Feb 20, 2023
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Knoppix was amazing back in the day. I think other distros learned a lot about hardware detection and automatic configuration from Knoppix.
Hamish Feb 21, 2023
Quoting: systmrrrIs it possible to share an image of your retro gaming pc?
You can see some pictures of the computer in the first few articles I posted. I honestly do not have the best setup for it all, with the computer crammed into a corner on a filing cabinet up against my desk with my main Arch Linux computer.

I settle for an LCD monitor and an optical mouse despite them not being the most period accurate simply for the space convenience they offer.

Quoting: LightkeyI still play The Ace of Penguins Solitaire by DJ Delorie when I'm not in the mood for Mines.
There is an AUR package for them and I still play them quite regularly too, although the help screens no longer seem to work for me.

Quoting: GroganKnoppix was amazing back in the day. I think other distros learned a lot about hardware detection and automatic configuration from Knoppix.
Yep, I eventually just switched to using Fedora live media back when I still used it as my main distro, but it is clear how much all modern live Linux distros are indebted to Knoppix.

Last edited by Hamish on 21 February 2023 at 5:02 am UTC
ElectricPrism Feb 21, 2023
I don't usually feel old, but fuck.
mr-victory Feb 21, 2023
Can you browse GamingOnLinux from that CD?
mr-victory Feb 21, 2023
Quoting: Lightkeyfor the LinuxTag.
Look at the top left corner of the 2nd image.
MayeulC Feb 23, 2023
Still have a few copies of this one... It took me so long to download (7-10 kbps from a source that couldn't resume) that I made many copies :)

My first interaction with Linux, I have fond memories of it!
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