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Damn Small Linux Makes Darn Big Impression

Small Distro, Big Packages

  • September 13, 2007
  • By Kenneth Hess

At a mere 50MB, Damn Small Linux (DSL) seems like it would be more at home in the realm of rescue disks instead of Desktop OSs. After booting up into full graphical mode, you may be hooked on this tiny distribution forever. I am impressed with the number of applications and the fact that DSL has two choices for graphical interfaces (Window Managers): Fluxbox and jwm (see Figures 1 and 2). DSL is based on the Debian Linux distribution.

The DSL website boasts "a very versatile 50MB mini desktop-oriented Linux distribution." I have to agree since it contains all of the following:

  • Two graphical Internet browsers: Dillo and Firefox.
  • Netrik: Command line Internet browser.
  • Three Instant Messaging Clients: Naim, ICQ, and IRC.
  • The Ted Word Processing program.
  • Three Text Editors: Vim, Beaver, and Nano.
  • Remote Connectivity: Rdesktop, VNCViewer, and SSH/SCP.

Also included is a spreadsheet (Siag), PDF Viewer (XPdf), an email program (Sylpheed), graphics editor and viewer programs (Xpaint and xzgv), printer support, DHCP client, and even a webserver (Monkey). Refer to the website for a complete list of applications and features.

DSL, though small, feels complete and it correctly detected all of my hardware--including my USB mouse. When you first boot up into DSL, you will be presented with the default Window Manager: Fluxbox. Frequently used applications are represented by icons on the desktop. Other applications are available via the handy right-click menu or the standard task bar menu. You will also notice a system monitor, torsmo, that "floats" in the upper right corner of the desktop.

This utility displays various system parameters like uptime, kernel version, disk space, CPU usage, memory usage, number of currently running processes, IP address, and hostname. Torsmo settings can be customized by changing or editing options in the .torsmorc file in your home directory. If you don't like torsmo, you can disable it by commenting out the line:

torsmo 2>/dev/null & 
in the .xinitrc file, also located in your home directory.


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