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Apr 23 2007   4:27PM GMT

Damn Small Linux: How low can a distro go?

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

We’ve long since defined Linux.

We’ve gone on to note the various distributions, including lightweight versions in the skinny Linux family like Feather Linux, Austrumi and even Puppy Linux. These operating systems are often run directly from live distros burned onto CDs or from hot-swappable flash memory-based jump drives.

We’ve also podcasted about portable applications, where we learned how open source applications like Mozilla‘s Firefox Web browser and Thunderbird email client, along with Audacity, OpenOffice and many other apps have been made mobile. Similarly, these applications are run directly from portable storage media or devices. And, like many others, we’re watching how the OLPC’s XO is received and works “in the wild” as it moves from prototype to worldwide distribution.

Now, we’re taking note of the next version of the “portable desktop,” at least as described by Wired’s Monkey Bites blog. Meet “Damn Small Linux,” a distribution of Linux that takes up a mere 50 megabytes of memory. That makes it small enough to fit on most flash drives. Aside from adding even more acronym confusion to the world of computing (given that Damn Small Linux is shortened to “DSL”), DSL is the latest example of how simple experiments using the open source model of development can become robust distributions. In this case, the original concept was to see how many (usable) desktop applications could fit inside of a 50 MB CD, including a functional operating system.

If you’re wondering how many that is, by the way, the current breakdown, according the DSL Web site, includes:

XMMS (MP3, CD Music, and MPEG), FTP client, Dillo Web browser, Netrik Web browser, Firefox, spreadsheet, Sylpheed email, spellcheck (US English), a word processor (Ted), three editors (Beaver, Vim, and Nano [pico clone]), graphics editing and viewing (Xpaint, and xzgv), Xpdf (PDF Viewer), emelFM (file manager), Naim (AIM, ICQ, IRC), VNCviwer, Rdesktop, SSH/SCP server and client, DHCP client, PPP, PPPoE (ADSL), a Web server, calculator, generic and Ghostscript printer support, NFS, Fluxbox and JWM window managers, games, system monitoring apps, a host of command line tools, USB support, PCMCIA support, some wireless support.

Of course, that list could grow over time, but we’re still impressed by the power of community. In fact, it sounds like another example of crowdsourcing to our ears.

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