I think I found out the problem
I think the problem that I had with my Linux installations was the motherboard I was using. It seems, after sleuthing around the web, that the Intel 965 chipsets have some problems with some linux distros (I wasn't the only one with problems regarding 965). It ended up that my new motherboard was having intermittent problems with the BIOS also, and at the end decided it wouldn't boot up anymore. I exchanged it for an ASUS Nvidia 570 motherboard, and now Knoppix STD, and Mandriva run and install properly. I have a small problem with the Knoppix CD in that it doesn't recognize my USB mouse and keyboard. So for now I have a set of USB and a set of PS2 keyboards and mice plugged in.
If anyone can shed some light on Intel 965 chipsets and Linux it would be nice , so others with this chipset could benefit.