A Review of Damn Small Linux 4.4.10
For the first time this week I finally had the pleasure of taking Damn Small Linux (hereafter, DSL) for a test drive. One of the companies that I work for required an easy, lightweight and quick solution to salvage an older project. The owner had approached me and demanded that I, ” Get rid of this Compact Windows s*** and get this thing up and running” accomplishing X, Y and Z. A lot of problems had risen as a result of going with Microsoft Windows in the first place. The biggest of which was licensing. Being installed in public areas, this project/solution was to accomplish 1-2 specific task(s) without user interaction and nothing more.
It did not take me long to decide on downloading and trying out DSL, a Debian based solution. I downloaded what appears to be the “current” 4.x release: 4.4.10. The installation was simple but I could see how it may be a little intimidating to those not comfortable with the command line and GNU/Linux in general. I had downloaded the ISO and wrote the bootable image to a CD-R. I powered on the unit, in the CD-ROM drive the LiveCD went and up came the boot screen.
After reading some of the basic installation instructions, I knew I had to load up into runlevel 2. From that point I was modifying the partitioning and formatting of the Compact Flash (hereafter, CF) card to which was connected to an IDE channel. I rebooted the system and loaded up into runlevel 5 (default). From the Joe’s Window Manager I was able to navigate to the point of a Frugal install and all image files were downloaded to the CF card appropriately. Out came the LiveCD and I rebooted again.
DSL had loaded from the CF card without any problems and I was finally ready to go. Note that I was surprised that only around 64MB was used from the CF card.
From basic navigation to functionality, the operating system seemed to run smoothly and great. While I had a good amount of choices of basic and lightweight applications to use (i.e. text editors, word processors, web browsers, image editors, etc.), there was the option of also using mydsl to retrieve additional apps from a DSL repository.
Again, as far as performance all seemed to run fairly quick and I had not noticed any obvious problems. Also, the wireless internet was recognized immediately and I had no problems browsing the internet.
This is the part which required a bit of additional learning. This is also the part to which I might say that DSL may not necessary be a distribution for those attempting to learn GNU/Linux (and coming from a Microsoft Windows background).
For example, whenever any modifications were made to the core image, from Window Managers to display resolutions to even as basic as startup scripts (i.e. .bashrc, .xinitrc, etc.) a backup must be made to the partition holding that core image. That way, whenever you rebooted the operating system, those settings will be preserved.
Also when installing DSL extensions from mydsl, you have to know to load those extentions whenever you need them (using mydsl-load <extension name>) and if you need them at boot time, you must then modify your startup scripts and backup the image.
One thing that I had to install and boot from startup is python and pygtk, along with the single purpose application. This gave me no problems.
Now I know I didn’t go that deep into detail but for a 64MB operating system, there is not much to say. I thought it was a great solution for what I was attempting to accomplish and would recommend it those who are looking for something lightweight and somewhat simple to use.