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Linux Technology

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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  • Re:Why not Debian? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @02:34PM (#23559775) Journal
    This should be true of any distro with a sufficiently advanced package manager and repository system.

    Gentoo starts out the simplest, with nothing more than a livecd -- you have to format yourself, unpack a tarball, chroot, and do the bootstrapping, pretty much all by yourself.

    Ubuntu has a variant which installs something about as minimal as Debian. You can always install everything else you need -- the bigger variants are as simple as "apt-get install ubuntu-desktop" and such.

    Those are the ones I've used extensively. My guess is that the review is about how it all comes together for a specific lightweight UI and such, but I haven't read TFA yet.
  • Arch Linux for me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @02:35PM (#23559799)
    Arch is a great distro. Sure, you have to do a lot yourself, but that's the point. By making you look over your /etc files at install, you get a good sense about what your system is actually loading during boot.
  • by torpor ( 458 ) <ibisum@noSpAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @02:37PM (#23559833) Homepage Journal

    1: Complete Development Toolkit

    Yes, thats right, I want a full compiler and development environment, first and foremost .. gcc, gdb, as, ld, cscope, vim, grep, python .. *minimum* ..

    2: FULL SOURCE ONBOARD .. and then I want the full source for the complete system onboard as well, so that I can run 'cscope -R -b' on /usr/src and have a fully working, 100% open source system, with its source on board, on a USB stick. Everything configured already so that 'make install' goes to my working image, etc.

    No, don't bother arguing with me .. I'm already working on it ..

  • Re:Why not Debian? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by scipiodog ( 1265802 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @02:38PM (#23559839)

    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.

    A similar argument could be made for other distros, including Ubuntu - ie. an install without a GUI.

    Why do you need a specific distribution for this? What does the Debian based Damn Small Linux offer me that plain Debian doesn't?

    A less resource-hungry GUI by default?

  • by langelgjm ( 860756 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @02:42PM (#23559911) Journal
    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. It had Windows 95 on it, which would have been utterly useless; with DSL, I was able to plug a USB wifi dongle in it and get it working with ndiswrapper. Plus, if I remember correctly, DSL is based on Debian, so you can easily install the stuff it doesn't have (movie player, etc) with apt-get.
  • Re:More RAM, Batman. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @03:35PM (#23560727) Homepage Journal
    Well, I run Xubuntu on a laptop with 2GB of RAM....

    The reason is that I do almost all my work these days on virtual machines. There are all kinds of benfits from working mainly in virtual machines that I won't go into here, but the reason I use Xubuntu over Ubuntu is that it uses slightly less memory. Most of the time the performance of the virtual machines is not noticeably sluggish, but every so often you run into memory limitations. Using less in the first place means that it happens less often and recovers faster.

    Probably I should consider using a distro designed for some resource constrained machine, like DSL. However my current setup works well enough that I haven't been motivated to try DSL or some other minidistro. I'd be interested if others have.
  • I built my main desktop box in November 1996 (Micron Millenia Pro2 Plus, a PPro/200 w/64MB since expanded to 192MB).

    It runs Firefox under Warp 4 FP15 just fine, and dual-boots to Win95 OSR2 which also runs Firefox just fine. Multitasking under Warp is much snoother, of course, but both platforms are able to play music, handle javascript, handle most Firefox plugins, run Java programs, and even do Flash stuff as long as it isn't too CPU-intensive (YouTube is not an option, sadly). Thunderbird 1.5.0.xx also runs just fine, albeit a little slowly at startup time.

    Such hardware is also easily to run lightweight Linux distros like Puppy 2/3/4, DSL, Austrami, Feather Linux, and others. Remember that Mandake 8.2 running KDE 2.2 was designed to run on such boxes, and it was hardly a light distro at the time.

    The internet, useless on such hardware? Not really, as long as you don't do video. :-)
  • Re:Why not Debian? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @02:12AM (#23567259) Journal

    With a K6 you really need a specific build (K6 is a brilliant processor standing on its own, but horrible at playing i386) and gentoo is how you get that build.
    Someone should build Debian for it, then.

    That's the thing that I didn't like about Gentoo. I discovered that most of the flexibility advantage that I perceived over other distros boiled down to two things:

    First, USE flags. Most of these are things like whether or not to compile Perl support for Vim, or gtk+ support for various packages, etc. I find that, for the most part, Debian-based distros solve this by splitting that functionality into separate packages -- often the extra functionality is in an optional library (plugin-like), which would be difficult to compile separately, so it's in the same Gentoo package -- but is fine for a binary distro.

    Plus, I wasn't customizing them that much, other than turning them all on.

    Second was, obviously, global optimizations. But the only safe global optimizations are things like -march=whatever. Ubuntu already optimizes for 686, and I have an amd64 -- there aren't going to be many optimizations I can turn on globally. The closest would be things like mplayer, which can autodetect my CPU at runtime anyway.

    Most of the other advantages are completely negated by the nature of the beast. If there was a slight speed advantage, maybe -- but I pay for that by spending all those cycles compiling stuff, and besides, that speed advantage is mostly already had by using Ubuntu on amd64. Slight space advantage, maybe with -OS -- but I have to leave enough space to compile things (3 gigs for some things, like OpenOffice), and /usr/portage is bigger than it needs to be, even when I was on Reiser4.

    There are things I miss about Gentoo, and I have a very long wish list for any package manager. I'm not saying this to bad-mouth Gentoo, just saying why I think a binary K6 would be useful -- especially when the machine is going to be slow enough that you don't want to be compiling all the time.

"Open the pod bay doors, HAL." -- Dave Bowman, 2001