Since we’re on the subject of eyeball-popping lightweight desktops, here’s another one for you.
And no, your popped eyeballs do not deceive you: That is an XFCE desktop with the standard array of controls and gizmos, running on an astounding 39Mb of space.
Very little in the way of outside software is installed, but only htop is running. Plus scrot and xfce4-terminal, of course.
Not Debian this time — although Debian could probably put up a fight when compared to this. No, this time it’s Alpine Linux, which you may or may not have heard of. Until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t.
As I understand it this is intended for embedded systems, which might be part of the reason why I hadn’t run across it sooner.
With much of the distro anchored in uClibc and BusyBox, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the desktop needs a paltry 39Mb to get started.
Having said that, actually putting this into place took a little effort, if typing a few commands can be called effort. Arch users will think it trivial; Ubuntu users will develop a look of shock and fear on their faces.
There is (was?) a skeletal tutorial on the Alpine Linux web site that got me started. I did run into a few obstacles.
After you boot the 2.1.2 ISO, you can arrange the system with
setup-alpine and then install it to an internal disk with
But after reboot you need to add the online repositories to the /etc/apk/repositories file. In short,
echo "http://dl-3.alpinelinux.org/alpine/v2.1/packages/main" >> /etc/apk/repositories
or your attempts to install things via
apk add will fall short. Use
apk update to refresh your package lists, and then add xorg, xfce4, sudo and so forth, plus the xf86-video-vesa driver. And maybe even xf86-video-fbdev.
For the record, the xf86-video-intel driver wouldn’t run for me; X complained about kernel modesetting.
One more thing: Run
X -configure to get a workable xorg.conf file, then edit it for the vesa driver. And I had to reach way, waaay back to 2008 for that AllowEmptyInput setting, or I got the infamous dead desktop that I hated so much.
That’s more or less everything you’d need, given that your hardware plays well with the Alpine superstructure. I’m lucky to have Intel-based network and video, so short of that video card problem I mentioned, everything was fine out of the box.
Start times are electric, jumping to the login prompt in a meager 13 seconds on my core duo. With Midori as a browser I rarely see the entire memory profile arc over 92Mb, even with two or three tabs open at a time. Firefox is overrated, you know.
But like I said, it shouldn’t surprise anyone — least of all me — that an embedded Linux does such a fantastic job keeping itself lean and trim. That is, after all, the point.
And even if this technically isn’t intended for ancient hardware, but you can probably guess what my plan is next. …
P.S.: PekWM is in the repos. Jump for joy!