Download KNOS Secure Desktop Manual

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KNOS Quick Start Guide

Welcome to KNOS! We'd like to help you get started first. For now, you'll want to get used to our layout and how things work. In our design, we wanted to make KNOS look as familiar as possible for you and yet different enough so that you won't confuse it with Windows. To this end, we've gone with a look and feel that provides a bottom bar with buttons to show which programs are running, and have placed the equivalent of the "start button" up on the top. A clock and status icons are also up on the top on the right hand side. If you move the mouse cursor over anything, it'll tell you what it is and what it's for just like Windows would. Every program has a help file within the program with more details than you'll probably ever want to know.

Download and Burn (especially for's easier than it looks!)

Thanks for purchasing KNOS! You've downloaded an ISO file from Digital River, which isn't the usual Windows EXE file you're used to getting after an online purchase. This file is ready to be burned onto a DVD (see below). DON'T try to run it in Windows.

Burning / Booting your ISO

If you are unsure of how to burn KNOS or KNOS64 onto a DVD, computers provided with a DVD burner usually came with software included and installed with the DVD writer. This site lists instructions on how to burn a BOOTABLE DVD ISO image based on the software installed on your computer:

If you do not have DVD burning software that can write an ISO image to DVD, we recommend this free software for Windows which will do it for you:

Once you have burned KNOS or KNOS64 to a DVD, you can now reboot your computer and enjoy KNOS. KNOS requires that your computer boot from the DVD drive instead of your normal hard disk startup since KNOS doesn't use your hard disk, nor can it be installed on your hard disk. Special instructions on how to make a bootable USB stick from within your KNOS DVD are available upon request although we do not recommend doing so for strictest security as a USB stick could somehow be written to. A USB stick however boots up KNOS much faster than a DVD, and so provision for this has been made if you really want to do so despite the potential risks.

All recent computers can boot from the DVD instead of your hard disk, but some might not recognize the bootable KNOS disk in the DVD drive and will require that you tell the computer that you want to boot from the DVD drive instead of the hard disk. Try a reboot first and see if the computer will automatically boot from the DVD first.

If not, you will need to bring up what is called the "boot menu" after turning your machine off. Then turn the power back on and start immediately to hit the appropriate "boot select" key on your keyboard as soon as the first screen appears when powered on. This list should tell you the correct key for your computer:

Acer Esc or F12 or F9
Albatron F8
Asrock F11
Asus Esc or F8
Compaq Esc or F9
Dell F12
Gigabyte F12
HP Esc or F9
Intel F10
Lenovo (IBM) F12 (or blue access IBM button)
Macintosh Hold down C key until KNOS boots
Microstar F11
Packard Bell F8
Sony Vaio F11
Toshiba F12

You will need to do this each time you want to boot up the KNOS DVD when you power up your machine unless the machine autodetects the DVD by itself. If you want to set your computer to detect the DVD on bootup when it won't do it automatically, you will need to go into the computer's BIOS settings and make some changes to permit this. Problem is that messing with BIOS can be risky and is only for those technically advanced. The "boot select" options above eliminate the need to make any changes to BIOS.

If you want to configure BIOS to allow a DVD to boot before the hard disk, then these two sites will help explain what to do although you should check with your computer's manufacturer first for the proper way to do this if you're not completely sure of what you're doing:

Once KNOS is booting from the DVD, it will take anywhere from about 4 minutes to as long as 7 minutes, depending on how fast your DVD drive and your computer's hardware are capable of reading the disk. The reason for this longer boot time is because DVD drives are significantly slower than a hard disk, and because each time KNOS is booted, it creates a completely fresh install into your memory. If you compare this time to installing or reinstalling your existing operating system then you can appreciate how quickly KNOS does come up once you understand why it takes so long. Burning a copy onto a USB flash drive (4G minimum 16G maximum) will cut down boot time considerably.

Networking and Wifi

NOTE: At this time, KNOS does not support dialup modem networking. This is because the necessary control software to permit setting up PPP or PPPoE modems directly does not exist for KNOS at this time. We are working on this for a future release, but are a long way off for a solution for dialup networking. We do anticipate providing this capability in a future version. An ethernet cable or a wifi connection is required in order to connect to the internet. Bluetooth support is also not available in this release and will similarly be added in a future release. If you open the network manager in KNOS, you will find that it will not recognize KNOS, nor will any of the settings work. The author of the networking app is aware of this and is working on a solution for us.

KNOS should work just fine with an ethernet cable connected to your computer, and it should also support the majority of wifi cards on your computer. If you are using a wifi card instead of a wired connection, if you can't connect with KNOS you should still be able to use your ethernet wired connection without any problems. If you are unable to use a wired connection, try rebooting again and be sure that the ethernet cable is already connected to your machine before you reboot.

Please note that some laptops are designed with a hardware switch for wifi and ethernet connections and you may have to enable those connections in Windows, then shut down Windows with those devices enabled before they will work in KNOS as a result of the design of those manufacturers. We noticed this strangeness in a couple of older Dell and HP laptops, so it's possible that others may be like this as well.

If you are using a wifi card, you'll want to see if it's working. All you need to do is doubleclick the "Wifi Networks Manager" icon on the desktop. Now, Wifi manager will pop up a box after it loads in (it'll take a few seconds, you'll hear your DVD drive going) and that box will ask for a password. In KNOS, whenever you are asked for a password, there isn't any! No need to type anything there, just hit the OK button or hit your enter key.

Either of two things will happen when you do. If your Wifi card was detected by KNOS and activated, it'll pop up a screen showing you what Wifi connections it has found and connected you to. If your Wifi card is NOT detected by KNOS, then it will tell you “No WiFi interface was found on this machine.” If this is the case, then you will not be able to use Wifi and will have to use a wired ethernet connection to use KNOS. Please let us know (include all information about make and model number of your computer) if this is the case.

If you are shown more than one wifi connection in addition to the one that says "no signal" then you will have to select the one you wish to use by checking the checkbox next to your preferred connection and the Wifi manager should connect you to that Wifi connection automatically. You may need to click on "save and reconnect" after the selection to cause it to "take" and it's also possible that you may have to select "Wifi up/down" and/or "rescan networks" depending on your wifi card's behavior before the wifi connection actually comes up. You can then close Wifi Networks Manager once you're connected.

If your Wifi card is working, or if you're using a wired internet connection, you can stop with this for now and go run Firefox and see KNOS on the internet, play with other things and have fun with KNOS right now, and come back and peruse the rest of this later, or visit our support site from the home page in Firefox. This document is here primarily in case you're unable to hit the internet with KNOS right away. Our main support site can be gotten to from the Firefox icon on your desktop.

If your Wifi card doesn't work, we'll want to know why and obtain some diagnostics about your hardware in order to help us figure out what the problem is. We've added an automatic diagnostics gatherer to KNOS which we will need you to run for us if this is the case - it will generate a text file with all of the technical details we will need. Again, you'd click on "Applications" up on top, then select "System tools" and look for "KNOS-diagnostics." If you click that, a couple of seconds later, a file called "diags" will appear on your desktop. If it fails to appear, just left click the cursor on your desktop, then hit the Ctrl+R keys and it should appear then. We'll need a copy of that file if you can copy it and email it to us. If you can't connect now, you can always do this trick when you can.

How can I save that file if KNOS can't write?

This KNOS version is equipped with the ability to read from and write to a USB memory stick. This will permit you to save screenshots or files from KNOS to a USB memory stick so you can copy the data to it. All you need to do is plug your USB stick into the USB port and KNOS should detect it and will allow you to both read and write to it. You will see an icon for it appear up near the middle of the panel on top. KNOS will then open a folder window which will show the USB drive. If the USB drive has an actual name, it should show the name you gave it. Otherwise it will just identify it as a generic disk. You can copy the diags file to it by either right clicking and copy and paste like on Windows, or you can drag the file right into that folder like you would on a Macintosh.

IMPORTANT! DO NOT JUST UNPLUG ANY EXTERNAL DRIVE IN KNOS! Any USB devices MUST first be “unmounted” or it is possible that they MIGHT become corrupted if you unplug them without unmounting them first! KNOS might not have written out all the data, and will wait sometimes until a drive is unmounted before fully closing the files on them. If you just disconnect a pluggable device, you can possibly lose data or cause KNOS to no longer recognize your device until you have shut down KNOS and rebooted again. Unmounting is as necessary in KNOS as it is on Apple OSX and other operating systems based on Unix or Unix emulators such as Linux. KNOS is pure Unix and requires this.

To close a drive in KNOS, you must first close any open "folders" by clicking on the red X to close those "folders." Then, run your mouse up to the top panel over the drive symbol near the middle up there. Left click on the drive you wish to unmount and a popup menu will appear with "open" and "unmount" on it. Click "unmount." Then watch the associated icon. When it unmounts, the dark line at the bottom will turn pale indicating that it has been unmounted. If there were any pending operations that occurred as a result, KNOS will throw up a box on the bottom right of your screen indicating that it is either "writing" or it is "safe to remove."

If no operations were pending then no message will appear, but the drive icon up top will still clear. You'll get used to this, you should be handling plugable drives in Windows by always unmounting them there as well but usually, nothing bad happens in Windows when you just yank the drive out. Don't do that in KNOS or you could end up with a corrupted drive. If your drive ever does get corrupted, fix it in Windows using the chkdsk utilities in Windows since KNOS won't change a windows-formatted drive. Note also that a corrupted drive won't be mounted in KNOS, and so if one of your USB drives refuses to mount in KNOS, chkdsk it in Windows to fix any existing problem and it should work again. If this fails, then you will need to reboot KNOS also.

If you receive a "drive busy" error, this will be the result of a "folder" left open on the drive in question or a program placing a lock on the drive. Be sure to close any programs accessing the drive, or any folders or terminals accessing the drive. Once all locks have been released, you should be able to unmount the drive. Watch the icon for the drive on the top bar. If it goes gray then the drive is now unmounted and is safe to remove. You can hover your mouse over the icon to confirm that the drive is no longer "mounted" before unplugging.

I see my computer's hard drive listed on my desktop. Why?

KNOS is designed to protect your existing computer and what's on its hard disk by not allowing it to be written to, ever. However, when we designed KNOS, we expected that it would be used by travellers in unsafe places or by those who want to protect their system from the internet. As a result, we thought it would be useful to at least permit read-only access to that hard drive in case you needed to be able to access files, documents or other items which are on your hard disk. We allow you to explore and read files from it, and this capability also permits you to examine the contents of your hard drive even if it's wriggling with viruses since viruses cannot affect KNOS. When used by computer-savvy individuals in addition to its obvious handiness, it can even let you look for suspicious files present on your hard disk which may have been hidden from antiviruses and other security software by rootkits and other nasties.

However, KNOS will NOT permit you to write to that drive, nor will it permit deleting files on it. A special version of KNOS can be built for computer technicians with special write and delete capabilities, but the standard version of KNOS will not permit that for your protection.

If you wish to download files from the internet for use on your Windows machine, the recommended method is to install a USB stick, download the file(s) in KNOS and save them to the USB stick. You can then transfer those files from the USB stick to Windows by running Windows and still be able to keep Windows away from the risks of the internet safely by allowing your Windows safety software to examine the stick's contents before running any files you have downloaded using KNOS. USB is our safe "intermediary" when files need to be written to Windows at all.

Can I adjust the desktop in KNOS?

By default, KNOS will start up in the highest supported screen resolution that it detects. This resolution might be too high, resulting in print too small to read legibly. If you would like to change the screen resolution to something easier on your eyes, go up to the top panel and click on "System" up above. A drop down menu will appear. Click the "Preferences" item and you will see "Display" listed. You can select any resolution that you please for your comfort. If, after applying a new resolution, you see that the scrollbar on the extreme right edge of the screen goes past the edge of your monitor, come back here again and adjust the "Refresh rate" to another setting if available that pleases your monitor. One of those settings should work. On some graphics cards, other refresh rates might not be available, and if this is the case then you might want to pick another screen resolution, or deal with the hard to find scrollbar offset in some programs. There isn't much we can do about that but we did our best to consider every possibility within the possible modes of all graphics cards that we've tested.

Please also note that if the default KNOS theme is not to your liking, we've included many other "themes" which you can try. To play with these, simply right-click your mouse on any blank area of the desktop, and you can change the background to your liking, and you can even select among many themes by clicking on the first tab. There will be a delay in the appearance of the "Desktop background" settings as a lot of data has to be read in in order to present you with all of the possible options. You're likely to find a combination of elements that you find most pleasing. If none of the fixed themes please you, you can click "customize" and pick any combination of each element to create your own theme. Do be aware though that since KNOS currently cannot save settings because it cannot write, that you'll need to do this each time KNOS boots all over again. In a future release, once we have a portal, you will be able to save your preferences as you please. But not yet.

Does KNOS have "accessibility" features?

Yes. Under the “Applications” menu, You will see an item marked “Universal access” under which screen magnifiers, gesture handlers and other tools for people with disabilities. If you're not already familiar with these tools, run them and you will find like all other applications in KNOS, there are extensive help and tutorial documents on their use.

What else can KNOS do?

Pretty much anything you'd like to. Now that you know about solving any potential problems with networking, access to a USB drive, and how to configure your KNOS experience, it's time to play. Feel free! Just remember that the first time you load Firefox on each bootup, Flash may not work the first time you visit a site with Flash on it. Close the browser, wait for it to clean up and then reopen Firefox again and go back to that site. Should work the second time if it doesn't the first. If Flash hangs the browser, the red button up on the top panel with the "f" in it will reset a "flash crash" and you can go back and try again.

Once Firefox is going, you won't have to go through that again until you reboot next time. Please also note that KNOS has Firefox configured to completely wipe your browsing history (except cookies - those you must do manually in Firefox if you want - cookies go away when you reboot otherwise) for your privacy. Privacy is as important to us as security and it's reflected in KNOS' "can't write, can't leave a trail." Furthermore, every copy of KNOS has the same "serial numbers" as far as any violators of privacy go and so with KNOS, you cannot be "tracked" nor exploited, everyone is the same person!

Browser Support

KNOS comes with two browsers available to you though Firefox is the default browser in our current design. We also include a new "Webkit-based" browser called "Epiphany" which can be run from the top menu. To run Epiphany instead of Firefox, go up to the top upper left of your desktop and click on "Applications." Then select "Internet" and you will see "Epiphany" listed as an item. Epiphany is similar, but not as feature-rich as the "Safari" browser that ships with the OSX operating system. Epiphany has been included in this release specifically as an experiment in order for us to see how well it works as a browser with various systems that KNOS might be run on in hopes of spotting any compatibility issues. We are also looking into Epiphany (once it matures) in features as a possible replacement for Firefox in the future. You will find Epiphany to already be superior to Firefox as it is for speed and quality when viewing web-based multimedia.

Both Chromium and Firefox come with a complete complement of expected capabilities ranging from Adobe flash for multimedia, full HTML5 support (including all known multimedia codecs), full JAVA (tm) support as well as the ability to read Adobe PDf files using a module called "Evince." Absolutely no additional plugins or installations are required. We have also included the ability to install (if desired) other Firefox plugins each time KNOS is started although the need for things such as "noscript," "adblock" and other protections necessary under Windows are not necessary in KNOS.

Please be aware that Firefox supports Flash and Java, but Flash is buggy since it was written for Linux and has problems there too. When Firefox first encounters a site that has Google analytics, it will stall for up to 20 seconds at first while google initializes Firefox with its javascripting and downloading of "potentially harmful site lists." Flash may not work the first time you visit a site with Flash on it. Just close the browser, wait 10 seconds and run Firefox again and it'll be fine. These things will only happen the first time you run Firefox after your bootup. Once both oddities have happened, they won't happen again until next time you choose to reboot.

Known issues

The kernel and sources in KNOS are the very latest blend of our own code, code from the FreeBSD project, Gnome project and numerous other third party applications. They are all the very latest of what's available and functional, however, there are a few “bugs” we're already aware of...

Here's the ones we already know about:

1. Adobe's Flash plugin is buggy. As a result, Flash will hang from time to time and hang the browser with it on problematic flash objects in certain pages on the web. If this happens, simply click the red (f) on the upper right panel to reset flash and automatically clean up whatever mess it made. These events are in Adobe's code and in the "nsviewer.bin" code which runs it inside the browser. These issues can only be resolved by the vendors, and they are aware of these issues.

All other issues discovered in previous KNOS releases have been resolved.

Once again, if you encounter any problems which are the possible result of hardware problems or incompatibilities, having the “KNOS-diagnostics” mentioned above will be tremendously helpful to us in figuring out what's different about your machine. You can use Firefox or the Epiphany browser to send us an email and attach the file using your internet provider's “webmail” or other web email services such as gmail or yahoo. Send your information to us at:

Well get back to you as soon as possible for a followup or what we plan to do to resolve it.