posted by Walter Kruse on Thu 8th Jan 2004 06:55 UTC
IconIt seems that I am in some sort of retro-mode. As Linux on the desktop is getting bigger and better, with more apps, more sleek looks (Galaxy, Keramik and Blue Curve for example) and more idiot proof, I am going onto simpler, more condensed stuff. The big distributions are nice, but I really do not need all the applications that come with them all the time.

I am very promiscuous when it comes to flavours of Linux. My first installation was RedHat 6. I used Mandrake for a long time, briefly ran SuSE, Gentoo and Slackware and eventually settled on Peanut. I have never worked with Debian or Knoppix, DSL's ancestors. Experiences with Peanut taught me that using a thin, less GUI-driven distro, is a good way to learn. This to me is comparable with switching to vi after having used Kate extensively.

I jumped on the DAMNSmallLinux (DSL) bandwagon around version 0.4.7, after reading an interview with the distro's author, John Andrews on Distrowatch. The aim with this tiny distro is to keep it under 50 MB in order for the ISO image to fit on one of those credit card-size mini-disks. A pocket rocket. You can carry the whole thing in your wallet, and work in your familiar surroundings on any PC. John started with a stripped-down rework of Knoppix, and developed the rest around that.

What you get is:
FluxBox window manager, Xbase utilities,
emelFM and MC file managers,
Dillo patched and Links Hacker browsers,
a script to download and install Mozilla FireBird 0.7, selectable from the menu,
Naim instant messaging and IRC, Sylpheed email client,
Ted-gtk word processor, ABS spreadsheet, Xpdf PDF viewer
Xzgv picture viewer, Xpaint image editor,
SciTe, nVi, Zile (Emacs clone), nano (pico clone) text editors,
Perl 5.8.0, Tiny C Compiler,
VNCviewer, Rdesktop, ssh, sshd,
Monkey web server, SQLite database server,
XMMS with mp321 and ogg123 (CD and mpeg video),
TuxNES, Oneko and Xpacman,
and much more including all the usual command-line tools you would expect. Details of apps and packages can be found on the site:

Hardware configuration

My no. 1 system is: Epox motherboard, 1GHz AMD Athlon Thunderbird, 256MB RAM, 32MB Riva TNT2, LG Studioworks 17 inch, nondescript external modem. I have a 10GB Seagate in the box as hdb, affectionately called dataslave, where my documents, files, downloads and so on live. The primary hard disk is in a removable bracket. In this way I can run several operating systems in turn and access all my files no matter which primary disk I booted. At the moment I have that other operating system and Peanut Linux on a large disk each, and DSL on an ancient 1GB hard disk. I don't think I have ever had more than one OS on the same disk at once.

My no.2 system is an Intel P120, 48MB RAM, 2MB S3 Virge, 4.3GB Seagate, nondescript rest. I use this box for testing purposes and fooling around. DSL does better on this box than any other OS has recently and, in fact, has revived it into a very usable basic system again.

Live CD

The first kick I got out of DSL was the fact that I (a dial-up user) can, for the first time, download the ISO and burn my own CD.

I booted the live CD. After auto-configuring the devices, networking and so on, the user is asked to choose between Xfbdev and Xvesa, resolution, USB or PS2 mouse before starting X. This script can be invoked again later by typing I laid eyes on Fluxbox for the first time. Now, after having used it for a few months, I think it is the most comfortable desktop I have used.

I think it is partly contributable to my oldish, mainstream hardware, but I was fortunate enough not to be confronted with any hardware compatability issues. Everything just works! Kudo's to John. I have picked up from reading the forum that some users, especially with older laptops, have display problems from the word go. There is a new howto section in the forum with details for fixing such problems. There are boot prompt options available, such as typing fb800x600.

DSL is booted with a pre-configured default user, damnsmall. If you need to run a command as root, you simply type sudo [command]. If you want to stay root for as long as the shell session is open, type sudo su. The root password is unknown to the user, but if you need to login as root, type sudo passwd, supply a new one for root, and then you can use the command su root.

Selecting "Enhance" from the menu will display desktop icons, a desktop pager and the Slit. This is something I have never seen before. The Slit displays a network load monitor, a CPU load monitor, a memory and swap usage monitor and, the best innovation I have seen in a long time, a mount app. With this tool, when working in the X environment, you can select your device and mount it with a few clicks, instead of at the command line.

For users of the live CD, there is built in a function to save your configuration files to floppy or USB flash drive. This can be selected from the menu. To restore your configuration files at subsequent boots, type knoppix-restore at the boot prompt.

Table of contents
  1. "DAMNSmallLinux review, Page 1"
  2. "DAMNSmallLinux review, Page 2"
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