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Review/Overview of Lightweight Linux Distros 96

pcause writes "Here is a review of various lightweight Linux distros. Not sure I agree with the conclusions, since I am a PuppyLinux user, but it is a nice overview of some current options." Reviewed are: Arch 2007.08-2, Damn Small Linux 4.2.5, Puppy 4.0, TinyMe Test7-KD, Xubuntu 8.04, and Zenwalk 5.0.
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Review/Overview of Lightweight Linux Distros

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  • Why not Debian? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @02:25PM (#23559655) Journal
    IMO, the best light weight distribution is Debian. A net installation leaves you with nothing but a console. You can apt-get anything you need, and only what you need. Why do you need a specific distribution for this? What does the Debian based Damn Small Linux offer me that plain Debian doesn't?
  • Re:Why not Debian? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jonnythan ( 79727 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @02:34PM (#23559767)
    The fact that you don't have to install to a console-only and not apt-get every package that you want.
  • No, really, I'd like to see a comparison, because the basic FreeBSD install without Gnome or KDE is pretty small, and it's what I'm used to, so I'd like to see how he compared it to these supposedly small Linux distros, since I'm doing more Linux in my new job.
  • Re:Why not Debian? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Orange Crush ( 934731 ) * on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @02:54PM (#23560115)

    I'll see your Debian and raise you a copy of Linux from Scratch. Small, light, and does everything I need it to. :-)

    I'm unfamiliar with your needs, but if you want to rapidly deploy a reasonably feature complete lightweight OS to a menagerie of older donated/found/sitting in a closet gathering dust computers, it's easier to use a pre-made distro.

  • by thsths ( 31372 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @03:00PM (#23560229)
    > I agree with his statement that DSL can be pretty ugly, but it's very lightweight. I studied abroad for a semester and didn't bring a computer with me, but found an ancient Pentium-1 era machine that was being thrown out.

    Yes, I used DSL for similar situations, too. However, I have a spare Athlon XP plus board, a spare Nvidia 5200, and I am sure there should be a memory bar with 256 MB somewhere. You can put these in any ATX case, and make a damn fine Linux installation with the distribution of your choice. So for me, the days of messing about with DSL are over.

    I could not live without LyX and LaTeX anyway. Sure, back in the days I did LaTeX on a 386SX with 2 MB of RAM and a dos extender. And you can still edit using LyX (or XEmacs) on a pretty small machine. But running LaTeX and acroread without a good amount of memory is just painful.
  • Re:Gentoo User (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Orange Crush ( 934731 ) * on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @03:04PM (#23560291)
    No. When you compile every application and dependancy, you tend to skip anything you're not going to use. The pre-made distros load all sorts of processes that a particular user may never touch. Knock those out, and you get noticeable performance gains from freed memory and clock cycles as well as faster boot and shutdown. Just because it's Gentoo and they're compiling their own binaries, doesn't mean they're ricers who think every little compiler flag is going to be some huge performance booster.
  • by the_rajah ( 749499 ) * on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @03:28PM (#23560595) Homepage
    I just installed Xubuntu 8.04 on that setup this weekend and it works OK. Hardly lightening fast feeling after coming off a c2d with 2 Gigs of RAM, but definitely usable. It's going into the guest room for, well, guests to use if they didn't bring a laptop of their own. Usually guests only need a browser, so it's perfect. If they need to print something, I've got networked printers.
  • NetBSD (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lgbr ( 700550 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @03:39PM (#23560795)

    I use this [] NetBSD distribution. The download is about 63 MBytes, and runs incredibly smoothly off of an old 128 MB flash drive that I have laying around. It comes with X and the Ion3 window manager. Of course since it's NetBSD, it runs on damn near anything. Even more impressive, it detects all of the hardware on my Thinkpad T41, even my wireless. Need a new package? Grab the tarball from the pkgsrc repository, drop it onto the usb stick, and it'll be loaded at next boot.

    It's not easy to use for your typical windows user, but since there is no fluff, it comes naturally to any unix user. As another plus, it comes with links and ssh. Just enough for me to be productive, but not enough for me to get caught up in YouTube as I do so often at work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @03:41PM (#23560837)
    Slackware is the best out there because it doesn't separate documentation and development libs from their package.
    Debian like distributions makes me feel like crying a little because say, you want to develop software for kde, you'll have to get kdebase, kdebase-dev, kdebase-doc and so on. Slackware packages are all in one. You install a .tgz, it has the doc, it has what it needs if you want to link to it and it has the software.
  • by masinick ( 130975 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @04:14PM (#23561409) Homepage Journal
    I think that DSL has a great niche working with really old hardware. The only distro I know of that is still actively being developed that is smaller than DSL is SliTaZ - very interesting, but very new.

    DSL has an old 2.4 kernel, an old Firefox browser, but you can count on it to work with old stuff.

    Puppy works with pretty old stuff, but really shines when you load it into RAM on equipment made within the past three years. Wireless support is something that Puppy handles better than DSL.

    Zenwalk has a relatively unknown, but fast package manager called Netpkg and a snappy implementation of the XFCE desktop. Derived from an earlier implementation of Minislack, Zenwalk comes out of a stable Slackware heritage. With a fast package manager and a fast desktop implementation, Zenwalk carves a nice niche out of the Slackware landscape.

    Arch Linux really is another distribution that once grew out of the Slackware space and has now come into its own with the pacman and AUR package management tools and the idea of giving you total and complete flexibility to build exactly and only what you want. It aims for simplicity rather than coddling the user with its own notion of ease of use. People really either love Arch Linux or avoid it for these very reasons.

    Xubuntu is an easy to use system with very current software from the Hardy Heron Ubuntu project, replacing GNOME with XFCE on the desktop. Good solid stable software with excellent wireless network configuration.

    TinyME is brand new, as far as a Version 1.0 implementation, but the project has been going on for a couple of years now as a community supported effort to provide lighter versions of the well regarded PCLinuxOS software. This one uses OpenBox instead of KDE. Like other PCLinuxOS systems, it really benefits from the good hardware detection algorithms from Mandriva and the solid packaging from "TexStar", expert RPM packager and founder of PCLinuxOS.

    As you can see, each of the distributions mentions has a nice niche. They won't all be appealing to everyone, but each of them is solid in several respects - certainly a credit to the modularity of both Linux and GNU software.
  • by temcat ( 873475 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @04:18PM (#23561469)
    A pity that the author didn't review these two. Not only they are they compact and snappy, but they also include the full-featured KDE desktop environment. I couldn't believe how fast they are when I tried them as LiveCDs - and they can be installed on HD, too!
  • Xubuntu Arch? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kevind23 ( 1296253 ) <> on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @04:40PM (#23561809) Homepage
    Sorry, but Ubuntu or any of its derivatives do NOT qualify as "lightweight". I find it amusing that Arch was rated towards the end of the list, most likely because they couldn't figure out how to install it.

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.