This is not the first time I have used Damn Small Linux on the Mebius. Since June or so, when I bought it, I’ve used DSL as a sort of backup or interloper distro, usually for the purpose of installing others across USB.
But in fairness, I made a point of installing it directly to the hard drive, and the lesson learned is: I must work harder.
Usually any number of well-meaning but late-to-the-party visitors suggest DSL when I talk about distros that will work at 150Mhz, with 32Mb on board. It’s the obvious pick.
Probably in the same way any number of well-meaning but again late-to-the-party visitors will suggest Slitaz or Tiny Core or Puppy Linux or Debian. And I say thank you for the suggestions, but I’ve been down those roads.
There are no surprises with DSL. It’s been around as long, if not longer, than I can remember. I am only half saddened that it’s not actively developed any longer, since it’s just as usable now as it ever has been.
To be fair to DSL and to be fair to some of the other distros I’ve looked at lately, DSL did need a little prodding to get into fully usable condition.
Installation went fine, although I used only one “gigantic” 512Mb partition for both the system and home, and a teeny little 128Mb for swap. And a vast wilderness of about 7Gb beyond, unallocated.
The screen needed a little bit of tweaking, but the xsetup.sh script does all the work for you, so there wasn’t anything difficult in getting it to jump to the right size and right dimensions.
In total, the system uses only about 16 of the 29Mb available, which gives lots of space for applications or frills. Programs start snappy, with no swapping or lag, as I have had in the past with other systems.
Network is a little bit of a stumbling point for me; the wireless cards I usually rely on — and which I am sure have worked in the past — don’t seem to respond.
Wired ones however, for example ne2000-based cards, work great. If I string a cable to the router, it’s a champion in the true sense of the word.
Wireless is a bit tricky for some reason, in the 4.4.10 release. For the record, I’ve tried orinoco, rt61 and ath5k-based cards, with no luck. No major loss though; my router is only about a meter from the computer.
No, the real kick in the teeth is sound. Not only does DSL find the ISA sound card in this machine, but it configures it properly, sets the volume, and has it up and running even before the desktop appears. (I can hear a little speaker hiss when it comes online.)
And miracle of miracles: Playback is smooth and clean. No stuttering, no skipping, no lag — I’m using the same audio files that were more or less unplayable at any speed below 200Mhz with Crux, archlinux-i586, Debian. …
So obviously I’m doing something wrong. I have managed to wade through the jungle of setting up featherweight, custom-built desktops, and I can get sound working on a minimum of resources.
But DSL is still miles ahead of me in the grand scale of things. My own versions sound like someone singing through spinning fan blades. DSL sounds like the real deal (disregarding that speaker hiss I mentioned … that’s just a fact of 14-year-old laptop speakers ).
So I can’t pat myself on the back just yet. If I can get things working right, in the same way DSL can, I’ll consider myself vaguely successful. But until that day … I will work harder.