Greetings, pallidus, welcome to the forum.
I'm no fan of Compiz, either, but I think there are features that
Klaus K needs for the Adriane version. Just disable it if it
offends you. Or disable parts of it. I disable scale, first thing.
Have you tried the magnifier, Super-M? I find that handy.
Knoppix can probably use the Lubuntu theme. Have you tried
Main Menu>Preferences>Customize Look & Feel?
As for the kernel, I think Klaus K always opts for the latest
reasonably stable kernel. One that doesn't have too many nasty
regressions that always creep into the latest and greatest.
He saves us a lot of time finding and avoiding inconsistencies
that won't be fixed for months. Like not having a wl driver for
Broadcom wifis; oops, sorry, that's not a good example.