posted by Walter Kruse on Thu 8th Jan 2004 06:55 UTC

"DAMNSmallLinux review, Page 2"
Hard-disk install

I do not have much more to say about running the system from the live-cd, as I run DSL installed on hard disk. I have been told that installing defeats the object, after all, the distro is meant to go where you go, carried in your wallet. Nevertheless, I found it to be so excellent that I am running it on both my machines. All the time. But, as John is quick to point out, DSL is not a one man show. Robert Shingledecker is responsible for most of the recent improvements in the hard disk installation process. There is a page on the DSL site where you can find out about other contributers and their work.

To run Damnsmall from hard disk, the initial boot up process is the same. Once you are logged in as damnsmall and in fluxbox, you are ready to run the install script. I use cfdisk to create disk partitions. My my 1GB disk looks like this:
hda1 Primary 1083 MB
hda2 Extended / 827 MB
hda5 Extended swap 256MB

To invoke the install, type: sudo dsl-hdinstall

The install script asks whether you have a partition of at least 200MB created, and to specify where it is. Then the install process starts. It does'nt take very long, then you are presented with the option to configure LILO. I understand that there have been problems with dual-boot users' master boot records being overwritten here. Watch out. Once again, see the forum for details. Next is reboot. It is the little things that count. During this reboot, the CD tray opens and you are prompted to remove the disk and hit enter.

After new boot from hard disk, you are requested to enter a new password for root and damnsmall. Then you are automatically logged in as damnsmall. To create a user for yourself, type sudo adduser [username].

My swap partition was automatically configured and activated upon the next boot. If however, yours was not, you need to make a swap partition and activate it like so (replace hda5 with your partition name):
mkswap /dev/hda5
swapon /dev/hda5
The Slit should now show your swap partition usage. Very nice.

If you sudo vi /etc/lilo.conf, you will see that there is an entry in the first line which looks like this:
This number represents the framebuffermode during boot. Default works for me on both my machines, but you may need to change the number. Look in the howto forum for details. The foolproof option is VGA=normal. The cool thing is that if your system fails to boot from hard disk because of a bad value here, you may be able to boot from CD, mount your root partition and edit this file. The command lilo needs to be run after editing this file before you reboot.

The auto configuration of hardware process happens at each boot. This is not a problem for me because it really happens fast.

Fluxbox is really nice and intuitive, and comes with a couple of themes. My optical scroll mouse works fine. The message of the day will display everytime you boot. You will also have to select enhance from the menu each time. To fix this, edit the file .xinitrc in your home directory. Uncomment “enhance”, and comment out the “motd” line.

I was able to mount my dataslave (hdb1) with the mount app. No problems. But in order for a normal user to access the FAT32 disk correctly, I had to edit /etc/fstab and add:
/dev/hdb1 /mnt/hdb1 vfat users,iocharset=iso8859-15,codepage=850,auto,umask=0,defaults 0 0

I always copy the config file I am about to change, like fstab, lilo.conf or .xinitrc to [filename].old before editing the file. Who knows what may go wrong.

I am now able to listen to MP3's on hdb1 using XMMS. Typing knoppix toram at boot will enable live CD users to listen to an audio CD while running DSL in RAM. You need more than 50MB RAM, of course.

My work requires me to use MS Office documents, so is the ideal solution for me. I installed it from the normal binary .tar.gz from their site. Unpack the files in /tmp. Then as root, run ./setup -net in /tmp/OOo_1.1.0_LinuxIntel_install/
The normal install storyboard is run. When asked where to install, I specify /usr/local/OpenOffice/
Then you can do a workstation install as normal user by tuping ./setup in /usr/local/OpenOffice.

I now want to create a desktop shortcut for OpenOffice. You must have a link file and an icon file in /home/walter/.xtdesktop. For the link file I copied one of the others, and I had an icon from a previous distro. I name them ooffice.lnk and ooffice.gif. Edit the .lnk file and insert the correct caption, icon filename and executable. Now for the tricky bit: you have to specify the position on the desktop. I placed it relative to the one above and the one next to where I want it. It takes a bit of trial and error. Here is what my ooffice.lnk file looks like:
table Icon
Type: Program
Caption: OpenOffice
Command: soffice
Icon: /home/walter/.xtdesktop/ooffice.gif
X: 218
Y: 359

I fooled around with xterm a bit in order to see what different configurations look like. To change xterm background colour, I edited xterm.lnk by adding -bg lightgrey. X must be restarted in order to see results. If you select to exit Fluxbox from the menu, and find yourself in command line mode, type startx. I also wanted a different prompt. I changed the .bashrc file in my home dir. Where the entry PS1='\u@\h:\w\$ 'was, I changed it to PS1='\w\$: '. Once again, I first copied .bashrc to .bashrc.old, in case I ever want to revert to the old version.

I have always been used to kppp. Spoiled ? The dialup in DSL is very cool, it uses wvdial. A little bit of configuration in two steps is required.

Select modemconfig from the menu. Here you specify on which port the modem is connected, ttyS0 = com1 and so on.

Next, choose pppconfig from the menu. Two files need to be edited with vi here, but the process is explained well as you go along. The first file for editing is wvdial.conf, which has a symbolic link in the /etc directory. This is fairly simple. Change phone number, user name and password. Two tricks in this file: insert a line with set Modem = /dev/ttyS0, else you may have to run the modemconfig script after every boot. Also insert a line with Init = ATM0 to set the modem speaker to silent.

The next file I found a little harder. In the file pap-secrets, you have to insert your ISP user name and password under the OUTBOUND section. This worked with a bit of trial and error.

There you go. Now just select wvdial from the menu. A terminal opens up and you can see the dialup and authentication as it happens. To log off, type Control-c in the terminal.

On the forum there is a thread about the security of DSL. I am no security expert, so I will just report that the daemons are off by default, the menu options are there to start/stop them easily as required.


Damn Small Linux is my everyday, do everything distro. It has revived my old PC, and runs very well on my no. 1 box. I think it will go a long way. DSL has a vibrant forum on the site, and a I obtained some of this review's content from there, and often refer to it. Check it out for new tips and tricks. Thanks to John and his contributors for the distro, and thanks to all the users that very patiently post solutions and explanations on the forum.

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