Damn Small Linux 0.8.4 was released recently. Now, the Siag Office word processor and spreadsheet are included, there were adjustments to smbclient GUI; adjustments to the control panel for backup and more. We talked to John Andrews, founder of the DSL distribution last week and he opened up to us with enthusiasm on the project’s future. UPDATE: Many screenshots of DSL. DSL’s main target is to run off business card CDs and/or USB keys (below 64 MBs of space). John is constantly trying to improve the space arranged in the distro so it never ends up being more than 50 MBs (compressed). This way, Linux can be demonstrated easily, fast and without any risk, to new users. Moreover, John told us that he has heard of others running DSL on a 486DX machine with only 16 MBs, with X11, proving DSL to be an excellent choice for older machines.
DSL runs on the Fluxbox window manager along with a few addons to allow for a visual representation of virtual screens, and desktop icons. DSL does not include KDE or Gnome, but the main power behind most apps is GTK 1.2.x, nCurses, FLTk. Applications included are a hacked version of Dillo, Links-hacked (special graphical version of Links), Sylpheed, BashBurn and the Siag office suite. Through DSL I was also introduced to axFTP, a nice GTK FTP app.
DSL is definetely a minimalistic distro, however the GUI preference panels are present. They are written in a mix of Lua and FLTk and they are pretty unique. They are front-ends to daemons or tools, and sometimes they just invoke other, ncurses tools (e.g. the command line version of the Red Hat sound card detection tool). Your can configure a net/Wi-Fi card either natively or by using the Ndiswrapper, Backups and restore your data, your keyboard, your X server, your printer, PPPoE, PPP. You can also turn on an SSH server, or make your installation a client for DHCP, NFS, FTP. Another tool, can install DSL on the hard drive (when you run it from a CD or USB key).
The version of Dillo included is hacked, older version, that supports tabs and it has a streamlined interface. Dillo also serves as the Help application that can guide the new user to DSL. Through Dillo too, you can install new packages! Using the browser, you immediately get a nice interface and clicking on the button “Get it” next to the app name, it installs the app for you! DSL’s package management is similar to the Slackware tarball packages, but it’s using Lua to install them instead of Bash scripts.
Another very interesting aspect of DSL is the fact that you can –at any time– “Enable Apt” from the menu, and have apt-get and Synaptic get installed for you. From that point on, you can literally transform DSL to a Debian. John doesn’t exactly recommend this, as it might create some incompatibilities in some apps, but it is possible to turn it into a real Debian.
Robert Shingledecker is responsible for the backup/restore functionality, a large
part of the MyDSL system package system, the design of the Lua-FLTK admin tools,
and countless ‘under the hood’ improvements over the last year.
So, if disk space is your concern, or you own an old machine, or you simply crave for a very responsive and fast distro, give DSL a try. Download times are minimal, and it’s a no-risk situation. If you are still not convienced, you can always download the Qemu version of DSL, which it will run under Windows or another Linux/BSD via emulation (800 MHz machine with 256 MB of RAM or more, is recommended to use DSL via emulation).