Thursday, May 29, 2008

SliTak and Damn Small Linux

Using Virtualbox, I've started playing around with the two mini-distributions of Linux: SliTak and Damn Small Linux (and I'm looking forward to playing around with more). Overall I'm really impressed with these two distributions! Here are my first impressions of how they compare.

Damn Small Linux (DSL)

I've been using this one for a while on an old 400MHz machine with 64mb of RAM. Its only a 50mb distribution that is very full-featured, including most everything you would expect from a Desktop distro (wordprocessor, browser, music player, etc). You can also install any number of apps through the MyDSL Browser. The developers of this distribution are constantly improving it, releasing new beta versions almost every month.

The target audience seems to be older, slower computers. I thought, before trying SliTak, that the reason that a lot of the software on this distribution is dated is because it is less bloated, less resource intensive, and functions better on old hardware. There is probably some truth to this. For example, the reason this distrubution uses the 2.4 linux kernel and not the 2.6 kernel is because the 2.6 kernel drops support for certain legacy hardware that DSL would be perfect for.But I'm not so sure anymore about the bloat thing (and I wonder about the resource intensive thing). The reason for this is because I've seen the power of SliTak, which I'll turn to now.

SliTak

This new distribution weighs in at 1/2 the size of DSL - a mere 25mb! I tried the most recent cooking version, and it incorporates a LOT! I'm very impressed. It includes the newest software--including, for example, the 2.6 Linux kernel and Firefox 3 beta. Its got a very slick modern user interface that makes DSL look dated and clunky by comparison. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this well integrated system is damn sexy! That said, there are a couple of things that could improve my experience:
  1. It needs a wordprocessor - it doesn't ship with one by default (I think Ted would be an excellent choice).
  2. The stable version lacks some important key features: like support for the Dvorak keymapping and the ability to easily swith between keymappings.
  3. The beta version is somewhat buggy (the Dvorak keymap is wrong).
  4. I'm not sure how the username/password thing is supposed to work on this distribution. Can I only be "hacker"? Can I set my own password? I'm somewhat confused, and this is important, because when I drop to the command line, I need to know these things to execute certain commands.
  5. Although it is better in the beta, still much of the documentation appears to only be in French.
Nonetheless, these minor shortcomings are fairly trivial compared to the amazing things already been accomplished by this tiny distribution. I'll keep a close eye on its development!

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