The Knoppix project will start releasing two editions of its Linux Live CD from next summer.
The project was one of the first to allow people to create a bootable CD that allows people to run Linux directly off a CD-ROM, letting them try the operating system without installing it.
Currently only one version of the Live CD is produced, on both CD and DVD. It is based on the Debian distribution and contains more than 2,000 executable applications and utilities. But Knoppix developer Klaus Knopper says that users will soon be able to choose between a fully featured version and a slimmed-down version of the CD.
"We will split the mainstream edition of Knoppix into two versions: a 'maximum' DVD edition with a complete Debian installation, and a 'light' edition on CD that contains the most popular desktop and server software only, for older computers or smaller systems that don't have a bootable DVD drive yet," said Knopper.
The first release of the light and maximum editions will be at the LinuxTag conference in June 2005.
There are already a number of Knoppix derivatives available, such as ClusterKnoppix, which allows people to run a cluster without installing anything on the hard drive, and Damn Small Linux, which allows users to run Linux off a 50MB bootable business card CD.
Knopper said it is currently working with the linaccess project, which aims to create a Live CD that produces speech output and has an "audible menu" so that it can be used by blind and vision-impaired people.
Debian is not the only Linux distribution that is available as a Live CD. A Live CD based on the Slackware Linux distribution is already available and Gentoo developers will release a Live CD in February next year.
The latest release of Knoppix, which contained an updated version of various software packages, was released two weeks ago. The release, Knoppix 3.7, contains the latest versions of the Linux desktop KDE 3.3 and of the office productivity application OpenOffice.org 1.1.
Knopper said that one of the biggest challenges for the Knoppix project is keeping up with changes in the hardware space.
"The single most important thing for me is trying to keep up with hardware development, though the hardware manufacturers seem to spend a lot of effort in creating new, "experimental", incompatible and sometimes completely dysfunctional hardware components without public available technical specifications," said Knopper. "It would be extremely helpful if vendors would just publish example driver source code for new hardware under a free licence, but most of them seem to just wait for Linux developers to find out everything on their own."
There is some hardware that Knoppix will never be able to run on due to the restrictive licences of certain manufacturers, said Knopper
"I sometimes have to wait until free drivers are available made by third parties, before I can support newer hardware on Knoppix," said Knopper. "And some peripherals or board components like the so-called "winmodems" may never be supported because the proprietary licences or patents held by the manufacturers don't even legally allow including a driver at all."