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Linux Fatware: Distros That Need To Slim Down 299

snydeq writes "We need bare-bones Linux distros tailored for virtual machines or at least the option for installs, writes Deep End's Paul Venezia. 'As I prepped a new virtual server template the other day, it occurred to me that we need more virtualization-specific Linux distributions or at least specific VM-only options when performing an install. A few distros take steps in this direction, such as Ubuntu and OEL jeOS (just enough OS), but they're not necessarily tuned for virtual servers. For large installations, the distributions in use are typically highly customized on one side or the other — either built as templates and deployed to VMs, or deployed through the use of silent installers or scripts that install only the bits and pieces required for the job. However, these are all handled as one-offs. They're generally not available or suitable for general use.'"
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Linux Fatware: Distros That Need To Slim Down

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  • Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 08, 2013 @03:57PM (#43394417)

    Got that. It's called Debian Net Install.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      Did the server version of Ubuntu suddenly disappear?

      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Funny)

        by ilikenwf ( 1139495 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:10PM (#43394577)
        Unfortunately not.
    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by marcello_dl ( 667940 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:14PM (#43394625) Homepage Journal

      even slimmer: debootstrap --variant minbase on another partition

      more info on debian installation manual.

    • Yup. As small or big as you like.

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Funny)

      by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:26PM (#43394745)

      Fascinating idea.

      Is this some fork of Ubuntu?


    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Freshly Exhumed ( 105597 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:34PM (#43394827) Homepage

      TFA was a complete exercise in BS. Here's another example of how to do a slim Linux install: during a Mageia or Mandriva install, select the Custom option, deselect everything, click through to proceed but when it stops to check if you really, really want to have such a sparse choice select "truly-minimal-install" and you will get exactly what it says, without X or even man pages.

    • by Bigbutt ( 65939 )

      Unfortunately, until the distro is supported on the various agents that are required (Netbackup, OpenView, OpNet, Data Palette for example), we'll have to stick with a tuned Red Hat distro for our virtual environment.


    • by gagol ( 583737 )
      If you want stable, secure, and well documented, why not promote OpenBSD?
  • Ubuntu Core (Score:5, Informative)

    by simonbp ( 412489 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @03:58PM (#43394427) Homepage

    Ubuntu core distribution is ~34 MB, and available for x86, amd64, and ARM. It's more than suffcient to bootstrap a lean OS.

    • Re:Ubuntu Core (Score:5, Informative)

      by ilikenwf ( 1139495 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:00PM (#43394445)
      It's also nonstandard in terms of all the stupid patches and daemons it comes with.
      • by binarylarry ( 1338699 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:04PM (#43394507)

        If "nonstandard" is a problem, maybe you should be looking at OSes from a certain angry bald man.

    • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere ( 2201864 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:26PM (#43394757)
      "ubuntu" is Swahili for "I can't configure Debian".
    • by Bigbutt ( 65939 )

      Debian distros aren't supported for the agents we require in production environment.


  • TinyCore? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hsien-Ko ( 1090623 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @03:59PM (#43394441)
    No interface, but you wanted tiny didn't you?

    SliTaz is also another tiny one but has an interface and a cute spider.
  • TurnKey Core (Score:5, Informative)

    by americamatrix ( 658742 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:00PM (#43394453) Homepage
    I always like to use TurnKey Core for such things []

    It's small, lightweight and runs very quickly even on older hardware. It does a great job.

  • Once upon a time... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by filmorris ( 2466940 )
    there was Arch. And Gentoo. And LFS. And long strings of 0s and 1s. Then a rock and a piece of wood.
  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:01PM (#43394461)

    RHEL/CENTOS minimal does this just fine.

    Why bother about a solved problem?

    • Because the article's author wanted his 15 minutes on the /. front page. CentOS (or RHEL server) base install is 1.6 GB without a GUI and takes very little time.

      • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:21PM (#43394689)

        thats the base install? Hell my full Raspian install is smaller than that!

        Ubuntu Core is 34MB.

        Whats better ... if the submitter of the story had bothered to even google for it ... on the Ubuntu Core page ... []

        About half way done the page, under Deploying Ubuntu Core, it links to the documentation for an x86 VM running ubuntu core ...

      • by fnj ( 64210 )

        CentOS minimal install (choice picked from menu at install) takes about 0.68 GB and includes apache, nfs server, ssh server, selinux, python and iptables. Pretty much good to go. Yum install perl, mysql and php would add very little to the footprint and only takes a few seconds.

        • I was talking about the base install. My point was that 1.6 GB is not large by today's standards and does not take forever to install.

    • by Dadoo ( 899435 )

      RHEL/CENTOS minimal does this just fine.

      Depends on what you call minimal. If you have a machine with (a minimum of) 512Mb memory, than yeah, it's fine. On the other hand, if you've got a machine from about 1998, with 64Mb of memory, you're basically SOL. CentOS won't even install. (I'm sure the fact that it's a Red Hat clone has something to do with it.)

      Old machines are great for routers or VPN servers, and they can't be used for much else. If the machine is installed at a remote office, the long-term CentO

  • by ilikenwf ( 1139495 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:01PM (#43394475)
    If you really want lightweight and have a specific purpose in mind, just use something that only gives you what you want/need based on what you install. Then, localepurge.
  • #! Linux (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tyler R. ( 2787023 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:04PM (#43394515)
    I'm really liking Crunchbang lately! It's very fast, very stable, and it's based on Debian so it works pretty well with mainstream software. It also comes with non free repositories, and codecs.
  • task-*.rpm (Score:5, Informative)

    by hduff ( 570443 ) <<hoytduff> <at> <>> on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:07PM (#43394537) Homepage Journal

    For RPM-based distros, it's easy enough to set up a task-*.rpm to install a minimal subset of the entire repository for a specific purpose, like a LAMP server. I'm sure .deb-based distros have something similar, so I'm really not seeing the problem here, just a lack of understanding the power of FOSS by the OP.

  • vmware tools? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by iaw4 ( 2704637 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:09PM (#43394569)
    and why do we still need vmware tools to be installed separately? why are these guest tools not already natively supported out of the box?
    • What about virtual box, virtual iron, parallels, and QEMU drivers just to start? And thats just some of the popular/well known hypervisors.

      And what about Bloat? Why not include every driver and software package known to man?

      You don't NEED the vmware tools installed, the OS will run without them. You want them installed for better performance and because VMware is shit and won't send an ACPI shutdown command to the guest, only a freaking vmware tools command.

      • While vmware may be crap, it runs much faster on older CPUs (without hardware virtualization support) than qemu-kvm does.

        • When you say "VMWare is crap", by what metric is that?

          Can you name another hypervisor that will happily allow you to nest ESXi, and then within that XenServer? Or Hyper-V (which will generally refuse to even install on another hypervisor)?

    • by afidel ( 530433 )

      They aren't necessary, newer kernels have compatible drivers available. I'm not sure if RHEL has a version with the slipstreamed drivers yet or not but I do believe that CentOS does.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:12PM (#43394607) Homepage
    the author in TFA are irrelevant outside the proprietary sphere of vmware. what i suspect is really being cited is the piss-poor nature of error reporting and handling with respect to what images it can and wont handle.

    every linux distro ive seen has a 'bare minimal install' option; puppet chef and to a lesser extent cfengine and spacewalk exist solely to chisel the initial image into "your server." PXE boot can ensure "your server" just gets decompressed into the guest space as well. dont understand any of those? just save and copy a version of "your server" as a blueprint to use whenever a new one is necessary

    speaking as someone whos contributed to open source projects like Fedora, i can agree bluetooth isnt necessarily appropriate everywhere. thats a bottle of mr potterings special sauce that had you cared to research might make more sense. however, it is rather shocking to hear a vmware user whos software uses a minimum of a gigabyte of disk storage (that doesnt include the generous 20 gigabytes free for your host OS) bitch about the default load of something like, say, centos which stands around 4 gigabytes. That includes KVM/QEMU. indeed this is not as you put it "rocket surgery."
  • So, if you have say more than 10 linux systems/servers/types you should be using some sort of configuration management software, something like, puppet, chef, or spacewalk. Within those programs, it is easy enough to build custom templates for server, that can easily be re-used.
  • wankers... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jawnn ( 445279 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:16PM (#43394649)
    If you aren't recompiling the kernel to include only the things you "really need", you don't deserve to be talking about bloat.
  • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:26PM (#43394749) Homepage Journal

    ... And it's called Slackware. Around 2GB if you install everyhting and much, much less than that if you know what you are doing. Easy to keep out stuff like X11, KDE, XFCE, or anything else for that matter - simply make sure the little checkbox is not checked while installing.

    But, hey, why take my word for it? Go ahead and install it, you will see.

    (Oh, and don't bother whining ''Slackware is hard to learn'' yadda yadda yadda - you wanted customization, right? Live and learn)

    • by volkerdi ( 9854 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:56PM (#43395005)

      2GB for a full Slackware install? Try nearly 8.

      And yeah, I'd like to put it on a diet, but once something is already included it becomes quite entrenched. It's extremely difficult to remove anything large enough to make a difference without causing rioting in the streets with torches and pitchforks. I suspect it's the same for any Linux distribution.

  • by sl4shd0rk ( 755837 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:40PM (#43394873) [] It's tiny, installs from DOS and Windows 9.x and even fits on a single floppy.... what?

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:46PM (#43394931) [] and make your own. As light or as heavy as you desire.
    A starting point is JeOS. From the first page:
    You can export your custom operating system as a Virtual machine, Live USB Disk, CD/DVD-ROM, Hard Disk Image and so much more.

    As you want something very specific a great way would be SUSE Studio. Because I might want just a little bit different configuration then what you would want.

  • by zachary.grafton ( 1820370 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @04:59PM (#43395035)
    Don't be a pansy. Use Gentoo. Quit bitching about not having the features you want, or having features you don't need. Need to deploy a bunch of VMs? Just create your own portage mirror, remove the packages you don't want to be available, create an overlay for things that aren't in portage and to deploy your own meta package, for shits and giggles, since you seen to be so fascinated with binary packages, build all the packages you want, create binary packages for everything, then deploy to a VM. Once that's done, just copy the base VM image every time you need to deploy a new VM, then log in, run a portage update and quit whining. Hell, I'm sure you could even create your own packages for deploying binary kernels. I'm so sick of this, "My linux doesn't do what I want because I'm a (insert your distro here) fanboi."
  • Sometimes with just LXC [] (or Docker [] for a friendlier interface) you have more than enough.
  • "Tuned"? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @05:26PM (#43395241)

    What exactly need be "tuned" for virtualization in a VM? I start my VMs with ubuntu-minimal [], which is pretty darned minimal indeed. I think "eject" is about the only package in there that a VM wouldn't want.

  • by xaoslaad ( 590527 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @05:41PM (#43395379)
    Why? To save disk space? Ever hear of de-duplication? To save RAM? There is KSM for that. Your answer is to have an installation option that makes your life difficult by eliminating useful tools and daemons when the problem is already solved with some forethought and careful setup.
  • by hillbluffer ( 1684134 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @05:42PM (#43395411) Homepage

    What about PuppyLinux or DamnSmallLinux? [] []

    Both are tiny, and boot in less than a minute.

  • And start making your templates available, that is the open source way, not waiting for software vendors to help your edge case.

  • by jeorgen ( 84395 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @05:45PM (#43395467)

    Take a look at Bachata Linux, it is a slimmed down Debian weighing in at less than 128 MB, needs no Internet connection when installing: []

    "A minimal Debian based Linux system with fully functional bash shell (with GNU coreutils, not BusyBox), TCP/IP networking with DHCP client and APT setup to be able to install any package from the Debian repositories."

  • by snadrus ( 930168 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @06:45PM (#43396035) Homepage Journal

    Done wasting disk space, memory, copy time, & boot time for VMs?
    Push for LXC and get already-on "VMs" with software already installed. You're limited to no reboots & 1 kernel, but system administration happens for everyone by the system maintainer. Then "fatware" distros are a feature.
    You can skip virtualized filesystems with per-user home directories (and sensible browsing restrictions) if that fits your needs.
    It only requires hooks into bringup/shutdown since there's no live migration yet.

  • I install Fedora from the XFCE "live CD" respin. I then add what I need. I get a very functional Linux GUI and not a whole lot of junk unless I go nuts with "yum install" (which is my problem; not the Fedora XFCE maintainer's).

    I'm guessing that other distro's live CDs will work as well. Just be sure it's a live CD and not a live DVD. Making things fit in 700MB enforces a discipline that isn't there on a DVD image.


  • NetBSD (Score:4, Interesting)

    by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:41PM (#43397597)
    Want a slim OS? Try NetBSD []. with just the minimal sets (base.tgz, etc.tgz and kern.tgz), it brings a full Unix system with just 120 MB. It can be slimed down by making custom build without some bits (kerberos, PAM...)

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