I caught myself endorsing Slitaz over Damn Small Linux the other day, not realizing exactly how long it has been since I used DSL, and whether or not it has improved in the past year or so. Slitaz scooped me up quite easily after relying on DSL for many years — so easily in fact, that I never looked back.
But when I suggested it over DSL again, I figured I ought to take another look, to be fair. After all, I think the last time I used it was when it had just crossed to 4.0, and as we all know, point-oh releases are never quite right.
To be honest, I don’t see much on the surface of version 4.4.10 that appears to have changed.
Or I guess I should say, the changes that I first notice are mostly aesthetic. JWM is still the window manager with Fluxbox as an option, but with a different “look” here and there — new wallpaper, different desktop font, and so forth.
The application array seems similar to what I remember from a year ago. Probably one of the strong points for DSL is the choice of office software that comes in so small a bundle — things like the Siag suite; Word, PDF and postscript viewers; dictionaries and so forth.
And a round assortment of games and Internet appliances are there too, including chat programs and FTP clients. Sylpheed is on board, along with a short list of browser options — the old Dillo, Firefox 2.0, and some others.
And it’s nice to see some fundamental improvements in the way DSL manages itself. I don’t remember a MyDSL Browser before — something that makes picking out software a lot easier. I could swear I had seen something very similar running the show with Tiny Core though — perhaps it was borrowed from that project.
And once DSL is up and running, you have the option to install a lot more fun stuff. Most of the commonplace applications you would expect in something like Arch or even Ubuntu are ready to download and run.
So I certainly can’t fault DSL for being established, well-rounded and extensible. And it manages to find the hardware on my Inspiron without a fight. So why do I still, even after this second look, prefer Slitaz?
It’s hard to put my finger on it. DSL does a great job, but Slitaz feels cleaner, slimmer and faster. DSL still seems absorbed by unusual assortments of GTK1.2 software, mixed in with a few extra programs which don’t seem to mesh well, appearancewise.
I don’t hold any grudge against outdated software — after all, I regularly rely on text-based applications I dug out of the corners of the Internet — but I wonder why the 2.4 kernel is still preferred (answer here). I wonder why a newer version of Firefox isn’t in there by default … if Firefox is going to be in there at all. And I wonder why, after all these years, someone hasn’t managed to come up with a slick, cohesive look for DSL — rather than two or three vaguely connected themes (particularly in the GTK1.2 category) and a somewhat-matching wallpaper or two.
Okay, okay. I apologize. I know full well that those are superficial points. I should be more enthusiastic that DSL starts up and runs fine. I have met distributions that couldn’t accomplish that.
But I can’t help noticing all these little points and wondering what’s holding DSL back … particularly when I start up Slitaz again.
So that’s my impression. I will always like DSL, and I admire it for its loyalty to outdated machines. But so long as Slitaz can do much the same thing, in less space, with fresher software and a cleaner, faster look, I will continue to choose it over DSL.
And that’s what it’s all about: choice.