All that, and only 10 megabytes

Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of image hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.

Somebody left a note on the forums about Tiny Core Linux, and being a sucker for new, light distros, I of course had to check it out.

It looks innocent enough — Minefield, emelFM2, Leafpad, the Gimp — but the beauty of this is that you get access to all that in a 10Mb ISO. I thought Slitaz had slimmed things down to an impossible level, but this is unbelieveable.

Note, however, that I said you get access to — not just you get. That 10Mb ISO doesn’t include much outside of the core applications and utilities that will run and exceedingly light desktop — JWM, Xvesa, some networking protocols and a sparse collection of terminals and tools.

The principle here is a good one: The ISO boots into a small but complete, sparse but flexible live environment, and anything else you want to add can be downloaded and installed through a series of control panels (one or two are suspiciously similar to the Damn Small Linux tools, or the Slitaz setup dialogs πŸ˜‰ ).

Technically you get that with any similar live CD, so you could argue that it’s not necessarily innovative. But the system is so light and boots so fast, that the time it takes to set up a range of software in Tiny Core is still just a fraction of the time it takes to get a full range of programs preinstalled with heavier distros.

The choice of software is quite wide too, with plenty of GTK2- and GTK1-based applications, and many of the ones I call favorites. Even more exciting is the fact that most have been modified, tweaked or scaled back to meet lower hardware requirements.

Just as an example, the description for Minefield (which you probably know better as Firefox), mentions that it has been prepatched with the Swiftfox adjustments, and stripped of unnecessary garbage like dbus support, Gnome attachements and other stuff. Well done, I say.

And the desktop is quite attractive, in its default .. or at least as attractive as you can expect from JWM and wbar. I always find the bezeled appearance a bit cumbersome, but it works and looks fine, and the color scheme is more or less congruent. Anything GTKx-based is going to want some adjustment, but as you can see in the screenshot, getting decent font sizes or a different background is possible. So again, what you do with the desktop determines how good it looks.

The only fear you might have with Tiny Core is the same you might have with any live environment — hardware detection. The machine you see in the picture up there is my Inspiron, which needs only the e100 module to get online, and so it’s usually not an issue.

If your machine has any other issues getting to the Internet … well, I fear if you can’t get access to the Tiny Core repositories, you’ll be a little less enthusiastic than I am. Your hardware is likely to determine if you think Tiny Core a work of genius, or just a quaint effort.

But isn’t that always the case?


3 thoughts on “All that, and only 10 megabytes

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