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Damn Small Linux Not So Small 222

An anonymous reader writes "According to DistroWatch, Damn Small Linux (DSL) is currently the most popular microLinux distribution. (Also owned by VA) takes a look at why this might be the case, and how you can best take advantage of it. From the article: 'What began as a toy project to stuff the maximum software inside a 50MB ISO file has matured into a refined community project known for its speed and versatility. DSL includes the ultra-lightweight FluxBox window manager, two Web browsers, Slypheed email client and news reader, xpdf PDF viewer, XMMS with MPEG media file support for playing audio and video, BashBurn CD burner, XPaint image editing, VNCViewer and rdesktop to control Windows and Linux desktops remotely, and more. If they could do all this in 50 megs, imagine what they could do in more space. Last month the DSL developers released DSL-Not, a.k.a. DSL-N 0.1 RC1. It's 83.5MB of DSL coated with GTK sugar. Yummy!'"
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Damn Small Linux Not So Small

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  • Sylpheed is pretty nice. Back when I used GNOME, I tried it [] as my email client. Really nice, great performance on large folders. (Now I use mutt.)

  • DSL and DSL-N (Score:5, Informative)

    by aymanh ( 892834 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @02:44PM (#15601402) Journal
    Last month the DSL developers released DSL-Not, a.k.a. DSL-N 0.1 RC1. It's 83.5MB of DSL coated with GTK sugar. Yummy!
    Actually, looks like DSL-N is more than just GTK sugar, from its web page [], DSL-N features a modern kernel with more hardware support, in addition to more apps [], like MPlayer, Gaim, and gFTP.

    It's also worth mentioning that the original DSL uses a lightweight GUI toolkit called FLTK [] and Lua for its tools, interesting!
  • Re:No Firefox ? (Score:4, Informative)

    by DrSkwid ( 118965 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @03:00PM (#15601467) Homepage Journal
    The DSL I have has Firefox.

    And though it I had the introduction to the excellent Scheme In A Grid []

    DSL recently had a "Donate a Dollar" fundraising drive. I don't know how much money they made but I gave them a $. Who says you can't make monet from free software !
  • There is a very real need for a quick and dirty distro. What you are describing is a situation where another distro would fit better.

    The problem isn't the tool. The problem is you trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
  • How the times change (Score:5, Informative)

    by r ( 13067 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @03:20PM (#15601551)
    A 50MB distro is called "damn small"? Damn. I remember when Slackware 1.x core came on a couple of floppy disks. And if you wanted a good text editor, you had to find one on Archie and get it yourself. But we were happy in those days. :)
  • by foreverdisillusioned ( 763799 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @03:41PM (#15601608) Journal
    50 megs is a tad arbitrary. I think that 200~ish would be a better number, as it can fit on mini-CDs (yeah I know business card CDs are 50 megs, but I've never even SEEN one before, whereas I find that mini-CDs are small and handy) and it can fit on cheap 256mb flash drives. I'm not advocating bloat, but if there has to be a hard limit I think 50mb is a tad small. I think that the number of people who use mini CD-Rs or 256+ MB flash drives outnumber the people who use business card CD-Rs or 64 MB flash drives by quite a bit. In a 50 MB setup, extrmely useful apps like the suite (I say its "extremely useful" more for its compatibility with MS Office than anything else) will never be included by default. With 200+ megs to play with, suddenly OO.o seems like a very natural inclusion. Yes, I know there's an OO.o DSL package; I just think that there should be a default default distro in the 200~ MB range where it (and other useful-but-somewhat-big apps) is included by default.
  • Slax? (Score:2, Informative)

    by lRem ( 914073 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @03:49PM (#15601628) Homepage
    There is a good example what can be done within 192 mb what is the smallest practical size - the size of small CD. And the example: [] it is a microlinux with KDE and lot's of useful stuff, also modificable with some 800 packages ready to add.
  • by rabid_sith ( 918777 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @03:50PM (#15601634)
    The box I play around on is an old i586, so most modern distros won't even get past boot. And if they do, they end up using most if not all of my memory, drive space, and usually a sizeable chunk of the swap as well. And what does DSL go and do? Uses about 30MB of memory, ~1GB of space on a full install, and boots up nice and fast.

    And it also lets me practice my machine gun skills in Quake II while I'm waiting for the rest of my party to show up from goodness-knows-where.
  • Yes, how they change (Score:2, Informative)

    by Frenchman113 ( 893369 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @04:09PM (#15601682) Homepage
    50 MB is small in relative terms. Today, there are very few distros that even fit on one CD. Besides, as times change, so does the price of portable storage (and the capacity). I'm running DSL right now from a free 64 MB thumb drive. Of course, that means I don't have quite enough space for DSL-N, but oh well.
  • by Mistshadow2k4 ( 748958 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @04:23PM (#15601726) Journal
    It has a 2.4 kernel because it still supports older hardware. 2.6 does not. It doesn't even support some not-so-old hardware that 2.4 did, as I've elarned from personal experience.
  • by Red Alastor ( 742410 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @04:30PM (#15601749)
    What I like about Puppy is that it can save back to its own CD/DVD. If you burn it on a DVD, you almost have a hard drive. And like DSL, you can install more stuff on it automatically.

    Oh and it can be installed to hard disk to give a new life to old computer. []

  • by misanthrope101 ( 253915 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @04:51PM (#15601836)
    I don't see the point
    There are applications for a small distro. DSL + VMWare + Truecrypt is an interesting setup. All you'd have unencrypted on your HD would be the DSL install, and you could run your "real" OS from a VMWare Virtual Machine stored in an encrypted container, even in a hidden container. I haven't actually tried this, but I've seen posts by people using Puppy Linux (or was it Feather? can't remember) for just this setup.

    Now if only Truecrypt and VMWare could be automagically installed via apt-get or Synaptic. I can even learn to use the command-line version of Truecrypt, if I could just get it installed in less than an hour. I haven't even tried on DSL yet.

  • Re:DSL + eye candy? (Score:4, Informative)

    by desNotes ( 900643 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @04:52PM (#15601841) Journal
    There is a distro called Austrumi that is 50MB with e17 installed. I am using it as my main distro and it is nice and fast. Check it I am not involved in the project personally. desNotes
  • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) * on Sunday June 25, 2006 @05:15PM (#15601948) Homepage Journal
    Familiar's Opie and GPE can help breathe new life into PDAs ( [] ) but they still seems somewhat limited compared to packages DSL provides...
  • Re:Thumbdrive (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 25, 2006 @05:26PM (#15601995)
    Umm... no tool for NTFS resizing, you say? How about the cryptically named ntfsresize(8)? Its author claims it does its job better than Partition Magic or any other commercial or non-commercial tool (ie. it is allegedly the best there is) and it is supported by parted(8).
  • DSL is definitely not for novices. I am running DSL on an old Dell laptop right now, installed because this machine will only barely run Win2K. I've got plenty of MS experience, and a general knack apart from that. DSL was difficult to deal with, particularly on the audio and WLAN fronts. If you're an existing Linux user, or willing to get dirty learning it, rock on with DSL. If you're just a Windows user (not an admin), you'd be better off with a more full-featured distribution.
  • Very useful (Score:3, Informative)

    by PhotoGuy ( 189467 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @06:07PM (#15602142) Homepage
    Since it's inception, I have used DSL frequently as a recovery tool. And it's gotten quite a bit better since the early days (a lot more GUI stuff, and such). For those who argue the "Damn Small" name isn't appropriate for a 50M distribution, don't forget that most distributions these days take multiple 650MB CD's and/or a lot of downloads after installing. At, say 5% of a two-CD Linux install, it is indeed "Damn Small."

    Not quite as elegantly small as the QNX Demo Diskette of olden days, which, on one 1.44MB diskette, had an OS, networking stack, GUI, window manager, and Web browser. It was truly amazing. I'm not sure why they have withdrawn this incredible demonstration of their elegant technology. (Has QNX itself become the subject of a bit of bloat, perhaps?) It was limited to one make of network card or serial modem for the networking, which was the main shortcoming of it; but regardless, it was truly unique.
  • by badfish99 ( 826052 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @06:09PM (#15602151)
    I tried carrying a business-card CD of DSL round in my pocket. After a few days, it snapped in two. They are evidently quite fragile. I keep my credit cards in the same wallet and they have never come to any harm.
  • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @09:54PM (#15603005)
    My 98 used to go from power button to booted in 38 seconds. That beats my current average of 52 for Ubuntu.
  • by rapidweather ( 567364 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @10:47PM (#15603176) Homepage
    I got my start remastering DSL, often winding up with 75 MB or so once I put Firefox, etc. in there.
    I then switched to Knoppix 3.4, using the 2.4 kernel to support older hardware as mentioned.
    Here is my Getting Started Guide [], also have a technical blog here. []
    There are some screenshots available there.
    One post that I need to draw your attention to is the one about "testcd" [] for Knoppix remasters. I did run into problems with some versions of DSL using isolinux, in that they would not boot on many of my older computers, due perhaps to the "testcd" problem. It is extremely important that any knoppix remaster pass that test, or there will be complaints concerning no-booting on boxes that used to run the distro flawlessly in an earlier syslinux version.
    For that reason, DSL often offers syslinux versions alongside isolinux versions.
    I don't feel that I have to, since I pass "testcd" 100%, and mine boots on all my older boxes, in addition to the newer P4 ones.
    One clue that I did take from DSL is to include lots of custom-made applications, found nowhere else. That makes a remaster different, and not just a re-arrangement of stock applications.
    I do have a bright yellow boot: command line against a black background, making it easy to enter long cheatcodes when trying out a new build. So many knoppix builds have a pale gray boot: command line with black background, very hard to see what you are doing!

    Also, see the main screenshots page link in my signature, below.
  • Re:i dig it (Score:2, Informative)

    by Danzigism ( 881294 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @11:44PM (#15603357)
    oh man, you'll be in business with damn small linux installed on there.. as far as "fast" is concerned, you might notice a bit of lag when you're in X windows.. i honestly use more Console apps or things i can run in an xterm.. although, it comes with a lightweight web browser called Dillo.. its perfectly fine for your simple browsing.. i use mine for IRC, some old games, web browsing, and a GREAT thin-client for when I'm RDP'ing into my XP machine from a remote location using 'rdesktop'..

    read the docs as carefully as you can, and you should be fine.. there's some great support out there surprisingly.. another reason i prefer this distro.. it has a decent package system as well.. you can use debian's "apt-get" to install most major things.. but they have a good collection of .dsl files that are super easy to install using they "mydsl-load" command.. good luck!

  • by G Morgan ( 979144 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @01:04AM (#15603570)
    Some people can find actual uses for old hardware. Because the idea of turning an older box into a firewall etc escapes you doesn't mean others should abandone otherwise useful hardware. Besides the main point of DSL is use as an admin tool.
  • The only mirror showing file dsl-3.0.1.iso 20-Jun-2006 is [], all the rest, including ibiblio, only have dsl-n-0.1RC1.iso 01-May-2006.

    I've got 9+ hours remaining for this 50M file, someone please tell me there is a torrent.

    Jonah Hex
  • by MrCopilot ( 871878 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @08:56AM (#15604822) Homepage Journal
    From dsl N html []

    1. Kernel 2.6.11 and modules
    2. Mozilla Suite 1.7.12, browser,mail,irc,etc.
    3. Mplayer 3.3.5 audio and video
    4. Leafpad 0.7.9 editor/notepad
    5. Abiword 2.2.7 wordprocessor
    6. Gnumeric 1.4.3 spreadsheet
    7. gTFP 2.0.18 ftp client
    8. gaim 0.77 IM client
    9. Xpdf 3.0.0 pdf viewer
    10.Emelfm 0.9.2 file manager
    11.Xpaint 2.7.6 paint program
    12.Cups 1.1.14 printing
    13.unionfs supported as an optional boot parameter
    14.MyDSL system of extensions
    15.Frugal Installs
    16.USB Pendrive Install
    To me that makes DSL very 2003, it's playing catch up in my books.

    Update Your Books.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson